Beyond surviving to thriving
by Sharon Vincz Andrews
Spent any time in the wilderness lately?
Searched for food and water?
Outsmarted your rivals in order to survive?
The reality TV show “Survivor” began its 34th season March 8. That’s a wildly impressive run. It begs the question: Why do people watch reality TV? Psychologists such as Lemi Baruh believe that it’s a measure of voyeurism for most fans — the desire to look behind the scenes of life’s dramas. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, writing for Psychology Today lists a number of other reasons: living vicariously without the fear and trauma, comparing ourselves with others, learning coping skills, finding out how to gauge our own abilities, personality, or emotions; or, meeting unfulfilled needs in our daily lives.
But perhaps there is deeper yearning to know that life’s difficulties have answers. Perhaps for some, it’s knowing that even in the very worst of human circumstances we can find a way out; a way to surmount the fear and challenge.
How about you? Are you a survivor? Even a thriver? While we may not be struggling with the challenges of deserts or jungles, we all have our wilderness experiences — loss of a loved one, unemployment, a devastating illness, loneliness. How do we conquer such trials?
I often turn to the life of Jesus Christ, to learn how to survive and thrive with grace, dignity, and healing. At the beginning of his ministry, he spent 40 days in the wilderness praying. The devil, says the story, came to him and offered sustenance, protection, and a worldly kingdom if Jesus would bow down and worship him. Jesus rebuked the temptations with statements that God is the only power and presence. The Master not only survived the temptations but emerged with spiritual power to heal and bless mankind and fulfill his mission.
Maybe those wilderness experiences aren’t all bad. Those tough times give opportunities for growth. I love this definition from Christian healer and author, Mary Baker Eddy, in her spiritual guidebook to understanding the timeless message of the Bible, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
Wilderness. Loneliness; doubt; darkness. Spontaneity of thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence.
This definition helps us to see that surviving is not just waiting it out, sticking your head in the sand and hoping it will all go away. It’s all about surmounting the challenge by growing our spiritual sense and thriving on the other side. But much like the survivors on reality TV, our wilderness experiences require action. For me, that action is based on prayer — turning to God and away from the stressful circumstances and acknowledging His presence and power as a “very present help,” as the Bible says.
A writer I enjoy was on a geological trip with a couple of colleagues in a remote desert location when they ran out of water. After two days of fruitless searching, he spent a night in prayer, acknowledging God as the source of all goodness, including food, water, whatever was needed. The next morning he discovered a small green spot in a canyon. When he struck the spot with a pickaxe, more than enough water to supply the mission poured out — not just meager survival rations, but thriving abundance. That “material sense” of lack “disappeared” and the “great fact” that the needed water was already there appeared.
Prayer is quiet communion with God that reveals your relationship to Him and aligns your everyday life with His good will for you. Whatever challenge you face, pausing for a moment or a night in prayer equips you to overcome and conquer the obstacles in your path. Prayer helps you to see that you are not just a human being struggling to survive the misfortunes and trials of life, but a bright, shining trailblazer who thrives despite adversity…and sometimes because of it.
This article was published in the Bloomington, Indiana Herald-Times, April 1, 2017
Sharon Vincz Andrews is the media and legislative representative for Christian Science in the state of Indiana. You can follow Sharon on Twitter at Sharon Vincz Andrews or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/inspiredindiana