What is the difference between surviving and thriving?
From a physical and spiritual perspective thriving is adding something to the world that remains after we’re gone. Giving something to someone in some way.
Living isn’t just about us, when we’re able to live outside of ourselves, and add something positive to the world, that’s when we thrive.
I enjoy putting word sentences into math equations, so this is what thriving looks like to me:
Thriving = Good N
The primal philosophy on thriving is that we need to experience things that enrich our lives. Whether it’s activities with friends or things to keep our brains busy, the point is to enjoy life. There is a world outside of mundane work, house cleaning, and child rearing that needs to be prioritized for our own good. We need to explore, have fun, and challenge ourselves.
A game of catch, a cannonball off the high dive, hide and seek with kids, frisbee with the dog—these activities all allow us to escape and recover from our often over-stimulated high-stress lives. Play gets us back to the simplicity of just having a good time.
It’s just like a muscle, our brains need exercise too. Think word puzzles or learning a new language or instrument. There’s something to be said for applying ourselves in accomplishing a task that doesn’t have to do with our income and that we take on purely for our own enjoyment.
Spiritually, there’s a word we can use in place of ‘good’ in the above equation—fruit. Imagine an apple tree. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in the lives of believers just like an apple tree produces fruit that’s familiar and tasty! Galatians 5:22-23 lists the characteristics of God-given fruit:
Thriving—producing the above fruit—is supernatural. Whether you’re a believer or not, the above listed characteristics are nothing short of miraculous, especially when we see them in less-than-ideal circumstances. A joyful cancer sufferer, a peace-keeping divorcee, a self-controlled habitual over-eater, etc. etc. etc..
If Thriving = FruitfulnessN our mission is simple, solve for N.
The first step of solving for N is where the primal concepts of play, and using our brains come in. When humans describe the play of animals, we usually mention that they’re practicing a skill that will require mastery later on in life. When we view our own play as an activity that leads toward mastery of a skill, the value of play is clear for adults just as much as it is fun for children.
Whether it’s learning a new sport, instrument, language, etc. in play; and using our brains to advance these new skills; we have an opportunity that doesn’t really exist anywhere else in life. The opportunity is in letting go of any attachment to a specific outcome. For instance, we can ponder and learn about all sorts of things while fully accepting that we might never arrive at mastering the skill.
At work, that’s a no-go. In play, it’s completely acceptable, and even the main point! Without that pressure, we’re free to learn while enjoying ourselves rather than stressing ourselves out.
Play = Practice = Using our Brains
If thriving is being fruitful, before we can solve for N, we first need to discover fruit—learn more about it so we can start moving in that direction. Notice the link to the previous concept of using our brains? We need to begin the process of being fruitful by using our brains to explore more on what fruitfulness really is!
The Bible tells us fruit is produced by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). That’s only one verse, but in many many many verses throughout scripture, mainly in the New Testament, faith is compared to gardening. We’re the fruit, Jesus is the vine, and God is the gardener. It stands to reason then, that we need to learn more about not only the fruit, but also the vine and the gardener.
John 15:4, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
As we spend more time in God’s word, our knowledge of God and relationship with him grows. As part of that process, we consistently learn new things. Not surprisingly:
The Seed of Fruitfulness = Wisdom
From a spiritual perspective, we’re not required to ‘arrive’ anywhere other than into God’s will for us. That’s what’s so perfect about thriving—we don’t need to reach a specific goal and so, the pressure’s off. It’s 100% acceptable to let go of our attachment to a specific outcome and see what God does in and through us.
Galatians 5:22-23, But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
It’s the Holy Spirit that produces the fruit—not us. This statement is where we can truly see the value of N. Fruit produced by us alone isn’t where we thrive. The Holy Spirit makes what isn’t ordinarily possible through us supernaturally possible through him.
N = Holy Spirit
When we thrive—especially in unexpected circumstances—it piques a wondrous curiosity in luke-warm and even non-believers. We as humans are enamored with the ‘it’ factor. We long to know what is we can’t see that creates the fruit produced from a seemingly barren situation.
On a deeply personal level, where we lack wisdom and understanding in producing fruit, God’s Holy Spirit fills in the gaps. When the Holy Spirit bridges the gap between the end of us and absolute contentment—when we depend on Him and transcend our circumstances, wisdom, and will—that, friends, is fruit! When we are fruitful, we thrive—because at that moment, we are truly living out our purpose of giving honor and glory to God.
Philippians 2:13, For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
Thriving = Fruitfulness Holy Spirit
Phew! The above spiritual concepts were pretty deep! Now, take a look at these physical points from a spiritual standpoint.
In the Bible, the word ‘play’ is frequently used to describe what animals and children do, or an adult who plays a musical instrument. In both of these cases, play is for enjoyment. The frequent connection between playing an instrument, celebration, and worship, like in Psalm 33:3 below, is encouraging for me! It puts play in an awesome context. It shows that play is good and it’s something God wants us to enjoy.
Job 40:20, [speaking of Behemoth], The mountains offer it their best food, where all the wild animals play.
Zechariah 8:5, And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play.
Psalm 33:3, Sing a new song of praise to him; play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.
Use Your Brain
There is a marvelously unique part of each of us that will exist eternally—the individuality that God knit together in our mother’s womb. This uniqueness is what makes us each a valuable part of the ‘Body of Christ.’ It stands to reason then, when Jesus commands us to learn, a command repeated many times, it is with the intent to bring out our uniqueness with regard to furthering his kingdom and encouraging us to be more like him, in a way unique to us as individuals. Secular society talks a lot about engaging our brains as we grow older in order to exercise our brain muscle. The Bible implies the same concept by commanding us to learn.
Isaiah 1:17, Learn to do good…
Matthew 11:29, Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Psalm 119:73 NIV, Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.
Now, did you happen to notice that the result of physically playing and using our brains is really similar to one of the items on the spiritual fruit list? Joy! Playing and using our brains invoke deep rooted feelings of joy, don’t they? Now consider—that kind of positivity is only one experience in a list of nine! As a whole, the primal philosophy aims toward other items on the Galatians list as well, seemingly without even knowing it, they’re just a little less obvious.
The spiritual list in Galatians covers the many different facets of what it means to thrive in a multitude of situations. Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of thriving to the point of their fruit beaming out from within them (just like an apple tree pops out apples), they’re slowly dying on the inside, often hiding it from the rest of the world. Studies show one of the biggest concerns people face is a lack of purpose in life. This cornerstone of the Blessed Be Today coaching philosophy—thrive—takes into account that if all other aspects of health are good, if a soul doesn’t thrive—bear fruit produced by the Holy Spirit—the lack of acknowledgement acts like a blindfold on someone reaching for good health. They may never know that it’s straight ahead and nearby.
Acknowledgement, learning, wisdom, understanding are key. They’re why learning is not only the first Blessed Be Today cornerstone, but also the seed of fruitfulness in the final cornerstone. Without these things, we may not realize that we aren’t thriving, or that we are—in fact—made to thrive. What happens if we don’t ever explore how to thrive, or if we put the horrendous pressure to thrive all on ourselves, or never realize that all we accomplish on our own isn’t even a fraction of what God is able to do through us?
When we struggle it’s because we’ve left God out of our equation. Thriving is about inviting him back in.