God uses our struggles as lessons so that we may learn to abide in Him. I’m sure that you have heard some similar derivative of that saying before. And maybe, you looked left and right like umm how is that possible? With the Fruit of the Spirit.
The World doesn’t promote the Fruit of the Spirit
I think the world has done a really good job at making people feel like they can only amount to a certain level of greatness base on how shameful their past was. Unless you happen to be a person who openly volunteered their ability to overcome based on mantras, self-healing and good works, then it seems like most everyone widely accepts that transformation and then looks to a person (that person) for guidance and answers.
But does it stick? I mean does it last for you? Do you stop feeling shameful? Are you able to forgive yourself completely and pursue a different kind of life? Do you feel renewed and sustained?
Today we are going to have an insightful discussion about the Holy Spirit. This is what I am currently studying, and I am using the Risen Motherhood Sweet Summer: Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit study guide. This is a completely free study that is offered on their website, and you just print it off and work through it each week.
Studying the Fruit of the Spirit
So I decided to discuss the Fruit of the spirit for the next few podcast episodes because it has been the filter that I aim to use in every decision that I make. Notice how I said “I aim” instead of “I use”. This is because I am not perfect and I fall short day after day, there is no way I can hit the mark 100% of the time, that is just impossible. If you are living, you will make mistakes and fall and sin, that’s just how it is. Once again, no one is perfect, that is why we all need God’s grace.
Okay, so when I was about 14 years old, I started to become very self-critical. I think I was this age, although it may be much younger these days, due to the access of social media and most parents not knowing what is being presented on every social platform. Look, even if your child doesn’t have social media, if they go to school or attend any extracurricular activities, chances are that there is another child who is exposed to things and will pass it on to your child. That is why a strong family bond and biblical discernment is so important…but I’ll save that topic for another episode. So anyways, I started to notice the frizz of my hair, the extra keratin on the back of my arms and inner thighs, the lack of a thigh gap (remember those days), the little bit of extra weight I carried in my midsection and of course the clothes that I wore.
I feel like I went from kicking water out of mud puddles at my siblings to criticizing my body overnight. My world became so consumed with trying to fit in with what was relevant around me that I didn’t even notice the seed I was sowing. This seed would eventually grow roots so deep that it would take me 20 years to fully rip out. I was reaping insecurities a mile high. I was taken advantage of, lonely, bounced from one job to the next, insecure and at one point ended up an emotional and a physically abusive relationship. I was headed down a very destructive path and I needed help.
I do want to clarify that I grew up with Biblical principles, but there was a lot of emotional turmoil in my home, and it was hard to make clear as to how my faith was important when it wasn’t made the foundation in which we stood on as a family.
The Fruit of the Spirit Saves
With the wedge that was driven between my family, being a child in family divorce and other family issues that I won’t be getting into, I didn’t feel like there was anyone I could talk to. And what I mean by that is I didn’t feel like if I brought up my struggles, that I would have been met with compassion and understanding. I felt like I would be bathing in a pool of judgement. Even the thought of talking to anyone about my life gave me anxiety. I didn’t want to open up to anyone because I felt ashamed of the seed that I had sewn.
Every moment of every day, between then and now, has been a series of checks and balances with the fruit of the spirit as my filter. Although in prior years I wasn’t living deep in God’s word, I could always feel a connection. Sometimes I would listen, and sometimes I wouldn’t. Back in those days, I didn’t listen very often, and my life suffered a great deal of turmoil because of it.
I want to introduce a piece of history to you. Many people have heard the story of Moses or are at least aware of his existence through movies or stories. But before I get into it, if you are in a place where you question the accuracy and truthfulness of the Bible and God’s existence, I want to encourage you to listen to Phylicia Masonheimer’s podcast called Verity. In her podcast there is a series that dives into the canonization of the Bible. She explains how during the Bible times, everything was kept to memorization, eyewitness connection and community accountability because most people were illiterate. It was expected for elders to pass down history and lineage through story in order to keep people from not forgetting the truth of what has happened. So, when people got together to discuss the miracles of God and the prophets that he spoke through, if someone was found lying or fabricating the truth, they would essentially be called out. And the Bible speaks very heavily against false prophets.
God calls to Moses
Okay, so back to Moses. The story of Moses can be found in the book of Exodus, which is derived from the Greek word meaning “departure”, which is what Exodus is centered around, the departure of God’s people from Egypt, where they were held as slaves to a Pharoah.
So Moses was born just after a new Pharoah came to power in Egypt. This Pharoah was not a nice guy. From reading about him and the way that he ruled, his character reeked of paranoia, entitlement and he had a God complex, meaning he wanted to be praised and worshiped as such. When this Pharoah came to power, he spoke to his people and said (Exodus 1:8-10):
“Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and powerful than we are. Come, let’s deal shrewdly with them; otherwise, they will multiply further, and when war breaks out, they will join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country.”
What did I say…paranoid.
So the Pharoah’s solution to this proposed problem was this. He ordered the Egyptians to assign taskmasters over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labor. As if that wasn’t enough, he also ordered every son born to the Hebrews, to be thrown into the Nile River.
During this time, Moses was just a baby. His mother had been keeping him hidden as long as she possibly could, until the day came that she ran out of time. So she took Moses, wrapped him in cloth, laid him in a basket made out of papyrus and sent him down the Nile.
I’m going to speed up the story for the sake of getting to my point.
What ends up happening is the Pharoah’s daughter ends up finding the basket that carried Moses down the Nile. This means that Moses, a Hebrew boy, grew up in the palace with the Pharoah, the enemy of the Israelites, his people.
Years later, Moses came to know how the Hebrews were being treated by the Pharoah, he left the palace and became reacquainted with his brother and sister and married a woman named Zipporah.
One day, Moses was shepherding a flock when God called out to him from a burning bush. He told Moses that he has heard the cry of His people, the Israelites, and tasked Moses with the job of going to the Pharoah and lead the people out of Egypt.
Now Moses and God go back and forth a little bit, but in the end, Moses has reverence for God, and he abides in him. God told Moses he would be with him (Exodus 3:10). He seeks out the Pharoah, which by this time is now his stepbrother (the Pharoah’s son) and does as God has asked him to do. Of course, things do not go over well. The Pharoah denies Moses’s request and decides to further oppress the Israelites. But God sends a series of 10 plagues against the Egyptians while the Pharaoh continues to deny Moses’s request to free the Israelites.
The Pharoah finally agrees to let the Israelites go when the 10th and final plague hits the Egyptians where the first-born son, including the Pharoah’s, was taken in their sleep.
Moses then leads the Israelites out of Egypt where they begin their journey to the promise land.
So let’s think about this chain of events. First off, lets revisit creation, the fall and redemption. Because Adam and Eve sinned against God, this created the Fall. This not only brought sin into the world, but then at that point, man was allowed to choose to love God, follow his commands and live prosperously, or they could choose to live in sin and follow the ways of the world. Obviously the Pharoah was living in sin. He did not have reverence for God, and he put forth oppressive laws that only benefitted himself and the Egyptians.
The Goodness of the Fruit of the Spirit
The goodness of God is shown in the book of Exodus through Moses. God chooses not to control people because of the Fall. The Pharoah was given every opportunity to let the Israelites leave Egypt, but he CHOSE selfishness over goodness. In his decisions, the Pharoah ended up losing his son. But to those who put their faith in God, the Israelites, remained in his safe keeping and were delivered out of oppression and slavery.
Because Moses grew up in the palace with the Egyptians, he understood their ways, he was accepted as one of them. Do you think that any old Israelite would have even made it past the guards of the palace? Or that if Moses didn’t have history with his stepbrother, who became Pharoah, that Moses would have been given the chance to have been heard? Or how about even leave the palace after he delivered the message from God? God knew how the Pharaoh would react to Moses having been his brother in the growing up stages of their life. It’s a lot harder to sentence someone to prison or death when you have fond memories of them.
How God uses our history when we listen to the Fruit of the Spirit
When I think about my past, the decisions I made and the circumstances that were out of my control, all I can see is the goodness of God. Because of growing up in a home of turmoil and divorce, living through the effects of that as a child and seeing how a divided family leads to a child left behind to figure out life on their own, to attempt to know right from wrong and to know if the wrong seeds become sowed, you could spend a lifetime removing those deep roots.
Now that I am a mother, I take what I went through, what I put myself through and I mother through the Fruit of the Spirit because I know that through Him, is the best chance I have at getting it right. I now have an appreciation for long conversations, simplicity, family time, quiet time and just sitting on my back deck staring at the trees blowing in the wind and listening to my chickens quietly cluck in the distance. I no longer struggle with the feeling of needing to receive validation from the world around me because of the emptiness that I know will remain. All this knowledge I have is because of God’s goodness. I have the ability to discern right from wrong and I don’t get caught up in things that lead to stress, anxiety and worry because I have already lived that life and in my deepest struggles, when I was at my lowest of lows, he rescued me with His goodness.
I will abide in Him, for only he has the power to redeem. Only God can convict our hearts, not people or self-help books. Everything we go through in life has a meaning, sometimes it’s harder to figure out than others, especially if it is a painful experience. Sometimes he uses us as shining lights for others to find a way back to Him. Sometimes our painful experiences help us to have a deeper appreciation for the life that we live, and our connection to family or people we have neglected.
Christians are called to share the goodness of God
For the goodness of God to be seen, it is our responsibility as Christians to share the goodness of God to others. Just like how God was at work for the people of Israel, he rescued them through Moses, in order to make Himself known. If Moses had decided, you know what, I am really not interested in listening to God. I think I will just go back to the palace and continue to live under my brother the Pharoah…or…You know what, I’m not going to tell my wife that God just told me to spear head the “freeing of our people” operation. I’m just going to try and lay low and be a husband and father. If you take the time to finish reading the story of Moses in the book of Exodus, you will see how many people will have continued to suffer had he not listened to God’s call.
Let me ask you this. How many people will you help save by ignoring God’s call? Definitely zero people saved. What about if you let him take your past and use it as a means to save others in your path? Definitely more than zero. You see, the gospel doesn’t spread from person to person if everyone sits quietly, or if everyone ignores the Holy Spirit and chooses to live a lukewarm Christian life. Let God show you his goodness by laying down your agenda, your shame, your daily tasks that need to get done. Tune into him. Talk to him. Pray that he can show you grace and lead you down the path of righteousness.
Our struggles and difficult pasts do not define us, but they can be used to show the good character of God. Seek him. Abide in him and you will be renewed.
I have a routine of starting my day off with praise and worship. It helps me connect with God and dial into the Fruit of the Spirit before my day really gets started. You can find the following albums that move my spirit, on any major music playing app:
Shane and Shane: Hymns Live (specifically the song Come Thou Fount)
Ellie Holcomb: Canyon
Lauren Daigle: Look Up Child (but I usually jus press play on her recommended playlist)
Caleb and Kelsey: Glorious Day Worship Hymns
Lighthouse Piano: Starlight Instrumental (there are no lyrics, but I like the piano)