Living our daily lives in accord with the will of God is a matter of humility.
If one does a study of history, one finds that while every age has produced its heroes and moments of great human advancement, each age has also had to struggle its way through the anguishing and embittering consequences of countless human sufferings as well. No age has been free of the suffering that arises from human failings. But this is no reason for despair, even when we find ourselves in the midst of the anxieties and terrors of present suffering.
Because of Jesus Christ, we Christians have every reason to hope for better times, especially when we find ourselves in the throes of suffering. Human history has always involved suffering because of the human failures of, “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies and the like” (Gal. 5:19-21). But we have been shown the means for enduring the suffering that arises from these failings as well.
We see the means expressed in verse 22: “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These are, indeed, the virtues that arise from our attentiveness to the word of God, and our willingness to commit ourselves to live our daily lives in accord with the wisdom of God. This is a matter of prayer, as well as a matter of the hard work of practicing the skills that necessarily go with these habits.
Notice what the last of the fruits of the Spirit is called: self-control. These fruits are the result of our having freely chosen to do the work that is necessary to develop these habits. Self-control is often the hardest of these habits to develop, but it is the most visible sign of maturity and proves to be a boon to all of the other fruits when it becomes our habit. In fact, without self-discipline, or self-control, we find ourselves experiencing the consequences of all the human failings that are listed above from verses 19-21 of Galatians.
The classic book by Dr. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled, written in the late 70s, argues that our psychological problems and pains are the result of the lack of the habit of self-discipline. Peck outlines four necessary elements for the development of self-discipline: The ability to delay gratification; the courage to take responsibility for one’s words and actions; a dedication to truth/reality; and the ability to find the balance between extremes, to find, and to stick to, the narrow path. The psychological and spiritual work that is required of us to develop these skills of self-discipline takes courage and faith in God’s mercy, kindness, and generosity. But we can take courage from the fact that the Holy Spirit is with us in this effort, that the Spirit gives us the graces of guidance, support, and strength to help us along the way.
Human beings have always had to struggle with the demands of the flesh up and against the challenge of the will of God. We see this fact in Holy Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. It is in doing the will of God that we find joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We are enabled to “do” the will of God more and more when we gain the skills of self-control. Delaying gratification is a matter of love. Learning to be responsible for all of our words and deeds is a matter of justice. Seeking and knowing the truth/reality, is a matter of wisdom. Living our daily lives in accord with the will of God is a matter of humility, and the fruits of the Spirit are the result of our willing submission to the will of God.
Help us, Lord, to be your good and faithful disciples in all things. Amen