A gentle spirit isn’t cultivated through gritted teeth, clenched fists, and a strained smile. Gentleness grows in a heart set on this truth: the Lord is near (Phil. 4:5b). A gentle woman holds a deep, residing peace in her heart that comforts her anxieties. She knows her life is in God’s hands, therefore anything that passes by her, it first passed through him. She trusts in the full truth of Romans 8:28–30.
As suffering rattled through our lives, I felt like an acorn clinging to a branch as an axe sliced into the trunk of my tree. We spun in every direction as we tumbled to the ground, until we finally hit the leafy, forest bottom.
We tried to make the best of it, to see the good. Here’s a nice, shady spot to dig our roots deep. Maybe now we’ll begin to grow. Instead, we were further kicked, tossed, and thrown, receiving a few cracks to our shell throughout. When it all finally ended, I didn’t dare believe it.
As we suffer, and our bodies and hearts finally begin to recover from the richeting and shaking we’ve received, bitterness settles in easily as if it had always lived there inside us. Without any effort, our words are slightly sharpened to an edge from the cracks we’ve endured. “Of course, bad things always happen to me.” “I mean, is it any surprise something like this would happen again?” The people we love distort to look like our enemies in our vision—rather than come together to recover and carry one another, we snap and snarl instead. Not a single offense gets covered, and each one endures our full wrath.
What doesn’t come naturally is gentleness. Yet this is the calling of the Christian: to not be formed into a crusted, bitter-hard shell from our suffering, but to gently flourish into a beautiful, strong tree, bearing fruit for others to receive.
The Molding Power of Suffering
When the axe comes for our trunks, when tree-cutting season inevitably comes, people often remind us of Romans 8:28—for God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.
This is intended to fall on our ears as a comforting promise, but when it stands alone with us in the midst of a trial as we soak our pillow with tears and bark splinters below, we may wonder what that good could possibly be.
If we continue to read past verse 28, God defines the good. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (vv. 29–30 ESV). Sanctification is the goodness beyond our eyesight. God predestined each believer before the foundations of the earth to become Christ-like, and he promises to see each of them to glorification (Eph. 1:4; Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:23–24).