Yes, as we all know, people can be selfish.
We can want to take the easy way out.
We can fall for putting ourselves first.
We can ignore the needs of others, when we are very likely called to attend to them.
Those things are inappropriate. They do not lead to life. They are not consistent with loving God and people well.
Yet I don’t think it is selfish at all to want to flourish, not from a godly perspective.
The longing to flourish is a lot like our desire to be happy.
Christian philosopher Josef Pieper has said that the desire to be happy is actually a decision that has been made over our heads.
In other words, when we are in a good place, we simply want to be happy.
And, I would argue the same thing is true of flourishing. If we are in a good place we, inherently want to flourish.
And here is where flourishing and happiness overlap: The deepest happiness comes from God, and when we are pursuing flourishing through becoming more alive in God, we are actively moving towards finding our richest happiness in God. (I hope that’s not too deep!)
So what is behind the notion that if we pursue flourishing we are being selfish?
This is undeniably tricky. I will not argue that. There are times when we need to forsake our wishes, and times we need to honor our needs and limits.
To do my best to tell the truth about this, I believe there are fears and distortions behind this question. Just like the cranky older man in the picture above, when the notion of pursuing flourishing is framed as selfish, it is being asked from a place of criticalness and doubting God’s goodness, power and love. We want to get that man out of your head! 🙂 If any of the following ideas resonate for you please feel to share a comment at the end of the blog.
Fear # 1) If I pursue flourishing, maybe it means I don’t love the Lord?
To this I would say: If you frame flourishing as becoming more alive in God, as a way of getting closer to Him, then pursuing flourishing is a way of truly loving him.
Fear #2) Doesn’t pursuing flourishing mean I love myself more than the Lord?
My sense is that for any sincere believer, that deep down they do love the Lord more than themselves. Pursuing godly flourishing is a way to learn to love the Lord even more.
Fear #3) If I don’t work really hard all the time (and give up this silly notion of flourishing), I’m afraid that will mean I don’t love the Lord.
This might be the saddest one to look at.
First it implies that God expects us to work hard all the time to prove that we love him.
The Sabbath would be one major argument against that idea.
Second, this idea frames God as this rigid taskmaster who is tracking our every minute see if we are working for Him. I really don’t think his heart is like that. As I mentioned in the last blog, I believe God gives us work to serve others, to grow in our ability to use our gifts, and to experience the fulfillment that comes from partnering with Him in doing good in the world.
He wants us to know life to the full, (John 10:10) and working all the time does certainly not lead to life to the full. To be a bit provocative, I would add that working too much conveys a lack of trust in God, and even misrepresents Him to others.
Fear #4) If I pursue flourishing doesn’t it mean that I don’t care that people are suffering? Or even worse, that I don’t care if they are going to hell?
This is the most insidious one to write about. I am confident that nearly every reader of this article cares about people, and even more likely, cares deeply about people.
The sad truth is there are people suffering in places nearby, in the next state, and certainly in other countries, that you don’t have the resources or bandwidth to help. I wish that weren’t true but it is.
To keep this brief, I believe the best way to care for the most people is to become more alive in God yourself.
That will help you have the discernment to know when to help a particular person or deal with a particular situation, and when to let it go.
The best way to help the people you can, and to help them help others, is to become more and more mature in the Lord. That means because of how you have become more mature and secure in Him, you can enter the suffering you are called to enter, and actively trust Him with the rest of the world’s suffering.
That means you can somehow become an inspiration because of how you can face the toughest realities and still have faith in the Lord, still be alive in Him even as you grieve with others. To me, that is very compelling.
I believe to pursue flourishing is perhaps of the most generous things we can do, because it enables us to give to others what they need the most: a mature soul who can go to the places where they need a first-hand witness of God’s goodness and redemptive power the most.
Here’s to you flourishing!
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