Getting Out of Survival Mode

“I just need to survive this week, and then things will calm down.”

How many times have you heard or said this? I probably think it most weeks when that Wednesday slump hits me. Lately though, I’ve stopped to think about an important question:

What do I mean by “surviving” the week? What’s our benchmark for making it through?

I usually mean that I want to finish the week with at least competent results, and without totally collapsing from exhaustion. But shouldn’t we factor in our holiness?

Would you call a week successful if you gave a great talk at youth group, but you didn’t read your Bible once?

What if you scraped through that big project by the deadline, but you relieved your stress with pornography?

What if you got food on the table for your family, but grumbled constantly and lost all your joy in service?

Consider Jesus’ call to all who wish to follow him: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). We must take up our cross daily, crucifying that voice inside us which suggests that something else is more important than obedience, at least in that particular moment. For the Christ follower, every day—even the busiest days—are lived under his lordship.

Right afterwards, Jesus says this: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:24–25)

We shouldn’t be interested in “surviving” the week if that means we’ve sidelined God, abandoned our spiritual disciplines, and indulged in sin. It’s a slippery slope to relax our standards of holiness just for busy periods. If you’re honest, you’re probably not going to be less busy next week. Another urgent thing will always crop up and you’ll fall back into that habit of compromise.

Productivity can’t be separated from our character. Those daily compromises add up. I’m reminded of the quote by Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Fits of anger when you’re under pressure turn into a constantly angry spirit, which dishonours God.

When you’re defining your parameters for a successful week, prioritise your spiritual life over your productivity. No job, project, or success is worth the cost that comes with drifting away from God. If my schedule and responsibilities blind me to the sin in my heart, then I’m simply doing too much.

This requires a kind of death—to perfectionism, pride, and perhaps your image, if you end up letting people down. But in that dying, Jesus is with us. We who have died with him will also, by God’s grace, live with him (2 Timothy 2:11). We will reach the end our lives not having merely survived, but prepared to enter into the fullness of eternal life.

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