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    Guest Post: Thriving or Coping?

    Thursday, August 22, 2019



    My sweet friend, Kristen, shares some wisdom from her years of singleness. Kristen and I attended college together where I saw her thrive in contentment and pursuit of the Lord during her season of singleness. Now, married to her best friend, she is continuing to thrive in her love for Jesus. I pray her words will encourage you  as they did me. 



    A couple years ago, I spent a month reading Psalm 1. Verse 3 captured me.
    He [the man who delights in the Lord – v. 2] will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season; its leaf will not wither; and whatever he does will prosper.

    Jeremiah speaks similarly in Jeremiah chapter 17.
    Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord … For he will be like a tree planted by the waters, that spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not fear when the heat comes, but its leaves shall be green; it will not be anxious in a year of drought neither cease from yielding fruit. (MEV)

    These verses let us taste the kind of life God has for His children who delight in and trust Him: abundant life, overflowing life, flourishing life. Jeremiah goes farther than David. He assures us that we will get unfavorable and unsought circumstances and yet those things don’t have to cause us to wither. We can thrive with green leaves and succulent fruit in spite of difficult circumstances because God has positioned us by Living Water.

    Thriving isn’t our natural response to difficult things. If we know someone is having a hard week, we don’t go up to them and say, “So, how are you thriving?” No. We ask, “How are you coping?”

    What is coping?
    ·        To survive, subsist, carry on, get through, scrape by, keep one’s head above water, muddle along
    ·        Merriam-Webster: to maintain a contest or combat usually on even terms or with success; attempt to overcome problems and difficulties
    ·        Implies maintaining the status quo, just evading failure, static living

    What is thriving?
    ·         To grow, develop well, advance, profit, make strides, flourish
    ·         Merriam-Webster: to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of difficult circumstances


    Summary:
    Coping is surviving in spite of difficulties
    Thriving is flourishing because of difficulties


    The difference is subtle but significant, and is founded in our expectation of what God is capable of doing in our lives. It’s easy to thrive in the things we like and are good at, in the areas we want to find success in, in the things that bring us benefit. But when it comes to situations that we don’t like, that we wish we could change or eliminate, that cross our desires and purposes, thriving in that is probably the last thing on our minds.

    Thriving was the last thing on my mind when it came to a particular area of my life that I wanted to change, that crossed my dreams and desires: singleness. I certainly did not plan or ask for years and years of being single. Singleness has its perks but no one ever caught me daydreaming about all the wonders and blessings of it. Rather, I was often tempted to just scrape by, seek false fulfillment, and use my status to excuse ineffective living. In short, I settled for coping.

    The abundant life that God wills for us is so much more vivid and powerful and effective than living in a state of just coping, however. God’s will is for our lives to be planted, not in our dreams for relationship and marriage, but in Christ’s sufficiency. We can rest in Him, our roots sunk down into His Living Water, knowing that the heat and drought will come, that circumstances and hard things will buffet us, but that the difficulty can be turned into growth and benefit for ourselves and our God.

    Psalm 1:3 and Jeremiah 17:8 imply that thriving often springs from difficulty. I would be lying if I said singleness isn’t difficult. I think what makes it difficult for most single women is that marriage, romance and companionship are good things – we are actually being image bearers in wanting those things. But, just as we are made for relationship, we are also made for wholeness and holiness; and none of those things will find ultimate fulfillment here on this earth. (That’s so hard! This is where we do some Romans 8:22-23 groaning.) Why? Because this world is not our home. God has put seeds of eternity in our hearts so that we seek the One who is eternal rather than the things that will pass away.

    Over the years, God has continued to gently wean me of myself and my ideas of what I need to be full and flourishing. He opened my eyes to many of the ways He was using my singleness for His glory – often in spite of my attitude. He planted in me a desire to see how He could use me because of my singleness. He challenged me to blossom and bear fruit when I felt like singleness justified barrenness and a survival attitude.

    How do we nurture a thriving heart like David and Jeremiah describe? How do we make our singleness profitable for God, ourselves and others? How do we flourish because of our relationship status?

    David says that thriving comes from deliberately meditating on
    and delighting in God’s Word.

    Every once in a while, I take inventory of my go-to meditations. When I have “mental free time,” where do my thoughts go? What things fill my mind? If there is any unbiblical worldview, any daydream that coddles selfish desires, any thoughts that are inconsistent with the holiness and heart of God, any patterns of thinking that take their cue from pop culture, any media messages that create dissatisfaction with what God has given me, I want to make a plan to put these off and replace them with a mind and heart that contemplates God’s Word. We become like what we contemplate, so let us all, with unveiled faces [eyes and heart that have been freed from the world’s philosophies and deceptions], behold [contemplate with scrutiny, peer at intensely] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, being transformed increasingly more like the same image, by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18 NASB paraphrase).

    I also monitor my delights. I ask myself, “What in my life sways my contentment? What do I need, or think I need, to be happy?” My affections can become misplaced so gradually that I don’t even see it happening. Colossians tells us to actively direct our affections to things above where Christ is. Yes ladies, we have to throw out the princess movie philosophies about following our heart and all that fluff. Instead, we should wisely choose the appropriate object for our affections and develop a plan to get there. Experience tells us that we develop delight in something as we nurture deeper understanding and commitment to it. Study of God’s Word develops delight in God’s Word.

    Understanding God’s nature develops delight in God’s nature. When we carefully direct what we meditate on, we are helping ourselves grow to delight in the right things.

    Jeremiah says thriving comes from trusting in the Lord.

    In our singleness, we have probably all questioned if God really knows how to manage things better than we do. Before we doubt the personal, tender, purposeful care God has for each detail of our life, read Psalm 139:14-16 (MEV).

    I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works; you know me completely. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in secret and intricately put together in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed, yet in your book all my days were written, before any of them had come into being.

    This blows my mind every time I read it. Before I was even formed, God wrote out a description of my days. Not an outline of my years. Of my little days! Our lives are intrinsically valuable because God made us on purpose, and He made us for a purpose. This fundamental truth separates the Christian worldview from all worldly philosophies. It is the basis of our ability to trust our days and years and efforts to God’s divine ability to make them matter.

    It is easy, if something we “need” isn’t showing up, to become manufacturers and manipulators. I was single quite long enough to know how to manufacture and manipulate situations that at least got me male attention. I knew how to be in the right place at the right time so as to “just happen” to run into the right guy; the success rate of that tactic is pretty small (in my life, 0%), probably because that’s not a method that displays God’s glorious ability to orchestrate and carry out His will. Many women go to dating sites to look for a relationship. A few months after my 29th birthday, I registered for a free week on Christian Mingle. Again, I know this works for some people. Personally, I was alarmed at the level of artificiality and the endless “window shopping” without investing that seemed to go on. I responded to seven of maybe two dozen messages and maintained a few days worth of chat with the men, wondering in turn how many fires they were feeding at the same time (back up plans, you know). There just wasn’t any feeling of security, no accountability, and little possibility of building trust. In less than a week, I was scared off. All this to say: my attempts to manufacture what I believed I needed were never blessed. Sometimes I did get what I wanted, but always apart from peace and intimacy with God.

    In those times, I had to reestablish my mind and heart where I knew it should be. I had to stop all my frantic planning and problem solving to ask myself one question: “What do I really want?” What desire can I confidently pursue that supersedes these lesser, circumstantial ideals? I knew what I wanted to want. I wanted to deeply desire and pursue the thing God had already guaranteed me because it was His desire and plan for me: to be conformed to the image of His Son.

    As Elizabeth Elliot so frequently said, “we must give up our right to ourselves”: our right to romance and marriage, our right to make ourselves happy, our right to comfort and convenience, our right to earthly security. Giving up that “right” frees us from the stress of managing and negotiating our future. God has given us all we need to live godly in Christ Jesus and be in His perfect will today. In that security, we can focus on more than attaining marriage – a set of circumstances which is largely outside our control anyway.

    We can focus on living abundantly for God because of the unique freedoms and opportunities in singleness.  

    So how do you intentionally thrive in singleness? Consider and pray over these two questions:

    ·         How can I use my singleness as a tool to encourage and serve others?
    ·         How can I use this season of relative freedom (aka singleness) to grow my abilities and develop areas I am weak in so that I’m as equipped as possible for any future?

    Ladies, don’t let singleness shrivel and shrink you. You are planted by rivers of water that enable you to be a fruitful and thriving daughter of God. Redeem the opportunity.


    Kristen lives with her husband in Virginia where she seeks to build relationships with women of all ages and in all stages of life. She and her husband enjoy reading, making breakfast, inviting people into their home, and exploring historical sites. 

    Singled Out Sister Elizabeth: Financial Freedom

    Thursday, August 1, 2019


    Meet Elizabeth: a teacher, single sister in Christ, and a lover of everything yellow and fall. Read her story below to find out how she used her singleness purposefully in meeting her financial goals and how you can too!


    Over the past 2 and a half years, I paid off $40,000 in student loan debt, saved 3-6 months of expenses in an Emergency Fund, saved $20,000 to put a down payment on a home, purchased a home and filled it with furniture and decor bought with cash, and invested 15% of my income back into my retirement accounts.


    Whoa! How did I do that?


    First, Jesus Christ. He makes everything possible through the Holy Spirit inside of me. His self-control, discipline, and strength fueled me. Second, Dave Ramsey. Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and his 7 Baby Steps gave me the knowledge and the plan I needed to be successful. Third, my singleness. Because of my singleness, I was able to say yes to several jobs to earn extra money. Because of my singleness, I was able to move back in with my parents to pay off even more debt quickly. Because of my singleness, I was able to say no to things that didn’t help me meet my goals. Because of my singleness, I was able to focus on my goals with gazelle intensity and accomplish them. You can do that too!


    It took me 14 months to pay off my student loan debt. In those 14 months, I stopped shopping. I stopped eating out. I stopped going places with friends every weekend. I stopped going on trips and vacations. – I started saying yes to babysitting and house sitting. I said yes to driving for Uber and Lyft. I said yes to a part time job at a bakery. I said yes to selling clothes online for Poshmark and Mercari. I said yes to figuring out how I could make extra money in every free moment I had. I had a goal, and I was laser focused on meeting that goal. It took hard work, discipline, and saying no. And it was hard. Oh, so very hard.


    My ultimate goal was to pay off my student loans, so I could buy a house. I had tried to buy a house previously, and I could not get a loan because of my debt to income ratio. That lit a fire under me to work as hard as I could to eliminate that debt.


    Two and a half years later, here I am. I have paid off all my debt. I have purchased my own home. I am using it for God’s glory and Kingdom work. I have met my goals and now get to enjoy the freedom that brings. I’m going on vacations again, shopping again, hanging out with friends again, and eating out again. That hard work and sacrifice was for a season, not a lifetime. I am so thankful for the knowledge Dave Ramsey gave me and the timing Jesus gave me. If I had not been single during this time, I would not have had the same results.

    I encourage you to meet with someone who can help you set goals and establish a financial plan. Meet with someone who can help you write a budget, who can check in on you and see how you’re doing with your spending, who is winning with money and can also help you win with money. There is no better time to get your finances in order than when you are single!

    Want to know something else really cool about Elizabeth? Because of her diligence and hard work, she was selected to be on the Rachel Cruz show. Listen here to hear her talk about being a FPU coordinator: https://youtu.be/TDy29LKGPGg
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