Gentleness: The Fruit of Surrender

In Galatians 5:22, gentleness is listed as one of the 9 characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit. It is from the Greek word, prautes, and is defined in the NIV Key Word Study Bible as “meek…but not in a man’s outward behavior only, nor in his relations to his fellow men, or his mere dispostion, but in an inwrought grace of the soul expressed primarily toward God. It is that attitude of the spirit by which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resist.”

Those last two words–dispute and resist–cause me to pause. How much of my life has been spent disputing and how much has been spent resisting? The opposite of resisting is submitting, a word most of us genuinely dislike, whether in regard to other people–submitting to their needs first, or to God. Submission is complete surrender. It is letting go of your right to decide and putting your life into God’s hands. If we summarize this attitude into laymen’s terms, we could say that gentleness is complete surrender to God’s will in our lives. We submit our lives, our wills, our desires, our dreams, and our hopes to God, then we fully accept His will for our lives and live in accordance with it.

Now, if you’re like me, this thought just went through your head, “If I just knew God’s will for my life, I would submit to it.” The fact that many are searching for God’s will in their lives is evidenced by the extraordinary number of Bible studies that explore this very topic. Walk into any Christian bookstore and some variant of “Discovering God’s Will for Your Life” will be among the top ten picks. BUT, we need to back up a step first. Before we begin seeking God’s will in our lives, we need to first submit to God’s will in our lives. If we don’t, we’re only playing games with ourselves and with God. WHAT WE’RE REALLY SAYING IS THIS…YOU TELL ME WHAT YOUR WILL IS AND THEN I’LL TELL YOU IF I’M GOING TO SUBMIT (resist or dispute.)

The NIV commentary goes on to say, “Prautes is the acceptance of God’s dealings with us, considering them as good considering that they enhance the closeness of our relationship with Him.” In other words, God is first seeking a relationship with us, one built on trust and submission, before we get down to any business of what His will is or is not. Let’s be honest: when we say we’re looking for His will, generally we’re either looking for a way out or a way in. We want into, or out of—a marriage, a job, a ministry, a neighborhood, a house. It’s all about solving our immediate problems, but God’s Word says, “Seek me first and all this will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

There should come a time in every believer’s life when we finally understand that God is good and His dealings with us–even when we cannot understand them and they bring us to our knees sobbing–are good. Disputing this with Him assumes your thought processes are either like His or better than His, that your reasoning skills and understanding are like His. Isaiah 55:9 clearly states that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than ours. Sometimes you will not understand why He allowed something to happen. You don’t need to understand to submit. You only need to trust.

I learned this lesson through a relationship with a boyfriend. The relationship ended and I kept trying to sort though it and understand what had gone wrong. We were, practically speaking, perfectly suited to one another. While sorting away, I had a thought that I knew came from God. It was simply, “Cinthia, you may never understand this, but even so it is over and it is time to move on.” Sometimes we may not understand, but even so it is time to move on. The day may come when the Lord brings understanding–it is His to give–but until that day, stop disputing and resisting and move on in submission to what the Lord has brought into your life.

These can be scary words. We are all fallible, fearful human beings and do not trust easily. The Lord knows that. Our lives are precious and deserving of our best in living them out. We should not cast our pearls before swine, but instead be cautious in these days when there are so many ways to spend a life. It is only in seeking the Lord and relating to Him and letting Him relate to us through His Word that we can begin to trust Him and submit to Him. So, He designs our circumstances to give us that chance–an opportunity to show us He is faithful. Do we resist Him? Do we dispute Him? Or do we draw near and submit?

Let us yearn to be like Peter, saying, “Lord, to whom else shall we go?” (John 6:68)

People, to whom else shall we go? We look for peace, we ask for joy, we desire understanding and we yearn for purpose. We believe all these things are wrapped up in some mystery called God’s will for our lives and that if we could unravel it, all would be well, not understanding the mystery is in God alone. We find these things not in jobs to be done or questions answered, but in the “attitude of spirit by which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resist.” We will find it all in complete surrender and gentle submission to our Lord.

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