My word for year was (is?) ‘thrive.’
Can I tell you what I thought ‘thrive’ would mean back when I prayed about it one year ago?
I thought God was preparing to teach me to flourish in the midst of an unremarkable season. I was eager to strengthen my gratitude muscles. In my extra year of school, in my clinical rotations, in the beginning of “real adult life” post-graduation, I figured I would be laying the groundwork for a lifelong practice of finding joy in the everyday.
I didn’t think the year would be flowery and easy. I hoped we’d get pregnant this year but realistically figured we wouldn’t. I chalked this up as another avenue by which God would teach me to thrive.
What I couldn’t have predicted was this: God wanted to teach me to thrive in utter darkness.
Waiting was harder than I expected. My desire for a family only grew and began to consume my thoughts. And when we lost Winston, our first ‘baby’, I was devastated. All I wanted was a family, and it felt like He was taking and taking when I had nothing to give.
In my darkest moments this year, I felt a profound loneliness. I bought the same lie over and over: God was not taking care of me, and I was the only one who cared about the details of my life. He wasn’t providing for me, after all, so how could I trust Him?
But then, He did provide–by my human definition, at least.
Specifically, He provided a cute old house in our hometown. And there were several details about our first home purchase that pointed to His favor. It was the right time, the right house, and really just a sweet gift all around.
I expected a shift in my heart. With tangible ‘proof’ of His involvement in my life, I thought I would feel less lonely.
And while I was grateful, our relationship was not repaired.
Why? Without closeness, the demonstration of His provision wasn’t sweet. On the outside, things were on the up and up. But in my quiet moments alone? I was still pushing Him away. And I was frustrated that, because I was busy trying to stay afloat, I wasn’t learning to thrive in the way I thought I would.
All this to say: I think God has a new thing to teach me this Advent season. And maybe He wants to teach you, too.
Before Jesus came to earth, there were people in darkness. Buried under the weight of their own sin and disappointed in their circumstances, many were searching for hope.
Maybe this is you. You’re entering this last month of the year burdened and tired. You’re looking for evidence, but you aren’t seeing Him move.
There were also people who seemed to have it made. With their religion, tradition, and prosperity, they were happy on the surface. Their souls, however, were still filled with longing that couldn’t be satisfied by worldly offerings.
Perhaps you are grateful for many blessings, but you still feel distance from Him. You’re experiencing the reality that gifts feel empty without relationship with the Giver.
How did God answer both of these heart cries?
By entering the world as a baby.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 (ESV)
The answer to the longings of His people was not more gratitude. It was not learning unshakeable joy in hardship. True thriving could not be based on their spiritual disciplines or personal growth.
All of these are great, of course, but they are not The Main Thing.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Matthew 1:23 (ESV)
In the darkness, in the mundane, in the joy, and in the prospering, God offers His presence. We get to rejoice with Him and cry with Him. We get to ask for wisdom and perspective from Him. And we get to do it for eternity if we truly have relationship with Him.
I’m thankful for this truth. It is so simple and refreshing because it takes all of the pressure off of our own strength.
He is always with us; therefore, it is always well. We can always thrive in His presence. It has nothing to do with what we’ve done and everything to do with who He is.
In teaching me to thrive, He just taught me to stay close.
It wasn’t at all how I predicted it would go one year ago, and I’m glad.
I like His answer much better.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:8 (NLT)