Published every Monday
Love is kind. It’s not simply acts of kindness, but most importantly, it’s kindness when kindness is not deserved. It’s kindness when kindness is the more difficult option. It’s true kindness when it’s not our natural response and it takes all of the self-control in the world to silence our pride and selfishness and care for others with no strings attached, no grudge held, and no record of wrongs kept. That is the standard of love we are held to because that is the standard of love we have been shown from the start by God.
The original Greek word for kindness that would have been used by Paul here would have been “Kresteuomai” or “Chresteuomai” meaning “to be kind, loving, merciful.” One of the many wonderful attributes of our Heavenly Father is that He is kind. He shows us kindness daily in His mercies that are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). He shows us kindness in forgiveness and keeps no record of our sin. He shows us kindness by loving us first. John 13:34 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” He set the model of what real love was like and commanded us to love in the same way, with the same merciful kindness that He has shown us from the beginning of time.
True kindness is only natural when we start aligning our heart with God’s heart for the people around us. It’s been a useful tool for my heart to remember every person I encounter, even and especially those who hurt me, that Jesus died for them. They are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). They are a dearly loved child of the living God, bought with a price and being pursued and shaped and molded and most importantly, loved, daily by Him. It may not be a natural response of our flesh to be kind in circumstances where we have been wronged, but it’s the only holy response. True kindness of that nature, of turning the other cheek and responding in love, can only be obtained through the Spirit. There is a reason why it is a fruit of the Spirit. It is not something we can cultivate on our own.
Frederick Buechner once said, “If you want to be holy, be kind.” Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Ask today for the Holy Spirit to align your heart with His with love for the people you encounter.
Growing up, I was a very impatient child like most are. I remember my dad saying to me, “If you want more patience, you’re going to have to wait.” I think he said that with a tongue in cheek tone, but I don’t think he realized how deeply rooted in Scripture that joke was or how well it aged and taught me about the fruit of the Spirit I’ve struggled the most with having in my life.
There is great strength in patience. Patience is the ability to see beyond yourself and your feelings directly into the heart, intentions and desires of another. It’s setting aside any offense in your heart, any selfishness, any control, your own timeline and plans, and just...wait. Patience is great empathy and great love. In the Bible, patience and love are almost always very closely intertwined. You can’t have patience without love. It’s an understanding and kind expression of love. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; it is not arrogant.” Ephesians 4:2 says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”
It’s so easy to become impatient with people, but we must not give into our flesh. Allowing ourselves to be impatient with others is not love because love is not selfish, and love is patient. If you’re praying for someone, keep praying and keep being patient and keep showing them the kind of love God called us to have for one another. Keep showing them the kind of love and patience God continually shows you.
God is love, and love is patient. God created us in His image, and He already is everything He called us to be. He is so patient. When we go through seasons of doubting Him or being angry with Him, He doesn’t forsake us, He waits for us. He waits for us to turn around and to return home. His faithfulness and patience with us is a gift we receive daily.
Ask yourself these questions today:
Psalm 119:114 says, “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in Your word” (NIV).
This was a Psalm written by David. David, who we see over and over again choosing worship and praise even in his valleys. When his soul was weary, we see him turning time and again to prayer and his comfortable and vulnerable relationship with the Lord. He cried out, he worshipped passionately. He danced. He rejoiced. He wept. He was afraid. But he never lost hope because his hope was in the word. And he overcame ever obstacle placed in his way. This isn’t to say David is to be placed on a pedestal - he was a sinner like you and me. It’s Jesus who we’re striving to imitate. David’s life is an example of undying hope because he placed his hope in the word. Not in soldiers or kings and kingdoms or money or anything of this world - in the word. He knew that God could and would come through for him in every battle and He did.
I love the wording of this verse. We need to put our hope in the word. In John 1, Jesus is referenced to as the Word who became flesh. Our hope needs to be in His word. God talks about the reliability of His word repeatedly:
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
Psalm 18:30 “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in him.”
Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Psalm 56:4 “In God, whose word I praise - in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”
Put your hope in the word, not the world. We see so many placing their hope in politicians, in organizations, in financial comfort, the list goes on. Nothing in this world is substantial or eternal. Nothing in this world can sustain hope and bring about peace. The hope the world offers us is always circumstantial and empty. If we place our hope and trust in the Lord, we are simultaneously looking to the hills. We are set free from worry and fear because our hope is in Christ who already has the victory. Our hope is in His word - a double-edged sword, a light for our path when things get dark, everlasting, and full of real comfort we so desperately seek elsewhere.
Ask yourself this weekend where you have placed your hope in the past and think of how that ended for you. Think about where you place your hope now. If it’s not in the word, where is your hope and why is that something you’re trusting in more than anything else at this time? What is holding you back from letting go of what you can see and feel and control and giving all to Jesus and placing your hope in Him? He will never let you down, He’s already secured your victory, and He’s waiting with open arms as both a comfort and a shield today.
I know my posts have been more like weekly instead of daily lately. I apologize for that. There have been a lot of unexpected valleys come up in recent weeks, and it really pushed me to a breaking point. It pushed me to that point. The kind of point I think of in passing when I’m in a peak season, “How could anyone question such a good and loving God?” Fast forward to last week, me, during prayer time, angrily asking Him why.
Deep into 2020, which has already proven to be a year that has shaken every foundation built upon sand, amid ongoing personal and family life issues, we experienced an inland hurricane in my little river town in Western Illinois which left us and almost every other home in my area without power for six days. Six days in the dark.
After a few days of trying to summon my last shreds of patience, after a few days of soothing scared children and cleaning up huge messes in the yard, and throwing away rotten food from the refrigerator, I remember just falling apart. God, why did you let this happen? The wind and waves know Your name. You could have stopped this. After the year and even just the past few months we have had, why? You could have stopped this.
And then He was silent. He was trusting me with His silence, something I’ve come to greet with great anticipation over doubt. Many times in my life He has trusted me with His silence. It pushes me to trust deeper, it pushes me to rely on Him over the answers I’m seeking, and it hurts. It can be deafening. Sometimes we, like little children, think if we don’t get what we want or think we need right now, we are not loved. We are not protected. Dear reader, don’t let God’s silence cause you to open a door in your heart to the enemy’s lies. Greet His silence as a treasure you have been entrusted with. Greet it with anticipation of a quiet, contemplative season where He is still so near while your heart is being prepared for His answer when it comes.
A few days after our power came back on, I was driving to the store to pick up some things to restock our refrigerator and God gently and ever-so-lovingly broke His silence and replied to my angry question: “You’re right, I could have stopped that storm. But I didn’t. I also could have taken My Son off of the cross, but I didn’t. For your good. If I permit something painful, good will come of it.”
And He reminded me of these two verses:
Isaiah 55:8 - "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.”
Romans 8:28 - “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Dear reader, I don’t know your story. I don’t know the trajectory this foundation-shaking year has placed your life on, but I do know without a shadow of a doubt that if God permits the painful, He has a purpose. I refuse to sugar-coat it because Jesus never did. In this world we WILL have trouble (John 16:33). But God has always been a God Who will stand in the fire with us (Daniel 3). He doesn’t forsake us during the painful seasons. Your pain, your anger, your frustration, your confusion - none of this pushes Him away. He is near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18).
I’ve been focusing on steadfastness recently. The word “steadfast” appears 219 times in the Bible, and 132 of those times it is being used to directly describe one of the most beautiful characteristics of God.
Steadfastness is defined as firmly loyal, unchanging, unwavering, solid, steady and resolutely and dutifully firm. God never changes. He loves us loyally and never stops. Throughout the gospels we are charged multiple times by the apostles to “stand firm in the faith” and to be steadfast in our love for the Lord and in our loyalty to Him and through our work in the Kingdom. I think it’s such a common charge because we waver. Our loyalty and love are waves constantly crashing into the shores of this world and slinking back into the depths of His love, guilty and dirty, pulling the dirt and the sand with us.
Here we hit what I call the unfair exchange. God charges us to have the same characteristics as He does because we are sons and daughters, but we offer Him our sloppy, imperfect, minuscule, feeble attempts and in exchange we get His perfection. His perfectly unwavering and steadfast love. He knows ours won’t be perfect, He knows we are unfinished, but He still wants whatever our all is, whatever our 100% looks like. The reason the Widow’s offering meant so much to Jesus is because she gave her all. (Luke 21).
And despite our all not being much, or being tarnished or imperfect, it still touches the heart of the Father and He still gives us His perfect all in return. In fact, He gave us His part of the exchange first, while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). The unfair exchange. A wandering heart for His steadfast love. Our ashes for beauty. Our anxieties for His peace. Our offering for the riches of Heaven. Our everlasting life because of His suffering. The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair. His steadfastness is another lovely example of His grace.