Have you ever noticed how the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) are so closely related to one another? You can't really have love without kindness or patience or goodness or even, self-control. You can't have patience without kindness. You can't have goodness without kindness and love and patience. I mean, they're all wrapped up in each other. Self-control isn't any different.
One passage I love (and have mentioned in this series) is found in Jonah 4:
I love this passage because Jonah was angry and the worst thing he could come up with is that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. That's the worst he could say. But let's zoom in on one specific attribute mentioned in this list. SLOW TO ANGER.
This is one that has been on my heart for a while now. I mean there are lots of areas to exercise self-control, such as in our moods, in our words, in our reactions, in our schedule and priorities, in our money, and in our health. But what about in our parenting?
Yes, parenting. You always hear about how kids didn't come with an instruction manual, but God has challenged me to observe Him in Scripture. Look back at the book of Jonah, look at how Jonah accuses God of being slow to anger. I mean, God is the ultimate parent, uh hello... He's our Father! And we, His children. Do you ever notice how God has to teach us to be obedient? God teaches us right from wrong. God teaches us how to love. These are all the same things I, in turn, seek to teach my own children.
But God is slow to anger. I really struggle in this area. I'm more in the "Quick to anger" camp. I try to be slow to anger, but I get so frustrated! Soon, I'm not quick to listen, I'm not slow to anger, and honestly in these un-self-controlled moments, I'm not even loving. Do you want to know what a natural consequence of being quick to anger is? Regret. If I had taken an extra three seconds to listen, I would have been more likely to react appropriately. Sometimes I have even punished my children for things that weren't even their fault, all because I was quick to anger.
God is slow to anger. He's quick to listen. If you notice, he's also quick to graciously teach us what we should do. With my young children, how often do I look at each frustrating moment as a teachable moment for them (and myself)? Not as often as I should.
So what are the benefits to exercising self-control? If we refer back to our opening verse in 2 Peter 1, we see that self-control supplements our faith. Having self-control (and the other qualities) "keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." The last thing in this entire world that I would ever want is for my children to decide that God "isn't for them" because I couldn't exercise some self-control in the area of anger. I want to be an example of Jesus not only in the way that I love them, but I want that love to be strengthened by self-control in the area of my reactions. I want to represent Christ in my own slowness to anger. Self-control supplements my faith and strengthens my witness.
Is there hope for us who struggle with self-control? Are there any promises mentioned in the Bible? As I was praying about self-control and asking God what He might have me say, he said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." The verse is also found in 2 Corinthians 12:9. He's strong when I'm weak. Let's submit our weak areas to God and rejoice in His perfect strength!
God, I thank you for the example you have set and established in the area of self-control. I thank you for the example of being slow to anger. I pray for an increase of peace and patience as I work to exercise more self-control in my daily life. I also pray for your perfect strength in my weakness. In Your name, amen.