How are you growing? Has anyone asked you that lately? What has God been teaching you?
I have been learning to walk through this season that God has me in with a heart of gratitude, not with a bubbling-over of frothy giddiness, but a steady, restful peace in the assurance that He has me right where He wants me. It took a while to get here. There has been not a small amount of bitterness in my heart toward the things that the Lord has tried to teach me in the past. Sometimes I didn’t even notice this negativity creeping into my thinking, but looking back I can see it crystal clear. I think the simple answer to this shift in attitude is due to a development in maturity that comes with time. Though the more complex reason comes through a surrender of my own desires and the working of the Holy Spirit on my heart.
I have been learning to fight the negativity. I have been learning not to react in irritation when people do or say hurtful things out of ignorance and to realize that their intention was probably to help, not harm. I have been learning not to be so quick to become angry. I have been learning not to judge and condemn my fellow Christians when they do and say things that do not convey the truth, grace, and love of Jesus Christ. I have been learning to speak gently, with wisdom. This isn’t easy and I fail in some aspect everyday. But it is a process of slow but steady progress. I have been learning that self-control (being a gift of the Spirit) comes through relying on the power of the Spirit. It sounds counterintuitive since self is part of the word. However, it is somehow freeing to come to the realization that I am not in control of anything external to myself, and I can’t even bend my will toward the will of God without the aid of the Holy Spirit. It is only by His work in my life that my desires and passions can begin to reflect His. I long to live not with self-righteousness, but in humility with grace and love toward others so that my words and actions might point them toward the One who has given me newness of life.
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
-Proverbs 16:32 (ESV)
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
-Colossians 4:4-6 (ESV)
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.”
-Proverbs 15:1-2 (ESV)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
-Galatians 5:22-26 (ESV)