When you are going through a stressful time and you are experiencing anxiety, anger, worry, fear, irritation or being annoyed by something you will be tempted to be unkind, harsh, rude, cruel, and insensitive to the people in your life. Instead of being unkind and rude God wants you to be gentle. He wants you to be aware, calm, and present for others even when you are hurting. No matter what kind of trouble, problem, pain, or difficulty you are going through it is no excuse for you to be harsh and cruel to someone else. One of the keys to experiencing peace in the middle of your anxiety is to let the gentle spirit inside you control you.

Let’s take a look at this and see what God says to us today.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, NASB)

One of the weapons against anxiety is a gentle spirit. Unmanaged anxiety makes you angry, impatient, insensitive, and self-focused. This is why before God says Do not be anxious about anything, He says, Let your gentle spirit be known to all people.

The Greek word translated anxious (Philip. 4:6) means “to be pulled in different directions.” Your hopes pull you in one direction; your fears pull you in the opposite direction. You are pulled apart! Sometimes the word anxious is translated as “worry” because of its original meaning. The word “worry” comes from an old English root word that means “to strangle.” If you have ever experienced anxiety or worry, you know it feels like you are being strangled. It’s like your life can’t breathe because you are being squeezed by what is concerning you or frustrating you. When you can’t breathe all you think about is breathing. When you are anxious, all you think about is what you are anxious about. Unmanaged anxiety can become paralyzing.

To combat your anxiety God’s Word says, Let your gentle spirit be known to all people (Philip. 4:5). Let’s unpack this and apply it.

The YOUniqueness of Gentleness

Let’s talk about the YOUniqueness of gentleness. I want you to receive this personally. Don’t think about how gentle someone else should be that’s in your life. Think about your gentleness. Notice the first two words in the sentence, Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. Did you see it? It’s let your. Apply what you are about to hear to your life, your home, your work, and your relationships. Make it personal.

God is at work in your life to produce gentleness in and through your life. God’s Word says, “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:23-24, NLT). God is actively developing a gentle spirit within you. He wants you to be gentle to those in your life.  He also wants you to benefit from gentleness. God knows the power of a gentle spirit for you and those in your life.

While God is working in you to produce gentleness in your life, you also need to be pursuing it. God’s Word says, “Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love perseverance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11, NLT). You being gentle is not some small or insignificant thing. God places a gentle spirit up there with things like faith, love, godliness, and righteousness. This is a big deal.

When God says pursue (dioko) gentleness He means enthusiastically chase it down. Make it a daily choice to hunt it down in your life. Learn everything you can about being gentle, apply everywhere possible, and become the most gentle person anyone knows. Pray about being gentle. Study God’s Word on gentleness. Learn from other believers who demonstrate a gentle spirit under pressure. Learn gentle words, phrases, tones, and when to use them. Pursue it.

A gentle spirit is closely connected to wisdom. Wisdom has little to do with how smart you are. Rather it has everything to do with how well you apply God’s truth to your life. God’s Word teaches us this in James 3:17 which says, “The wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere” (James 3:17, NLT). A wise person is not measured by how smart they are, but how gentle they are. Again, gentleness is no small thing. It is vitally important to maturing and growing as a follower of Jesus. It is a major piece of evidence that you are living by heavenly wisdom, not earthly wisdom. Make it personal. Learn all you can about gentleness. As you live out gentleness in your life you will be unique and stand out in a very harsh and ruthless world.

The Description of Gentleness

At this point, let’s answer the question, what is a gentle spirit?

A gentle spirit (epieikes) has a richer and deeper meaning than any single English word can capture. This is why various Bible translations use a variety of words to describe the idea of a gentle spirit.[i] A gentle spirit is best understood with the combination of six concepts. When a gentle spirit is evident you will find these six aspects present. If we were to list the ingredients of a gentle spirit, these would be the ingredients.

Reasonable

Number one, a gentle spirit is reasonable. This means you will not be overly demanding about unimportant things. You are consistent with making sound judgements rather than rash judgments, you exhibit fairness rather favoritism, and you are sensible rather than irrational. One of the descriptions that James used to describe heavenly wisdom is it is “reasonable” (James 3:17, NASB). What this means is that you don’t overreact to the clutter in the house, to the noise that is bothering you, to the way your spouse said something, to the immaturity of your children, or to the person who just cut you off in traffic. You are reasonable. You evaluate what you are going through with a healthy filter. When you are reasonable you will discover that your anxiety, stress, and frustration with people begin to decrease. A person with a gentle spirit is a reasonable person.

Yielding

Number two, a gentle spirit is yielding. This means you do not always insist on having it your way. It stands for the attitude that does not seek to retaliate every time it feels offended. It indicates one’s willingness to give and take instead of always standing rigidly on one’s rights. This is the person who yields their rights displaying reason, kindness, consideration, selflessness, and maturity. For the sake of peace this person is willing to yield their rights, position, pride, and preferences. They don’t compromise truth, but they are willing to compromise in other areas. Again, James describes heavenly wisdom as “willing to yield to others” (James 3:17, NLT). A gentle spirit is evidence of a wise person.

Think about the impact of having a gentle and yielding spirit with your spouse, children, parents, boss, and people at church. If you approached every conversation with a willingness to listen, learn, and adjust based on reason and fairness and not feel the need to be right and to have things done in a rigid manner imagine how your anxiety and stress would decrease throughout the day. Having a gentle spirit is a weapon against anxiety.

Kindness

Number three, a gentle spirit is kind. If you have a gentle spirit, you will be friendly, generous, and considerate. Paul tells us that “love is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4). Kindness is an expression of love. When you say kind words and do kind things for others you are loving them. When you encourage someone or withhold a harsh statement you are being kind. God’s Word says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Eph. 4:32, CSB). The reason why God tells you to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving is because the people in your life are going to sin and be selfish. When you live with people and work with people you will bump up against their selfishness. This has the potential to create arguments, conflict, frustration, and confusion all of which can create anxiety and stress. However, if you have a gentle spirit, you can prevent many relational fires from growing. A gentle spirit protects you from a lot of unnecessary stress.

Contentment

Number four, a gentle spirit is contented. Contentment is the state of being satisfied. You are grateful, thankful, and appreciative of what you have, and the blessings God has given to you. You don’t need more things, or need to be more right, or need to be in more control to experience joy. You are content. Contentment is so closely related to managing anxiety that immediately after he writes, Do not be anxious about anything in Philippians 4:6 he writes, I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am (v.11, NASB).

Imagine how being more content would protect you from some anxieties. You would be less stressed out over money, when people disagree with you, or when things are not going the way you want them to. When you are content, you are more difficult to make upset, become unhappy, and feel needy. A gentle spirit can protect you from many anxieties.

Selfless

Number five, a gentle spirit is selfless. To be selfless is to be concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own. God’s Word puts it this way in Philippians 2, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:3-4, NLT). A selfless spirit runs counter to the world of self-love. Those who are selfless and who have died to self are very difficult to be knocked off balance by inequality, injustice, unfair treatment, lies, or humiliation. When you have died to yourself it’s hard to rattle you when yourself gets attacked by someone. Spiritual and emotional stability belongs to those who are selfless and content.

Tolerant

Number six, a gentle spirit is tolerant. If you are tolerant, you demonstrate a willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that you do not agree with. Instead of getting upset, irritated or offended when someone believes something you don’t believe, lives a lifestyle that contradicts your values, or doesn’t do something the way you think it should be done you are relaxed, easygoing, and you let insignificant things slide. You accept their faults and weaknesses. God’s Word puts it this way, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Eph. 4:2, NLT). When you are tolerant and make room for the people in your life to have faults you will experience less anxiety and stress.

Conclusion

God wants to help you with the anxieties in your life. When it comes to the practice of peace you will need to practice gentleness.

The Holy Spirit is going to produce gentleness in you, but at the same time you will pursue it and learn how to apply it in your life. This will identify you as wise. You will find yourself manage your anxiety while being more reasonable, your flexibility in life will increase, you will be more kind, more content, less selfish, and your tolerance will grow. As a result, you will be aware, calm, and present to do what God would have you to do and to influence those in your life for the kingdom of God.

[i] Various Bible translations use a variety of words to describe it – “gentle spirit” (NASB), “graciousness (CSB), “reasonableness” (ESV), “moderation” (KJV), “gentleness” (NET, NIV, NKJV), “considerate” (NLT), “forbearance” (RSV, ASV). It’s also been described as unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, kindness, and patience.

 

Isaiah 41:10, ‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (NASB1995).