If you ask someone today how they’re doing, you may be met with the response, “I’m surviving.”

Or, looking at the tired face of a good friend, ask, “Tough week?” Their response might be, “Well, I survived.” 

Do you feel like you are just “surviving” right now?

I hear the word “survive” used way too often these days, and I think it’s because our lives are all filled with constant turmoil and change. People use the word to mask what’s really going on in their lives. It’s not what they want, and they aren’t happy about it!

I equate the “I’m surviving” response to treading water: your legs are moving fast enough to keep you from drowning, but you aren’t going anywhere. Lots of effort, no progress.

Over 20 years ago, I was at a conference and heard a story of survival that has stayed with me to this day. The speaker was Nando Parrado, and I was spellbound by his message.

Nando was a member of a Rugby team whose family and friends crashed into the Andes mountains in 1972. Of the forty-five on the plane, eighteen died in the crash, and ten more died soon after. The rest were stranded in extreme cold at 12,000 feet in conditions I can’t imagine. Their only shelter was the plane’s fuselage.

The remaining passengers needed to stay alive, waiting to be rescued, but they learned from their transistor radio the search for them had been halted.

With no hope, they discussed ending their lives as a group, but they couldn’t bring themselves to do it. He said that within each of us is a natural will to live life.

And so, Nando and another member hiked out of the mountains to find help, knowing that they might die in the process. They were willing to take the risk so that they, and the others, might live.

After a harrowing journey through the mountains, they were successful. Rescuers learned of the survivors, and 72 days after the crash, brought them all to safety. Later the book and movie, Alive, were made about their journey.

What has stayed with me from his story was Nando’s will to live.

“Surviving” is a short-term solution to get through a momentary challenge, but it is not a life plan. Don’t be content with surviving.

Are you “treading water” in your life right now?  If you are, you aren’t alone. Many of us have experienced the same feelings. Ask yourself:

  • Am I using the gifts God gave me to their fullest?
  • Is my heart really engaged in my work?
  • Am I just accepting what’s happening out of fear?

God has a plan for you and me, and it isn’t to just “survive.” God says he built us to do something special with the gifts he gave us. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Stop focusing on getting through the day and just surviving. Shift your focus to your gifts — the work that brings you joy. Then try to use those gifts to their fullest, whether it’s in your daily vocation or volunteer efforts.

It’s time to start living!

Tell us — have you ever been in survival mode? How did you escape “treading water” and really start living? Leave a comment below!