Surviving or Thriving?

A few days ago, I connected with a friend, Rachel, from college. We were both in the same major at Messiah College, and we just happen to share the same birthday! We hadn’t spoken much in the past few months, but it was nice to exchange birthday wishes, how are you’s and talk about how our lives are going post-graduation. Since we are both currently serving in ministry, so it was good to talk to someone who could relate and offer genuine support.

One of her questions in particular caught me off guard. She asked me if I was currently surviving or thriving during my time down here in Costa Rica. I am not sure exactly why this question hit me so hard, but it got me thinking. In what ways am I thriving and in what ways am I only surviving?

As I reflect about my time down here the past 15 months, I cannot believe how much I have learned and grown. In so many ways, I have been stretched and pushed outside my comfort zone. I have thrived in Costa Rica and should be proud of myself and my journey. Not to boast, but it’s amazing what my team and I have accomplished this past year. Here are just a few of the things we have accomplished:
  1. Starting and maintaining a community Academic English program in the local church
  2. Developing and editing a website for our organization
  3. Organizing educational and service trips for universities and planning itineraries
  4. Creating cross-cultural connections and friendships in the community
  5. Expanding our farm, building chicken coops and duck enclosures
And then, there are other aspects that relate to introspective growth and harder to put into words and phrases. Ways I have grown as a person. Like...
  1. Putting God’s word first, and incorporating Scripture into everything we do 
  2. Learning the intricacies of the Spanish language and culture through trial and error
  3. Adjusting expectations and being flexible to changes in plans
  4. Taking time for self-care to invest in myself, have boundaries and maintain healthy relationships

Even with all of this, I struggle with the idea that I am thriving. There are days when I become weighed down by the numerous ways I have failed. How many missed opportunities have I let pass by? How many areas would I still like to invest in and see growth in? I see all the projects I have yet to accomplish, instead of all the projects I am currently working towards.

For example,when something goes awry with my host family or team and I struggle to talk with them. Or when I get overwhelmed and stressed by change and I freeze and do not know how to respond. Or when I look to others to give me direction and purpose for my time down here, it makes me feel like I am lost and fighting to survive. Sink or Swim, right? That’s the saying.

But I’m starting to realize that when I try to let the world or my desires dictate my purpose and emotions, I am barely able to survive. It is in this times when I realize my own brokenness in today’s world.  As is says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.

I struggle with sin. I struggle with fairness and justice in the world. I struggle with showing grace and forgiveness, which is why more than anything I must rely on Christ.

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.

So what is thriving then? What does it look like? Is it when we have everything in line and put together? When everything in life is good and presentable to others? Ha. Ha. Never. However, I’m beginning to understand that thriving is when we submit ourselves to Christ’s will and give glory to God in all we do.

Hebrews 13:21 “Equip you in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

When we recognize our true identity as children of God, who are sinners who need to die to Christ daily to survive.

Romans 6:6-7 “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”

When we show ourselves and one another grace, while we continue to build up the Kingdom of God.

Acts 20:32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

When we recognize the ways God has gifted each of us and thank him for the ways he is continually molding and growing us.

Romans 12:6 “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…”

And even when it is hard and messy, when we thank God for the ways we are thriving in Him.

Colossians 3:1-3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Thank you, Rachel, for your friendship and your support in ministry. You made me realize that even in the challenges and setbacks, that with my eyes on Christ I am on my way towards thriving.

So I challenge you all today to ask yourself….”How are you surviving or how are you thriving?”


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