Thriving vs Striving

I recently posted on Facebook two alternative ways to live: thrive or strive. I wrote, “I need to stop striving for control and start thriving by trusting the One who controls everything.”

Then, interestingly, I met someone at Starbucks who helped me see this dichotomy a bit more vividly. As I was sitting by the counter I happened to catch a glimpse of some tattooed-writing on the forearms of a young lady. So I asked her what it meant.

(I took a picture for those of us who are more visual.)

She explained that the writing represents two responses to how people deal with controlling the circumstances in their lives. On her left forearms it reads, “…to the last I grapple with thee,” which is a quote from Chapter 135 of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. In context it reads, “Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!” If one recalls, Captain Ahab is obsessed with destroying the leviathan because he sees it as the manifestation of all that is evil in the world. But this sense of striving for control only proves all too well that man stubbornly and arrogantly seeks on his own to defy human limitations and slay the beast. Ahab accepts his fate of death by the “all-destroying” whale but he still believes he is “unconquered” because it has failed to defeat his spirit. From the beginning, Ahab has sealed his fate, the fate of the Pequod and the crew that belongs to it, all for a driving passion (madness?) of trying to control what cannot be conquered.

And on her right forearm it reads, “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him,” which is a verse from the book of Job (13:15a, NIV). In this chapter, Job is responding to his “friend” Zophar, who is accusing him of having offended God and thus being guilty before Him; otherwise, why would he be in so much suffering. But Job vehemently defends his innocence. In the end, Job humbles himself and surrenders control of his life into the hands of the One who is completely sovereign. Then God restores Job and doubles his possessions. Once Job quit striving for control (i.e., justification of his suffering, theodicy) and trusted God with his life, he experienced divine favor in the form of physical and material thriving.

The existential struggle between these two tales is no different for us today: we either strive for control, and ultimately seal our fate shaking our fists to God, or we thrive, once we open our fists to hold the hand of the One who holds everything.

Chester Delagneau

2 Responses to “Thriving vs Striving”

  • Sari says:

    Such a profound post. Interesting how society leads us to believe that the more we strive, the more likely we’ll thrive; yet, as Christians, we know that to render control over to God is to thrive in the truest, purest way.

    • Chester Delagneau says:

      In my experience, it’s one of the most elusive things–to thrive via surrender. I catch myself daily mustering up “strength and courage” to help me fight another day, thinking this is what God desires. But what I constantly keep coming back to is that first, and foremost, I must surrender my life, will, way of thinking, etc., before I deracinate virtues like “strength and courage” out of their biblical context.

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