The Fruit of the Spirit. Nine amazing attributes. Nine behaviors that I strive for, and often, miss by a mile. There are days when love comes easy and so does joy. And peaceful days when I am kind, good and gentle – much of the time. I have days when I really have faith that feels like it can move mountains. I’m afraid I am still on a learning curve with patience and self-control.
But mind you, I said there are days… Just not every day. I see tough things in the news, and I have a difficult time feeling love towards my enemies, or it is difficult to feel joyful when I am sick. Our world is pretty chaotic right now. Oops! There went peace. Driving in Los Angeles – very hard to express kindness, goodness, gentleness, much less patience, and self-control. And as I look at my fallen state… there goes my faithfulness.
What to do? Is it impossible? Yet ANOTHER impossible set of demands by a God that can’t be pleased.
The truth is – these attributes are the fruit of the SPIRIT. And since we are flesh, there will always be a struggle of our old fleshly self with our newly created spiritual self. We can’t do this by ourselves. We need the Holy Spirit to help us, to show us how to be peaceful, when it’s chaotic, to show kindness to surly drivers, to help us be loving to angry teenagers. Our flesh will fail every time. But the Spirit won’t.
When we feel out of control, low ebb on faith and joy, it means we need to seek the One who can fill us again. Jesus often went apart from the crowds to commune with the Father. If He needed to do that. So do we. And we need to spend some time DAILY. Just like the manna that God provided for the Israelites in the desert, we receive only enough supply for one day. We need to go back every day for a refill, to be reminded. That requires, time for prayer, bible study, time for contemplation.
But my life is hectic! My family is demanding! I work long hours! I have toddlers! Yes, this three-dimensional reality is a maze of obstacles and learning curves. God knows that. Jesus lived it. He saw the crushing crowds, filled with lost, hungry, sad and desperately ill people. He wept at Lazarus’ funeral. Not because Lazarus wasn’t coming back. Jesus wept when He saw how difficult it is for us in this world to cope with all the sadness that is thrown at us.
Jesus lived out a human life so that we could see that he, too, knew what it was to suffer and struggle. And still overcome.
We look to Him for our peace. We look to Him for our model of how to love. We look to Him for joy, kindness, goodness, gentleness. We find our patience when we think of how patient He is with us. Our faith returns as we read about those with great faith. Our self-control comes as we rest in His strength instead of ours.
No, it isn’t easy and we will never get it perfectly this side of Heaven. Perhaps the most important thing is to at least acknowledge our desperate need for Him. To let Him take the burden of our constant trying and instead rest and let Him show us how to move through our day. His only request of us is that we focus on Him first, and let Him do the rest. That may mean not every phone call will get returned, or every load of laundry finished. It may mean we won’t move through traffic as quickly as we had planned. But with Jesus in control, we can find time for joy, and be at peace and love our families despite the chaos.
The Fruit of the Spirit appears when we let the Holy Spirit take over our struggles, and we rest in the knowledge that God will take care of things much more efficiently, kindly, and patiently that we can.
It takes time and practice to give up our knee-jerk responses to the messes of life. But maybe, after practicing letting God handle our lives in His way and on His timetable, we will one day wake up and discover we are living lives filled with love, joy, peace, and patience. We will find it natural for us to be kind, gentle, good. Our faith in Christ supplants our need to control everything and finally we rest in His way of doing life. We will find we are walking in the Fruit of the Spirit.