By Jaime Gweshe
On a surface level, even though I looked “my best” to the Christians around me, I was merely surviving in my faith. I led bible studies on Tuesdays for my sorority sisters. During group discipleship, I was the first one to answer questions with my staff worker. I didn’t go to parties or socials. I avoided temptation by avoiding fraternity guys who weren’t part of bible study. I attended church on Saturdays and sometimes even Sundays too.
But, keeping myself away from the hustle and bustle of Greek life left me feeling lonely and isolated. At the heart, I did these “things” because I was afraid of looking bad to those around me. I was living this life and doing it begrudgingly not because I loved Christ but because I didn’t want to disappoint both God and my Christian friends. This wasn’t thriving. I was merely surviving in my faith. I honored God, but only with my actions not my soul.
Knowledge Isn’t Enough
Surviving faith happens when there is only a knowledge-based understanding of the Good News and not a relationship with the One who brings it. A knowledge base of who Jesus is isn’t enough. If we truly understand who Christ is and what he has done, we must decide if we are going to follow him with our entire spirit or not. This choice amounts to the difference between surviving and thriving. Thriving in our faith happens with mind, body and spirit surrender to Christ and who he is.
I find that the most important part of going from simply surviving in faith to truly living it out in joy is to accept God’s grace. I always had an understanding that Christ’s blood covers all my iniquities, but it took me a long time to truly accept that at a soul level. I think that we’re in survival mode because we don’t fully accept Christ’s love for us, often because we feel unworthy.
The truth of the matter is that Christ desires our love and our full devotion to him. Mother Teresa once wrote how one of Jesus’ last words on the cross was “I thirst—“ which many believe to be his thirst for the hearts of his people. The fact that the Creator of the universe thirsts for our love is one of the most beautiful reminders of how much God desires us to flourish in relationship with him.
Accepting God’s Grace
God loves us and Jesus’ sacrifice is all-sufficient. Learning to accept the undeserved Grace of Christ takes discipline and time. But once we learn to truly accept that and let him hold us and cover us in mercy, we allow our souls to truly open up to Christ. When we are open to Christ with all that we are, we are not content with simply surviving in our faith, we yearn for more of God.
Three things in particular have helped me to accept the undeserved love of Christ and grow with Him:
Scripture: The greatest thing that helped me understand and accept God’s grace is to read the The Prodigal Son and look at it from both the son’s perspective and the father’s. It’s one thing to understand how amazing it is that God forgives us, but it’s another to realize just how much God loves us. God runs towards us when we return to him. When we return, he doesn’t desire for us to wallow in our own pity and shame. He wants us to throw our arms around him and celebrate, just like they did in the story of the Prodigal Son.
Journalling: I found also that journalling my thoughts helps me to hear God more closely and allows me to have much needed quiet time with Him.
Community: The most important thing you can also do is find a community of other Christians where you can be open and honest about your struggles and successes in your journey with Christ. It is nearly impossible to thrive with Jesus and do it by yourself. Having people there to support you is so crucial. A life of living thriving in faith can often times look messy. When we are thriving, there’s an honesty with struggles, temptations and trials. But with that honestly with both Christian community and mostly with God, it brings us to a deeper understanding of who Christ is and how much He truly loves us.
Today, thriving in faith for me looks a lot different than when I was just surviving. I still lead bible studies, go to church, and honor God with my body. But I do all this not because it’s a checklist of being a good Christian woman, but because it comes from a deep rooted love of Christ. A love for who he is and what he has done for me.
Questions to Consider
How have you seen yourself merely surviving in your faith? What does it look like for you to thrive?
What practices (Bible reading, journalling, etc.) have helped you to thrive in your faith?
Jaime Gweshe is a Kappa Delta at the University of New Hampshire. In her free time she enjoys watching Boston sports, drinking expresso lemonades and going to the beach.