But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:22, NIV).
I have been learning that love, a real godly Christ-powered love, shows itself by conducting ourselves in the truth and responding in grace. Love = Grace + Truth. If you favor truth over grace you end up lost in the maze of legalism. If you favor grace over truth you end up in the chaos of a license that says “anything goes.” John says that the reason the disciples believed Jesus was the Son of God and not just another prodigy rabbi was that He was full of both grace and truth (John 1:14). This not about balance, like 50/50, this is about being full of both.
The Ten Commandments are the summary of what it means to conduct yourself in the truth. The fruits of the Spirit are a summary of what it means to respond to one another in grace. We are called to be both righteous and gracious, we are to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
The reality is the way God often uses to grow the fruits of the Spirit in us is through problems and challenges, headaches and heartbreaks. The depth of love is tested by commitment when things get tough and in seasons when love does not produce the pleasant results we want. The fire of our joy in the Lord and in His salvation is tested when people and circumstances rain down and threaten to douse it. We learn forbearance or patience when we are made to wait on the Lord to work. You find out how kind you really are when you are faced with the ugliness of life. Faithfulness is tested when you come to the place where being faithful becomes costly. The quality of your gentleness is revealed and purified when it is in the heat of adversity. And self-control is only grown when you are in the place where you need to hold your tongue, and be more concerned about being righteous than being right.
Wednesday night I had to take my daughter Anna back to the hospital. She was starting to struggle with cutting again. Both at home and at the hospital I listened as she said how unloved, unlovely, and unwanted she felt. How she was a mistake. That it would be better if she were dead.
I can tell you that the fruits of the Spirit in her mother and I were sorely tested that night. You wanted to start fighting back, “What do you mean you we don’t love you? How can you say you are a mistake? You are so, so loved and so very beautiful! You are wrong! What good is cutting yourself going to do? Why can’t you just talk to us when you are feeling this way?” That is what we were tempted to do.
She is loved. She is beautiful. She is not a mistake. Cutting is a lousy coping mechanism that just leads to more pain. All that is true. But what she needed then was a well-controlled, calm, peaceful, gentle love that was delivered with kindness and showed our faithfulness to God and to her as a strong and unmovable anchor that she could lean into as hard as she needed.
I don’t like having these problems and challenges any more than the next guy. But God knows no better way to build you up and make you the son or daughter He wants you to be than by breaking you down. As I have said before, life has two major lessons: 1). You are not enough and were never meant to be enough. 2). Jesus is enough, and when you have Him, you will always have enough. Always.