Wake Forest University has launched Thrive, a new initiative dedicated to the well-being of students, faculty, and staff that goes beyond academic performance.
This new initiative includes eight markers of well-being: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual. Wake Forest is attempting something beyond trying to ensure students, faculty and staff are happy.
Penny Rue, vice president of campus life at Wake Forest says, “It’s about trying to help students find meaning and purpose, not happiness.”
This search for meaning and purpose is not new. It has dogged mankind from the beginning of time. There is a natural, inescapable desire to live in peace and security, love and happiness. These are not merely random values or desires of a certain people or time period, but something that transcends cultures because it is how God made us.
The Relentless Drive for Flourishing
In a forthcoming research paper for IFWE, biblical scholar Jonathan Pennington writes:
All human behavior, when analyzed deeply enough, will be found to be motivated by the desire for life and flourishing, individually and corporately…Every person has a powerful, relentless drive to experience shalom through right relationships with God, with our families, with our communities, and with the physical creation. This is because shalom was God’s original design in creation. And as we will see, restoration of shalom is his design in redemption.
The missing link to well-being is this “relentless drive to experience shalom” through right relationships with God, our families, our communities, and creation.
Are We Working Towards Flourishing or Just Waiting at the Bus Stop?
In the opening pages of The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard’s magnum opus, Willard writes,
The idea of having faith in Jesus has come to be totally isolated from being his apprentice and learning how to do what he said.
This describes many evangelical Christians in the church today. Their salvation is simply a bus ticket to heaven and is in no way connected to their everyday lives.
This disconnect is what Willard memorably calls a “gospel of sin management,” a powerless message that enables us to be confident of post-mortem salvation but leaves us largely clueless as to how to handle the events of life.
God has given us a new life in Christ, not a well-being program. As Willard and co-author Gary Black write in The Divine Conspiracy Continued,
A good life requires much more than favorable economic or political conditions, because such a life is most certainly not accomplished as a result of human ingenuity.
It is only because of the inside-out transformation produced by the gospel in our personal lives that this “good life” is possible. But, if the narrative shaping your life does not produce practices consistent with that narrative, what use is the narrative?
Our life in Christ should produce a life in the world that is very different, one that works at reweaving shalom in our work, our communities, our families and our churches. A life that begins to realize the idea of biblical flourishing within the spheres of influence God have given each of us.
The secret to well-being has been revealed to us in God’s word. We need to reveal it to the rest of the world in both our words and our actions.
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