Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.”
I believe the following words of Jesus best reflect His gentleness: “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). In the same way, many of us find ourselves in leadership positions in the Church and elsewhere that require us to listen to peoples’ problems and troubles, and even within our personal friendships. As Christ is gentle with us and our troubles, so we are to be gentle with other people when they come to us about their troubles and complaints. One of the worst dates I’ve ever been on was with this girl who complained about her mother throughout the entire date. She had a lot of anger inside her and had many expletives to share about her mother. It was an easy decision for me to decide not to pursue a second date with her, yet I still had to suffer through her focus on herself. So I listened. As much as it pained me, I listened (this is something I need to practise as a future pastor anyway). When she was finally finished, I invited her to pray to God about how she’s feeling and eventually to talk her own mother, that way they can finally have a productive conversation to make the problems go away. “You can’t make a problem go away if you don’t talk about it—if you don’t deal with it,” I told her. I don’t know if she took my advice, but the point is I dealt with her gently even though I wanted to leave, and I don’t regret staying even though it was a horrible date.
People will come to you when they need help, guidance, encouragement, and even just to vent. For some reason, this girl felt I was a good source for her to vent to, even though this was the first time we had met. If someone needs to vent, just let them talk. You don’t even need to say anything; most of the time they just want someone who’s willing to listen to them about what’s weighing on their heart, even if what they’re feeling is unreasonable. If they react wrongly to a situation they’re talking about, it doesn’t help to tell them why they’re wrong because you’re still ignoring their emotions. The issue is how they’re feeling, not whether or not how they’re feeling is right. Address their emotions, and help them to understand the situation better.
It is important to lead troubled people in the Lord. Be sympathetic, listen with genuine interest, be comforting and encouraging; don’t be negative, critical, or condemning. (Basically, don’t be like Job’s three friends.) It helps to have a peaceful, calm demeanour about yourself that makes people comfortable with approaching you about what’s troubling them. You don’t have to go looking for people to comfort; just be ready to receive people. If you happen to notice someone who seems to be troubled, however, have the fortitude to go that extra mile and talk to them through the love and meekness of Christ.
I’m often told I have a calm and gentle demeanour about me, and I have friends and acquaintances who approach me all the time about their problems. I’m surprised a lot of the times at how easily people trust me with their feelings, and it’s also encouraging as a future pastor. It’s not because of anything I’ve done, but because they see the Lord, even if they can’t acknowledge it. Most of the time, they’re not looking for advice; they’re usually just looking for someone to vent to who’s willing to listen. (However, I also make sure to sneak in some godly wisdom in there.) I admit, sometimes it annoys me because as an introvert I value my privacy and alone time, but then the Spirit reminds me how to be a good steward of Christ by being gentle and patient. Eventually, they come to ask for my advice, and I offer them godly wisdom. If they reject it, it’s not my fault; I played my part and I planted a seed that may burrow deep roots within them. So when people come to you, remember the gentleness of Christ and be willing to listen and to let the Holy Spirit guide your answers should you offer any advice.
Stay tuned for next time when I talk about the last fruit of the Spirit: self-control.