I’ve recently resigned myself to the fact that my life is busy, and blogging is a pastime that I will do when I have time. Sometimes (like for the past several months) that means I’ll be lucky to post once a month. Other times (hopefully) I’ll be able to post as frequently as I’d like to, and that would be at least once every week. For now though, I’m just going to do what I can and not worry about it. So even though this series has taken me an exceptionally long time to get through, I’m pressing on! Today, I’m continuing with the second-to-last post, on the final two fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
-Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
Gentleness and self-control are very intertwined for me. I have a slight anger problem that usually comes out over very stupid things. My computer not working properly, or my cat meowing incessantly at me as I’m trying to do my homework, or accidentally injuring myself have all been causes of disproportionally angry outbursts. I’ve recently come to understand that my anger, which stems from frustration, is actually a result of me feeling out of control. For some reason, I get ticked off when I feel like things aren’t working according to my plan. As a result of feeling out of control, I lose my self-control. I’ve realized that whenever I feel frustrated and angry at something, all I have to do is tell myself “you don’t have to control that” and I feel better pretty much instantly. It’s weird, but it works for me.
In my experience, gentleness goes out the window when anger takes over, and anger takes over when self-control goes out the window. And interestingly enough, I’ve noticed that for me, self-control goes out the window when I try to control things outside of myself. Perhaps that’s because when I try to control everything and fail, I give up on controlling anything at all. It’s a fascinating little cycle. I’ve found that the solution, at least in my humble experience, is to stop trying to control things outside of myself. And really, the only way I can feel at peace with doing that is by trusting God. So like so many other problems in life, it all comes down to letting go and trusting God.
The virtues of gentleness and self-control are so important when it comes to a Christian’s job of pointing others to Jesus. It’s a sad truth that many of us frequently forget to be gentle when we tell people about God. Perhaps we forget that it’s not our job to convince people to love God or change their minds and hearts; it’s only our job to love them like Jesus. When we try to control other people and realize that we can’t, we begin to feel frustrated and angry, and our gentleness disintegrates. We desperately try to force them into compliance with our beliefs. Yet this passage in the Bible is a small reminder that gentleness should be a natural result of the Holy Spirit working through us, as believers. Forcefulness is not God’s way.
Self-control is also important when it comes to how we live our lives. Christians are supposed to be examples to the world of a life lived with God. My pastor once said that as believers, we should be “better” at whatever we do. Better spouses, better parents, better writers or computer programmers or students or fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-you-do’ers. We should have better lives, lives that prosper because that’s a big part of what God has to offer for those who believe in him and trust him. Although many of those things are out of our control (which is where trusting and relying on God comes in) there are certainly areas of our lives that are directly affected by our behavior. We are responsible for our own actions.
Think about the way that a child’s behavior reflects on his or her parents. Since even the greatest parents cannot control a child’s free will, this often isn’t fair, but it is still how the world seems to work. Like it or not, people judge a misbehaving child’s parents. The same is true with God. The way that we, as children of God, behave reflects either positively or negatively on our Heavenly Father. Followers of Christ have a great need for self-control, because we are representatives for a perfect and Holy God. Obviously, we cannot be perfect or Holy the way that God can, but having strong self-control can go a long way. Like all of the fruits of the spirit, the good news is that God will do a lot of the work in this area for us. Our main job is to surrender to God’s will in our lives, and let him change our hearts to make us more like him. He gives us supernatural self-control, which allows us to better represent him to the world.
The more time I spend on this Earth, the more I see that trusting God is the key to life. We can trust God to take care of us, to make us into the people we are meant to be, and to be faithful to his promises. In trusting God, we must learn to let go. When we let go of the things that we can’t control, we only have to concern ourselves with the things we can control; our own thoughts and actions. Although controlling our thoughts and actions is not always easy, we can do it with God’s help. This process of letting go and taking responsibility for ourselves brings peace. And when our hearts are filled with peace, then we can be the gentle, quietly strong people that we were designed to be. We find victory when we relinquish our lives to the Lord, training our thoughts on him, basing our decisions on his guidance, and letting Him do the rest.
I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.