You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Psalm 139:1-3
Striving – To exert oneself vigorously; try hard; to make strenuous efforts toward any goal; to contend in opposition, to battle, in any conflict; to compete; to struggle vigorously, as in opposition or resistance; to rival
There was a time not so long ago that any of those definitions could have been used in describing my walk with Christ and my life in general. I had received salvation and His forgiveness, but in my mind that just wasn’t enough to cover the multitude of sins that had made up most of my first 37 years of life. I was the striver of all strivers. I was striving in my relationships, in my ministry, in my motherhood, and in my relationship with Christ Himself. Let me give you a few practical examples…
If you were leading a ministry, I NEEDED to be friends with you. I would do whatever it took to catch your attention and hopefully befriend you.
If you gave me the least little bit of attention and you were the opposite sex, I would become whoever you most likely wanted me to become, so that I could extend the relationship.
In the realm of motherhood, I think we all strive to some degree. It is the nasty game of comparison. It is the mindset that if your kid isn’t playing sports, they have no future, or if they aren’t in the right clubs, they will never get into “the” college. It is the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality and it is invading every aspect of our mothering if we are not guarding against it!
If Christ had forgiven me of all of my junk, surely, I needed to be looking for any and every opportunity to serve Him every chance I could get. Boy, that sounds like a lot of work instead of grace!
Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
It wasn’t until I walked through a year of discipleship with some amazing women that I really began to recognize how much I strive. As I began to grow in myrelationship with Christ, I began to recognize these patterns of behavior and thought processes behind my striving. I was trying to earn approval and working at becoming who people wanted me to be, instead of accepting and standing in my own true identity that Christ gave me at the moment of salvation. It also took a great deal of trust and vulnerability to open myself up to who I really am and let these women speak into some of my deepest fears and insecurities. Being able to get to a place of real vulnerability is hard work, but it reaps some of the sweetest rewards of authentic, soul feeding friendships.
In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. Psalm 10:4
I think at the root of striving lay the sins of pride and comparison. We all want to be known by people not only for who we are, but also for what we have done. When I look back at my own life it was pride driving the bus of friendships, relationships, and my works in ministry. Not until I realized the enormous sacrifice that Christ had made on my behalf without my own effort, did I understand that He didn’t NEED me to do anything else other than walk in the identity that had been gifted to me. I was justified by my faith in Him. That word justified gets thrown around a lot in the Christian world. I heard it explained recently in a couple of practical ways that I found easy to understand. Justified means God sees me “just as if I had never sinned”, or it is like using Jesus Christ’s resume as your own. His blameless, sinless life is what we stand on as innocents before the throne of God in place of judgment. Wow, what a gift that certainly doesn’t need or deserve any striving on my part! No way could I ever do anything to measure up to what He has already done on the cross.
Thankfully, I recognized my sin, confessed and repented. In His goodness and graciousness since then, He has gifted me with some of the most real and authentic relationships with friends that I could ever ask for or imagine. He has lifted the striving from my heart to be loved by a man. If it is His will, then, it will come to pass; if not, I am ok with that too.
He gave me eyes to see my children for who they are in all of their uniqueness and helped me stop the foolish cycle of comparison. He has entrusted our children to us, not to compete with others, but to shepherd in their own unique personalities. Just as He meets us right where we are at, may we do the same for our children.
He is such a good, good Father even when we stray. He always redeems and restores if we will humbly come before Him and ask for forgiveness. He cleanses our hearts and leaves behind pure intentions and motives, along with a heart to love others. We are not called to strive, but to be still and know that He is God. As for our relationship with Him, all we have to do is seek and abide. None of that requires striving.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
So today I ask you: what are you exerting yourself vigorously for? What are you battling against? What are you resisting or competing for? The battle has already been won, let us not diminish what He has accomplished on the cross on our behalf! May we rest in the full assurance that we are loved and treasured by our heavenly Father. May we search our own hearts and dive down to the true motives of our behaviors. May we be servants who serve not to be known, but to love those around us. What is motivating you today: recognition from the world, or abiding in the Cross? My hope and prayer for us today is to be still before the throne of Grace and search our own hearts. Let Him reveal what you need to lay down, and what you need to be able to rest and abide in Him. Let His yoke be easy and His burden be light. Allow the Cross of Jesus Christ Himself be what we point others towards, not our own works in this world.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. John 19:28-30