It is no secret that 2018 was not my favorite year. I shared a year ago that my 2018 word was going to be “gentle.” It’s true that God has taught me about this particular Fruit of the Spirit. He deals gently with me. I am slowly learning to be more gentle with others. (Soooooo hard for me to admit that I’ve not perfected this and that it doesn’t come naturally.)
I’ve always thought of gentleness as a very calm, almost passive characteristic. Most of the people I would describe as gentle are in fact some of the most patient, relaxed, and compassionate people I know. These are all incredible attributes, but I think the “gentleness of God” has a little bit more to it.
The following definition is in fact unoriginal (thank you Pine Cove Baby Ruths), but I love it: to be gentle is to use the least amount of force necessary. This means that different situations need different levels of force.
In my own life I’ve seen how God, the perfect embodiment of gentleness, sometimes gives me a subtle nudge back on course. Other times I’ve been so defiant that He needs to practically scream. In these moments of what seems like intense force, I question God’s goodness. In the moment, it doesn’t seem like gentleness…but would I listen otherwise?
But correction is not the only aspect of gentleness.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I love the picture created in Matthew 11. Much of this year I have felt weary and burdened. I have learned that the best thing I can do is to run to Jesus. He provides rest for my tired soul. He gently comforts and nurtures me.
I am thankful for God’s gentleness. I’m thankful that He knows exactly what I need and exactly how to deliver it. I would miss so much if He wasn’t gentle.
Below is my video from 2018. These videos each year have become some of my favorite things. I watch them and cannot help to praise God for what He has provided. So without further ado, ladies and gentleman, 2018…
Choosing a word for the year is not a new practice. Maybe it’s safer to say it’s a new fad. Regardless, I’m a believer. Here’s why: when chosen with care, as a result of submission and asking God to reveal what He wants to teach my heart, it can function as a spiritual barometer. It forces me to be really focused on one area. It gives me a centering point for prayer. I can ask myself, “how are you doing practicing or believing [word of the year]?” Am I resisting God or pushing in to Him?
2017 was my second year to claim a word. In 2016, my word was “worthy” because I wanted to see God as worthy of my affections, what He called worthy in the world/people around me, and how I am worthy as God’s beloved.
My word for 2017: full. Because I have Christ, my life lacks nothing. I chose it because so much of my 2016 prayer life had involved phrases like, “Help me be content with…” or “Why am I not…?” or “Why is everyone else….?” I would read verses about God’s gifts and while knowing the Word of God is True, I would have a hard time feeling it.
“No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11)
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
If I’m being quite honest, I felt like God was withholding things from me. I watched as friends received things I wanted. I watched as friends got their dream jobs. Got married. Traveled to cool places with their friends. Had (what looked like) effortless relationships with their families. And the list goes on.
I love what Chad Ashby shared in his article “Is God Keeping Something From You?” over on Desiring God. We make it three chapters into the Bible before we see people confused by God and convinced that God is withholding good from them. God gave Adam and Eve an entire garden and they wanted the one tree they couldn’t have. I would definitely recommend reading Ashby’s entire article, but here are two of my favorite excerpts:
“Look at your life. Is it possible that you’ve fallen for Satan’s oldest strategy against us? Are you fixated on the one thing God is withholding? Has the Serpent convinced you that God is actually wrong to keep something good from you? Is it possible that your life is really a garden full of fruitful trees, but you’re stuck on the one tree God won’t let you have now?”
“God withholds good things from us to teach us to treasure him above every good thing. When he refuses to give us the good thing we plead for, he is actually giving us something even greater: himself and his grace to us in Christ.”
When I got to the root of it, the only thing that can bring me complete, lasting satisfaction is God himself. What if I stopped trying to figure out why my life didn’t look like I thought it should, and instead started thanking God for what He had given me?
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19)
Now let me get in front of one thing: moving to Greece did not automatically make my life more full. In a lot of ways, my life became a lot simpler. A big life change, such as I don’t know maybe moving half way around the world, can make your life feel more chaotic but when the dust settles, is still only a distraction.
Here are some questions I had to face over the last year that helped me practice seeing my life as “full.”
Do I believe that God is works for my good? (Romans 8:28)
Do I trust God’s timing is better than my own? (Proverbs 16:9)
Can God use suffering for good? (Romans 5:3-5)
Can loneliness contribute to fullness? (Luke 5:16; Hint: yes, it’s called solitude)
Is God’s presence what truly fills me up? (Ephesians 3:14-19)
One other way I practiced thanking God for my life being full is by recording a short video every day. Some days produced clips of groups of people together celebrating. Others were of still small moments I experienced by myself. As I watch this video (posted below) from the last year, I cannot help but stop and thank God for all that He has done and is doing in my life.
He is teaching me and meeting me here. My life lacks nothing because I have Jesus.
How full is your life?
Oh, and my word for 2018? Gentle. TBH, not very excited about it. But I trust Him to be a gentle teacher.