December 18, 2017
Home arrow Newsletters arrow Unhealthy Striving
Unhealthy Striving Print E-mail
Never Give in

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.” - Winston S. Churchill

Many of the heroes in our stories are underdogs that achieved some sort of greatness by the strength of their tenacity, determination, and effort. We cheer their commitment and applaud their success. Perhaps it feeds our ego or fuels our resolve when we believe that anyone can be master of his destiny if he applies enough will power.

We are familiar with motivational mottos that urge us onward. Here are some examples: “Through effort and determination come success.” “The will to succeed can overcome the greatest adversity.” “You can have results or excuses, but not both.”

These slogans do not promise success, but they help us believe that it is possible. Unfortunately, they can also push us into unhealthy striving which leads to sickness. In fact, research has shown that those who are more diligent and tend to strive for success are more likely than others to get sick.

If you find yourself struggling with unhealthy striving you need a better understanding of your identity in Christ. He has a plan and purpose which are ideally suited for you. Work with Him and you will find peace.

Conflict

“When things don’t go the way I want them to, that just makes me work even harder.” - Anonymous

The root problem of unhealthy striving is an identity crisis. In our independent and self-referential world we are promised the pursuit of happiness. In a pragmatic and prideful worldview we believe that more and bigger is a better reward. Therefore our frame of reference drives us to greater effort but not to contentment.

The Puritan work ethic emphasizes hard work, discipline and frugality as core values espoused by the Christian faith. Challenging this doctrine is treated as heresy by some. Yet this frame of reference can lead to an inflated sense of personal responsibility and belief in self-reliance. Instead of discovering our true identity, we dream up a life that suits our fancy. That image becomes a tantalizing dream of our own making.

We can also be misled by a well-intentioned authority figure, such as a parent, teacher, or coach. Their motivational speech is intended to bring out the best in us by issuing a challenge and vision. Yet the ideal or goal may not be a good fit nor accurately reflect our God-given identity.

When unhealthy strivers face challenges they increase their resolve and rely on character strengths that have served them well in the past. They set goals for the future, strive to achieve them, overcome setbacks, stay focused on the prize, and resist temptations that might knock them off course. They are resilient and overcome great odds. Yet they are engaged in “repetitive high-stress coping” as they try to become someone else.

The watching world applauds their achievement when they succeed, but the prize comes at a high cost to their health.

Consequences

“I’ve always felt that I could make of my life pretty much what I wanted to make of it.” - Anonymous

Unhealthy striving leaves people feeling exhausted and depleted of resources. They may sacrifice sleep and exercise, or overindulge in comfort foods or behaviors. The harder they strive the further they go from their Divine design, and their health falls by the wayside.

Here is a word picture to describe this situation. The red line on a tachometer indicates the maximum revolutions per minute (rpm) of an engine for safe operation. However, the optimal operating range is typically less than half that amount. An engine can sustain redline for a short period of time, but it is not designed to be used at that level of output for very long. Things go wrong with it because of the stress. Strivers redline their bodies.

The Center for Family Research at the University of Georgia found that the white blood cells among strivers were prematurely aged relative to those of their peers. This may be a contributing factor to their susceptibility to catch cold or the flu. The body has used up its reserves and is less able to fight off a virus or infection.

Correlations have also been found in cardiovascular and metabolic health. Striving triggers defensive reactions in the body, such as increased cortisol and adrenaline. A persistent influence of these stress hormones could trigger more inflammatory responses which lead to autoimmune disorders like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac disease, lupus, chronic fatigue and multiple sclerosis.

There are consequences in the emotional realm as well. High-stress coping strategies often pair with avoidance strategies such as addiction or erratic behavior. Anger, fear, bitterness, and other powerful emotions can take control of a person’s thinking as well as trigger physical responses as described above. Symptoms of emotional stress include hypertension, sleeplessness, irritability, mood swings, and outbursts of anger.

Ironically, when resilient people work hard within a system that has not afforded them the same opportunities as others, their physical health deteriorates. They may achieve their goal or dream, but the benefit is diminished by poor health. Their pursuit of happiness cost a great deal and eroded the value of the prize.

Correction

Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.' - Deuteronomy 8:17

The dream that draws many people into unhealthy striving is wrapped around the idea that they are in charge. They want to be the “captain of their own ship” and “master of their destiny.” This temptation is laced with pride and self-importance, but the Lord God warned against such attitudes.

Repent from pride which is a temptation to take credit for your wealth or success as if you had done it with your own power. The Lord declared that He is the One who gives power to get wealth (verse 18).

Repent from self-referential living which is a temptation to take matters into your own hands and to decide for yourself what wealth you deserve. The Lord promises to provide and care for you as a loving Father if you will join in His purpose.

Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. - Matthew 11:29

Let go of stress and striving. Jesus has invited you to join your purpose in life with His; to be yoked together for work. When you accept that invitation you will find rest (peace) for your soul. It is His promise, and He is trustworthy.

How do you let go?

First, interrogate your goals and dreams. If they are in conflict with anything you know about God and His ways then abandon them. If you are not sure then ask God to reveal the desires of your heart and work with Him toward those ends.

Second, interrogate your motives. If you recognize any pride or selfishness in your efforts toward your goals then cease striving. Continue this line of questions until the only motives remaining are love for God and your neighbor.

Third, interrogate your level of self-reliance. Check on your work habits and the way you discharge your effort. If you have taken personal responsibility for results then you must allow yourself to be released. Intentionally transfer your reliance to God in prayer and practice until being yoked with Him feels natural to you.

Finally, interrogate your identity. If you are striving to become someone of your own imagination then ask God to reveal your true identity. If you are striving to become someone to please another person’s imagination then release that expectation and trust God’s plan to be best.

Take these simple steps and you will find rest for your soul. You will grow in health and strength. You will become the person God created you to be and you will have contentment with who you are.

 
< Prev   Next >

Master's Mind Ministry
21811 NE 164th St
Brush Prairie, WA 98606
(360) 891-8114

Sign up for the Master's Mind Newsletter for regular updates and ideas about spiritual growth and how to live your life for the LORD:

Your Name: Email: