Fret Not: 4 Seeds of Quiet Strength
Definition: Gentleness (Grk) “Praytes” Gentle strength; meekness that begins with the Lord’s inspiration and ends with this direction and empowerment.
Throughout my childhood, my mother would often pray that I would grow to have a “quiet and gentle spirit”. As you might guess, I was not a passive child and my headstrong-strength frequently got me into trouble..
The older I have become the more clearly I understand my mother’s intention in speaking the prayers of gentleness over me all these years. I certainly see how my unbridled emotions often inhibited my ability to share the truth in love with gentleness and respect, as Paul says in 1 Peter 3:15.
This quiet strength is not passive or dismissive but divinely regulated by one’s trust in God’s character to justify what is unjust and right what has been wronged.
I love how one commentator describes this gentleness of the Spirit saying, “it is the right use and government of strong feelings.”
I need this government of gentleness in my life.
Just the other day, I was in a conversation with another professional, whom I felt was not working on behalf of a client. In my protest of his scripted approach to staffing her need, I began to feel several strong emotions which translated into frustration and a tad bit of angst. I felt the injustice of his lack of clinical integrity and began to directly disagree with his politically- infused prognosis. Thankfully, my supervisor was present for this phone call and quietly encouraged me to accept what we both knew to be true, He was not going to listen.
[Insert gentle response here]
Unfortunately, the conversation ended with my boss waving a nonverbal “stop talking” as he kindly thanked the Doctor for his time.
Whew! My blood continued to boil for the following few minutes as I verbally process all the feelings I had felt through my less than productive conversation. In reflecting on this situation and similar ones throughout my life, I realized a common theme that precedes my strong emotional response to injustice in the world.
I am a fighter.
I instinctively feel the need to stand up and speak out for what I believe is right. You may be right there with me, ready to advocate for the needy and prepared to protest the popular thought. In contrast, maybe you fall on the opposite side of this spectrum, avoiding the harsh realities of wrong and withholding personal thoughts in the name of pragmatism. I would beg to argue that neither of these responses to hurt, injustice, and conflict embodies the virtue of gentleness.
Gentleness compels us to express our feelings in such a way that promotes faith rather than force.
It does not feel the need to fight or refrain from its core concern but acts out of attunement to the Lord’s character and control in all circumstances.
In reflecting on this profound definition of biblical gentleness and its availability to us through the Spirit, I began to search the scriptures for more understanding and came to Psalm 37, where I discovered four elements that are vital for cultivating gentleness.
The 4 Seeds of Quiet Strength
“Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give
You the desires of your heart.” v.3-4
Developmentally, trust is one of the first things we learn in relationships. From birth to 2 years of age, attachment is formed. The quality of this relational bond impacting one's development of basic trust. In many ways, these formative years largely influence our openness to trusting others throughout our lifetime.
With this developmental information, we can often see how our primary interpersonal experiences impact our image of God and our willingness to place our full trust in Him.
The Hebrew term “trust” in this passage means, “to set one’s hope and confidence in the Lord to render justice on his timetable”. If you look at the context of this Psalm, David is outlining a godly response to the wrongdoers, conflicts, and chaos of this world. His first instruction is simply to place our confidence in the character of God.
In times that try me, do I trust that God is fighting for me?
It seems foolish to stop fighting when frustrations force our hand. My instinct to act often leads me to forget the faithfulness of my Father to fight on my belief. This by no means negative my sense of strength but places it within its proper place.
To know and believe that I do not walk into any battle own my own allows me to remain calm, do what is right, and follow God's faithfulness as my focus.
Trust allows us to conquer our fears and respond with the calm assurance that God’s sovereignty is sufficient.
Let us always remember this truth:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” Psalm 46:1-2
"Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday."
Commitment infers one’s devotion, allegiance, or adherence to a cause, or standard. In these verses, David reminds us to commit to the cause of Christ by seeking active movement towards God and His ways. This commitment is not simply to Sunday morning services or a weeknight bible study but a daily devotion to trusting God in all areas of our lives. As I actively pursuing Christ and commit to living for Him, my frustrations and concerns are more easily placed in God's hands and I no longer feel the weight of them.
Peter reminds us of this commitment in saying,
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11).
Gentleness cannot be grown where God is not glorified.
These verses remind me to submit to God’s sovereignty, surrender to His security, and withstand suffering with the assurance that my God is faithful and trustworthy.
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!”
What is it about stillness that challenges our souls? I often find it difficult to take time in the day to simply be still. Take a breath and rest in the silence. I love that David encourages this practice as a way of building gentleness. When we learn to be still and spend time with God in the silence and stillness, we develop a discernment that would be otherwise overlooked.
We all know that when we rush we often make mistakes. This is true for our spirits also. When we neglect to be still and rest, we do not allow our souls to be softened to by Spirit.
I know if I do not find time to be still and wait on the Lord and His presence, I am so easily distracted from the truth and so quick to speak with sharpness.
May we seek to sing these words every new day.
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God. " Psalm 62:5-7
4. Emotional Awareness
“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.”
I often tell my clients, “Anger is a secondary emotion”. Simply put, there is always another emotion under our anger. Therefore, we must seek to become aware of the deeper more hidden feelings that lie beneath our angry front.
As I reflect on these verses, I am encouraged to identify my anger, validate its presence but not act on it. David tells us in these verses that expressing our “anger” only leads to ungodliness. Its the difference between thinking logically and thinking irrationally. When we are truly angry, we simply cannot think clearly. We all know this to be true.
Ever do something when you were angry that you now thoroughly regret? Me too.
When Anger is present, it is telling us something; It is asking us to uncover a deeper feeling or frustration that has caused hurt in some way. By bringing awareness to these feelings, we reduce our capacity for conflict and learn to communicate our core concerns that contributed to our frustration more calmly.
I think James’ words say it best, "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”(James 3:6-8)
Isn't this so true? Oh, how often we see disorder in the darkness of undiscovered emotions. I want the wisdom of awareness to work through my emotions and learn to extend a genuine sense of gentleness in my relationships with others.
This week, I pray that the Spirit of God would work in our hearts to trust Him with our lives, commit to His way, find rest in the stillness of His presence, and seek awareness in His good grace so that we may come to experience the great joy of gentleness.