How to Live Free From Striving

Have these questions ever bounced around in your head?

  • Can I keep going when I’m so worn out?
  • How does she do it all?
  • How am I supposed to balance everything?

You’re not alone.

Our souls are restless and longing for more. We stay up late scrolling feeds, hoping for more connection and community. We binge-watch television shows, craving relief and distraction from what’s weighing us down. We pack our schedules, searching for more significance. Our hearts are hungry, yearning for abundant life and lasting transformation.

We try harder and hustle more, only to end up where we started–worn out, defeated, and empty, wondering if this was what Jesus meant when he said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).

I spent much of my believing life wrestling with that verse. Life often felt anything but full. I constantly felt like I was striving. Striving to be more patient, loving, and kind. Working hard to juggle all the balls that come with the roles we bounce between daily. And it never felt like enough. There was always more that needed to be done or an area I didn’t quite measure up.

If Jesus’ promise was freedom and fullness, then why wasn’t I experiencing it?

Desperate for a Different Way

One night, up past midnight, I waved the white flag of surrender. My days were filled with doing good things for God while I spewed sour fruit of impatience, frustration, and bitterness on the people I loved most. This wasn’t who I wanted to be or the life I longed for, and I was desperate for a different way. Sitting on my couch, I whispered, “God, something has to change. I know there has to be more. Please show me.”

My middle-of-the-night prayer landed me in John 15:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5 NIV

I was annoyed. The passage was familiar but didn’t seem practical for my current situation. I was reading my Bible and praying most days. That was abiding, right? There had been plenty of pruning over the years; I definitely had a checkmark in that box. I didn’t need more to do. I wanted a different way to be.

Yet, as I read that night, despite my weary eyes and exhausted brain, the picture of abiding became clearer. The branch doesn’t strive or work hard to produce the fruit. It simply stays connected to the vine. The fruit is the natural result of the branch remaining with the vine.

The different way of living I longed for was right there, hidden in plain sight, among the verses I had read and heard many times. I just hadn’t seen it because my attention was on the fruit – trying to produce for Him.

Focusing on the Fruit

Our natural tendency is to focus on the fruit. We are image bearers of a God who works, creates, and multiplies. In Genesis 1:28, we are sent out to multiply and bear fruit. Yet, with the entrance of sin came a shift in our working.

Not only are we bent toward focusing on results, but we awaken with to-do lists longer than the hours in the day. People depend on us at home, work, and church. Messages bombard us that our results equate to success. It’s hard not to focus on the fruit.

Our attention on the fruit reflects our desire to faithfully steward our gifts and work with God to build the Kingdom. But we weren’t created to produce in our strength. Our striving surfaces from a misplaced focus. The invitation to abide bids us to re-center our gaze.

Shifting Our Perspective

Abiding invites us back into our created design, working from the overflow of our delight in God. It shifts our focus from the seen onto the unseen. This is a counter-cultural, narrow path.

Social media doesn’t see when we confess and repent to our brother or sister for being harsh or judgmental. There is no applause for spending time in the Word and prayer to simply be with Jesus, not producing a message, article, or post.

Truthfully, the hidden work is often more challenging than the visible work, and it’s easier to focus on what yields instant gratification.

3 Truths to Help You Live Free from Striving

Living free from striving begins with renewing our minds on the truth that:

  1. God’s delight is in who we are, not what we produce.
  2. God doesn’t need us to produce for Him, but He invites us to work with Him.
  3. We can have lives full of fruit but hearts far from Him.

An Abiding Prayer

Here’s a prayer for you to respond to Jesus’ invitation to exchange our striving for abiding.

“Jesus, help me shift my gaze off what I’m producing and onto you, The Vine, the only source and sustainer for lasting fruit in my life.”

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