I am obsessed with the word Thrive. I think it is one of the most vibrant and active verbs in the dictionary. Add it as a hash tag beneath a picture of the bustle of Wall Street or you and your friends eating brunch in Brooklyn and you give this incredible backstory of a carefree life, full of favor and excitement. But imagine this:
Imagine you open your Instagram, do a couple of thumb swipes and land upon a picture of a studio apartment piled with suitcases, boxes, a twin mattress leaning against the only bare wall, and two women sitting on a futon chatting. You scroll down a bit more to figure out what the heck this is exactly and underneath the picture you see #THRIVE. You probably would laugh and think it was a joke or a sarcastic post.
You scroll down some more and you find another picture of a friend in his grey cubicle cupping his alma mater’s coffee cup in a room that has artificial light that makes a recent grad look like a recent granddad. You scroll down again and see #THRIVE. Again, you would think it was a joke because you know that social media is strictly for pictures that make us look good (been there talked about that) but then you wonder how could someone possibly even associate the word thrive with what looks like suffering.
I’m not going to lie, I think it’s funny too, but as I trekked around New York City looking for an apartment for two months I was hit with some truths that have changed my perspective. If you would have told me in July, when I first began to look for places that I wouldn’t be moving into a new apartment until October, I would have laughed in your face, and kindly recommended that you spend more time listening than talking, because I was determined to move to Brooklyn by September 1st at the very latest.
I had roommates, a layout for my room, picked out a shower curtain, and was already thinking about our first gathering we’d have on my new china. I hate to admit it, but you would have been right. It is now October and I am just now moving into my new place, not in Brooklyn, but in Queens. Never did I imagine that as I went through this process of searching I would be challenged to not re-define God and who God is to fit my situation, but re-define my vocabulary!
In Philippians 4:13 we read the fourth most read bible verse of all time, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When we read about Paul’s circumstances in the chapter we learn that Paul doesn’t say this to his enemies. He isn’t saying this to discredit another’s opinion, or even to make himself feel better. He is stating a fact. He says that in times of plenty and hunger, abundance and need, I can do all things. I can thrive. How? In Christ.
As I look back I wish I could have grasped Paul’s grateful mindset a long time ago. When I am in seasons of hardship, instead of receiving the invitation to go deeper in humility, recognizing that it is Christ that thrives in me at all times, I find myself waiting to thrive in the days of abundance and plenty. When I’m making more money, when I have a better title at my job, when I have an apartment, and I rob myself of the opportunity of being renewed by his loving call to cling to the cross and be transformed through his shared suffering.
Christ thrived in his weakness because he knew it was necessary in the victory he would once have. He thrived as he roamed the earth homeless. He thrived as he was ridiculed and mocked. He thrived as he hung from a cross. He thrived because he knew that even his most vulnerable moments of despair would work together for the good of those. For us.
This week as I set across the dinner table with a dear friend, I could see her despair as she struggled to figure out how to maneuver through making big decisions and having little resources in the city as a millennial. As I sat and listened all the pieces began to fall into place. All the suffering and sorrow I had experienced in the last week wasn’t meaningless, it was for this moment, it was for my good, and it was for our good, for two women who love Him. In that deep moment of vulnerability with one another, demonstrating grace for our pain, and sharing lies that were binding us in exchange for truth that frees us, we experienced raw surrender to Christ, we experienced thriving in Him!