I always remember an Easter message I shared at The Refuge years ago. We had been talking about the Friday-Saturday-Sunday movement of Holy Week, and how these movements are similar to the rhythms of life. We experience death (Friday), lament & grief & reality (Saturday), and new hope (Sunday) over and over again in our life, relationships, and faith. There’s also another movement associated with those three days of Jesus’ crucifixion, reality of death, and resurrection, that merge with our experience. We can become victims (stuck in the reality of injustice, Friday), survivors (carrying on but not really living, Saturday), or thrivers (living bravely in the beauty of resurrection and hope, Sunday).
It was a fascinating conversation because many people struggled with the word “thrive” in that moment. It felt too much to hope for—to actually thrive, to live, to do well, to flourish.
We know how to live as victims or survivors; that’s familiar. But to be thrivers? Whoa, that’s requires a whole different level of hope, trust, and courage. So many of us feel unworthy of thriving. That it’s impossible, or too much to hope for. That it’s for someone braver or smarter or richer or (you fill in the blanks_______ ) than us. Thriving often feels unrealistic or impossible.
In life in the trenches with people, I am constantly struck by the incredible strength of people to survive. Against all odds, people find their way through poverty and pain and heartbreak and abuse and life’s unexpected shipwrecks. They keep on going despite the obstacles.
Surviving is amazing, and I want to honor it. It takes huge guts to move out of victim-ness and into survival. At the same time, I am sad that thriving and flourishing feels like it’s not an option for so many.
I can’t tell you the number of men and women I have talked to over the years who believe there’s nothing more for them beyond “Saturday”, beyond existing, beyond surviving, beyond making-it-through-the-day-as-best-they-can. It makes me think of these often-quoted words of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” What it would mean if we believed in the possibility of a hope and a future in new ways—not just for us as individuals, but for everyone, for communities, for the wider world?
The path of least resistance is always to just exist; to give up on hope. And when life’s beaten us down in different ways, when the grooves of injustice and oppression have tried to determine our course, when brokenness tries to steal our worth, when pain feels more familiar than peace, that path becomes easier and easier to follow. It’s so much harder to really live, to prosper, to grow, to dream, to flourish.
I have come to believe, more than ever, that Sunday living—a life of thriving, flourishing, blooming—is only possible if we have people who will call us to life. We need cheerleaders, flame-fanners, encouragers, coaches, and faithful friends who remind us that just surviving was never the idea, who tell us that despite the obstacles, we are meant to thrive as God’s children.
To not just “know” our worth, but live out of our worth.
To be secure in God’s love for us.
To step into our dignity as God’s image bearers.
To share our gifts, our talents, our passions, our hopes, our dreams with the world in any way we can.
Thriving or flourishing does not mean money in the bank or our mental illness healed or our disabilities disappeared or our marriages unbroken or smooth sailing. If that is the measure, we are all toast. So many people in this world will never be able to experience it.
No, thriving means living in hope. It means seeing the beauty amidst the brokenness. Stepping toward dreams, no matter how small or big. Believing we have something to contribute. Loving and being loved. And thriving won’t happen alone.
Before I was in deep community, I was only surviving. It’s all I knew how to do. But over the years, side by side, eye to eye, heart to heart, other men and women who share my same experience of knowing how to survive but not really how to thrive, a new world has opened up. Light has poked through out of the darkness, courage has emerged out of paralyzing fear, and I have started to taste what it feels like to live and not just exist. To begin to thrive, to flourish. It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s unfamiliar. But it’s so worth it, too.
I was made to thrive and flourish. You were made to thrive and flourish. The men and women and children who never will have access to the internet and read this post are made to thrive and flourish. My friends who have beaten down by life in so many ways are made to thrive and flourish.
This is why we need to work to create little pockets of love where men and women, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, and every shape and size can flourish and move beyond just surviving or existing.
We won’t thrive alone.
Image credit: subflux