“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:
Recently, one of my children faced a disappointing set of circumstances. He had worked hard, done his best, and put a lot of emotional energy into this particular thing, and it didn’t work out the way he had hoped. And as we were trying to sort through all those emotions, it occurred to me that this scenario was one we all face to varying degrees throughout our whole lives.
Despite our best efforts, we get disappointed. And in light of that, whether we’re 7 or 70, here is what seems like a good principle to remember:
Much of life is about what you do next.
That’s because we will always have circumstances that don’t go how we think they should. And we can’t control that. What we can control, however, is how we react. We can control how we treat the person who has blown up at us, the friend we thought we could trust. And one of the words the Bible uses to describe how we should react in these circumstances is gentleness:
- Gentleness is one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
- We are told to let our gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:5).
- We are to clothe ourselves with characteristics like gentleness (Colossians 3:12).
The Christian is to be gentle, but that’s a hard thing. Especially when things aren’t going our way, and the temptation is to be angry. Hurt. Entitled. Bitter. So how can we grow in this attribute? Perhaps by remembering a few truths like these:
1. No one is finished.
One of the hardest times to be gentle is when someone else is not being gentle with you. It’s easiest at that moment to react in kind – to treat anger with anger. But to help us grow in gentleness, we should remember that the person who treated us so roughly is still in process.
Those people that are hard to be around? Or annoying? God is working in them, and He’s not done yet. No matter what group we come from, our personalities, and our struggles, the thing we have in common if we are in Christ, is that we are on the same journey. God is working in us all and moving us all toward Christlikeness. We should embrace these people who, along with us, are moving steadily toward who God has made us to be in Christ.
2. There is more to the story.
Another truth that can help us react more gently is that the person we have just interacted with has much more going on in his or her life than this particular interaction.
Who knows what their day has been like? Or their month? Or year? Who knows the extent of the pain, difficulty, or anxiety they are carrying around? We certainly don’t. Remembering that there is always more to the story helps us treat that person gently.
3. God is gentle with you.
But the greatest truth to help us grow in gentleness is reflecting on how gentle God has been with us. We are sinners, each and every one of us. We wrong God countless times every day, yet His grace never dies. He is patient and gentle with us. Just as others are on a journey toward Christlikeness, so are we, and it is a slow road.
You see, God is moving us along our journey at a good, steady pace. The next time we feel that anger bubbling inside us, we would do well to remember just how slowly and gently our patient Father God has been with us. Then we can reach for that love rather than a sense of entitled anger.
And the result?
We can react with more gentleness.
Written by Michael Kelley, Guest Contributor
To read more of Michael’s writing, check out his daily blog, Forward Progress http://michaelkelley.co/