On a recent episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective Podcast, I chatted with Patty Scott about how to cease striving in order to thrive. If you missed that episode, you can listen here: How To Overcome Overwhelm – Episode 68. We talked about the pressure to not only do more, but do better, and how that goal is so elusive and in fact, damaging. We barely scratched the surface, so I asked Patty to share more here about how ceasing striving is the key to thriving.
Read to the end for a two book giveaway!
How Ceasing Striving is the Key to Thriving
By Patty H. Scott, M.A.
God moves incrementally and intimately. His purposes are greater than we usually see at first glance. Recently, I have been reflecting on the growth I have experienced in the area of finding my rest in Jesus.
I’ll fill you in a little about how bad things were so you can see the bigger picture of what God has done—and know He will do this for you too. I’ve always had a propensity toward perfectionism in my flesh. I’m not talking about a healthy aim towards improvement and growth. Instead, I drove myself into the ground trying to eliminate anything that wasn’t flawless. Of course, much of this came about as a result of growing up in a home where criticism came at me daily. I felt I could never reach the mark. Somehow, I developed this warped idea: If I can be nearly perfect, you will love me more. In other words, I was going to fend off others’ rejection before they had a chance by leaving them nothing to criticize and nowhere to find fault.
In truth, we obviously can’t become perfect—and we surely can’t even muster anything like flawlessness on our own. Over the years I lived a life that was dominated by busyness. I believed I had to do all the things and do them well. My performance-based lifestyle bore the fruit of overwhelm and burnout.
God never leaves us where He finds us. He is mindful of our frame (Ps 103:14) and He knows what we lack and how He intends to free us (Gal 5:1). God stepped into my busy, self-reliant life and bit by bit has drawn me into greater dependence upon Him, receptivity to His love, and the capacity to let go and, as He says, cease striving.
Often, we have to come to the end of ourselves before we are willing to make a change. The things we use as defense mechanisms to shore up our fragile places have to fail us. When perfectionistic performing began to cause me more pain than blessing, I started looking honestly at my heart and lifestyle. Through a series of events, I found myself examining the roots of why I stayed so busy. As I did, I started to learn more about God and what His love really means to me. He began to show me how deeply He loves me—as is, not based on what I do, what I will do, what I’ve done, or any other behaviorally based measure of worth.
I am worth the cross. You are too. Jesus says there is no condemnation for us now that we are in Him (Rom 8:1) and that means we can’t find even an eyedropper’s worth of rejection. As a matter of fact, He says nothing can snatch us from His hand (John 10:28), and that means we can’t fail or be rejected by Him.
One of the roots of my busyness was a deep-seated fear of rejection. God assures us that His perfect love casts out our fears (1 John 4:18), but that love doesn’t cast out our fear from afar. We are called to abide in His love (John 15: 9), invited to make His love our very home—the place where we dig our roots in, get comfortable, return to, and feel most ourselves. My journey has been one of growth in opening up to God’s love and grace. It’s not a one-and-done event. We make progress over time in allowing God’s love to seep into places where we formerly relied upon ourselves.
As I have become more open and vulnerable to His love, I have been able to release my need to prove myself or to work to earn what He has already given me. In other words, I have incrementally ceased striving.
Through the Psalmist, in Psalm 46:10, God says “Be still and know I am God.” Those words, be still, mean to cease striving. Stop doing things on human power. Stop trying to run the show, control the outcome, prevent fears from becoming reality. Instead, we know. We know He is God—in control, aware and involved in outcomes, quelling fears, and walking through darkness bringing light and hope.
Most recently, during shelter-in-place, I had about a month when I went into a funk. I could only muster the energy to do the minimal things like cooking supper or meeting defined deadlines. I kept procrastinating other tasks, and in the process, my guilt mounted. I started to avoid prayer and didn’t feel eager to read the Word. One day, after feeling myself drift from God, I turned to Him and told Him how hard my procrastination had been wearing on me. I got a distinct sense that He said, “I love you even though …” He was showing me that His love went deeper than my to-do list, my achievements, or my capacity to keep up with demands. Of course, I know this in my head, but through this experience, He embedded that truth deeper into my heart.
As I allowed the truth of His love to pervade me, I began to feel revived. I started taking up the tasks I had set aside. I caught up. But, more importantly, my burden had already been lifted when I turned to God and shared it with Him. He has been walking me out of the cage of self-reliant busyness into increasing grace and joy ever since I committed my life and heart to Him many years ago. This most recent experience peeled back just one more layer and drew me even nearer to Him and His incredible love for me.
A life centered in not striving doesn’t mean we sit around doing nothing. I have been energized and stay busy all day. I say there is a difference between being overly busy and properly busy. When we heal the broken roots of our busyness, we can do many things without feeling burdened by them. I have been freed up to do what I am called to do, leaving outcomes and provision up to God. The way we see our role shifts dramatically when we cease striving and allow our activities to be motivated as Jesus’ were—He only did what He saw the Father doing. (John 5:19)
If you are struggling with performance-based living, or you find yourself doubting the love of God for you, know that His love is not based on what you do, but who you are. Remind yourself of His grace. Recite verses that speak truth into places where you have believed lies. God will continue to draw you toward a life rooted in His love and void of self-reliant striving.
How have you struggled with striving? And what helped? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
About Patty H. Scott
Patty writes, speaks, and coaches to encourage your heart, to share effective and transparent parenting tips, and to walk alongside you as you grow as a woman and a mom. Her writing is conversational and approachable. She shares from the heart to the heart. Patty and her husband have two boys aged 11 and 18 and a foster daughter who is now 21.
Patty loves coffee dates with friends, ministering to women, escaping into a good book, kayaking on the ocean, and taking spontaneous road trips. Her home and table are an intentional place of welcome.
Connect with Patty here: Website / Blog / Facebook Group / Facebook / Instagram / Amazon
In conjunction with this post and the podcast interview How To Overcome Overwhelm – Episode 68, Patty Scott is giving away a free copy of her book, Slow Down, Mama: Intentional Living in a Hurried World as well as a copy of the accompanying devotional, Slow Down, Mama: Thirty-One Days to Help You Slow and Savor. (One book each to two winners.)
Leave a comment below sharing with us one thing you’ve learned about leaving behind busyness and perfectionism for a life of grace and joy and you will be entered into the contest. One winner will be chosen for the book. A second winner will be chosen for the devotional.
You could also share this blog post on Facebook or Twitter then comment here to tell us where you shared it and you’ll also be entered into the drawing.
The winner will be selected at random and announced next Monday, August 10, 2020, here on this post. Continental United States only.
(If there are affiliate links in this post, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you)).
Many people are task-oriented and end up being overly busy with tasks…many with tasks that do not matter overall. I believe it has to do with having a sense of control when other things in life are out of control.
I thrive in a work environment where someone gives me tasks that I can complete and check off of my list. It is easier to go home after work and not feel like you have anything pressing to do because your task list is complete.
I now work from home and have mostly good days full of structure and proper tasks for the job, family, and self-care. I also have bummer days that feel like I’ve wasted a day of my life. When I feel like I have no control over anything and especially during COVID-19, I try to control my surroundings. That only got me so far, and when I couldn’t get things the way I wanted them, I ended up not doing anything on some days.
When I get down to it, having my morning and evening routines helps me stay grounded.
Susie, Routines do ground us, and in uncertain times (times when we are more aware of our own lack of control), it helps to have some sense of predictability somewhere. I’m learning to cling increasingly to God through uncertainty. It’s a journey, to be sure. Letting go of my need for order and control have been far harder and longer-lasting lessons than I had anticipated. Thank you for sharing your perspective!
Oh my, this blog and the podcast resonated so strong in my heart and spirit. I grew up with a performance perfectionist mentality as I tried to please my dad so that he would not be angry, I would be accepted and he would be pleased with me and love me. It was years before I realized that this was truly what was happening. He was not pleased when I met my future husband because I was his running buddy. He was so critical of my soon to be hubby and we actually were estranged for a while. I truly thought I had to be perfect and I lived in fear all my growing up years and really for 40 years. I finally had to be free so I wrote my hubby a letter because I couldn’t share with him, I was afraid. He read that letter and he got so mad. Not at me but at the enemy of our soul who had kept me in that bondage all those years. So my hubby helped me walk through releasing the fear to the Lord and being delivered and free from the BONDAGE of fear. The enemy tries to bring it back but no, I will not go back there. Thank you Patty for sharing and Dr. Michelle for also sharing testimonies to encourage me and others to thrive, not strive to be perfect. I shared this blog on Facebook.
Karen! Praise God for your testimony. I’m so grateful for how God used your sweet husband to heal these childhood wounds in your heart. Thank you for your encouraging words here.
Fantastic article. I’m really trying to learn to slow down. It’s sometimes hard to know when to limit myself! When I was young, it seemed so much easier having a parent or teacher guide me with my assignments/tasks. Now I just kinda “feel” what I should do which is far from ideal!!!
Maybe you are wired to be a feeler, Gina. Some of us are more intuitive and free-spirited and we can beat ourselves up for how we are formed. When we do that we work against ourselves instead of working with the shape of our temperament. God didn’t make everyone to be a type-A, orderly, color-within-the-lines personality. It takes time to learn what we are and then to work with those quirks and nuances to be our best. I talk about this in Slow Down, Mama. Whatever you do, I encourage you to measure yourself by Ps 139 and Zeph 3:17 first and last.
Many blessings – Patty
I loved this post! As someone who deals with the lies rooted in perfectionism, it resonated with me so much. I had the same experience during the lockdown… I just couldn’t seem to focus, and I I started to avoid prayer and Bible study too. I needed the reminder to share my burden with God! He reminds me constantly that the responsibility for everything doesn’t rest on my shoulders. I don’t have to walk with the awful pressure to constantly “get it right.” He’s the one Who gets it right! My job is walk with Him and spend time with Him, like a beloved, trusting daughter.
C. Amaris, thank you for sharing your experience. It’s so good to know we aren’t alone in these experiences. It can feel like every other Christian we know is living in step with God while we are struggling. But, when we courageously share our challenges, we find out we are not alone at all. I’m grateful you discovered grace and thankful for your encouraging words here.
I am still trying to learn this. I find that I have the opposite issue since moving many years ago to our community. I never found my groove and our life is not much different than it was pre-Covid as far as activities and social life. I am finding it depressing. Making a list helps me with procrastination but I struggling as Michelle stated she was. This really spoke to me.
Tracie, I know how hard loneliness and transition can be. There really aren’t words for the ache of longing for greater purpose and connection. When I’ve been in waiting periods recently (when my grown son was struggling deeply with some things and I was powerless to help him, for example), I have dwelt on a few truths. One that came as a gift was hearing again about how waiting on the Lord is a form of faithful service. In our waiting we acknowledge that He hasn’t left us, forgotten us, nor fallen asleep on the job. We may not feel His activity on our behalf, and often we don’t at times like this. We may not see the benefit in our waiting. Still, He is with us—nearer than our next breath. He is always acting in love toward us. He also will not waste a drop of our suffering. I remember a phrase from a book I loved, “When I Lay My Isaac Down,” by Carol Kent. She said, “Whatever the trial, God is entrusting it to you.” I learned something from her. It shifted how I see trials. I don’t believe God inflicts them on us, but, yes, He entrusts them to us. And He uses them to ultimately bless and grow us. I’m praying for purpose and connection for you, Tracie.
I’ve always pushed so hard not realizing I was striving for recognition and love. One thing I’ve learned from listening to and reading your blog is that Gods love is not based on my performance. My grandmother used to always say, “Be Still”. I can go back and change that to “Cease Striving”. 🙂 Thank you so much for your sweet biblical guidance.
Praise God, Kristie! This is good news! Thank you for sharing the shift in perspective and how God is moving in your life.
Massive burnout about 16 years ago and just as I started to feel something, anything, I got sick. Lymes disease, muscles contracted, brain fogged and there went my ability to go and do for over 10 years. I’m addicted to people and every friend disappeared from my life. I finally BROKE and the self protect wall fell. Homebound for about 4 years, 23 doctors later I finally found a treatment that worked and a surgeon who would reconstruct my legs so I could hopefully walk again. I was basically living a life of doing for 40 since I got saved, thinking God was my strength but I was doing far more than He wanted and I came to the end of myself. I am beginning to emerge and figure out who God created me to be. I feel so different, I’m having to find more with God. I have no dreams, goals or visions and can not imagine having a life out in the world again. Every time I start to self protect I have to have a conversation with myself about letting go, risk getting hurt and trust God as I die to self. All I have ever known is to say, “here I am Lord”, working till break old habits established through 16 years in a desert. God is a restorer, working on thanking Him after 63 years of being a victim, surviving and trying to thrive but it’s quite a work.
Pam, your story is overwhelming. I know the desert. I have lost capacity at times, but not to the extent you have. My goodness. I just praise God for the testimony you gave here. Stripped of everything, you surrender and cling to Him. That is amazing and such an encouragement and example to all of us. I can’t wait to hear (in heaven, more than likely) the way God used this dismantling to reassemble and renew you in the deepest places. Thank you for your steadfastness through times when many would have quit running the race.
Wow. I love how you put this, Patty: …invited to make His love our very home.” Love that. One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how so many times our busyness can come from a place of thinking that we’re making everything happen and nothing would get done otherwise. I always thought I was immune to that thought process, since I’m pretty laid-back, but I’m learning more and more that no one’s immune. Great post, Patty! And thanks so much for sharing, Michelle!