Our reaction to news of floods, fires, and other disasters can be confusing. We feel compassion for the victims, but we have our own lives to deal with.
A few years ago when Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake, my friend was already in Haiti on a mission trip. Having survived, she remained in the disaster zone to help in the recovery efforts. I was amazed.
All my life I have observed people who seemed to be innately kind, generous, and patient, and I wished that I could be naturally good, like them. I was discouraged because I had to work so hard at it. The Bible calls those qualities I admired the Fruits of the Spirit and tells me I should have those qualities is my own life. I supposed this might be easy for the “good” people, but for me it was a struggle.
It’s taken me years to realize that comparing myself to others and judging myself for not measuring up was just another form of self-centeredness. I used my feelings of inadequacy and guilt as a sort of penance for not measuring up; an attempt to rationalize away my responsibility to others: if I’m so much worse than others (for whom being “good” comes so easily, remember) then I can’t be expected to reach out.
The truth is just the reverse. If a person reaches out to others in Jesus’ name, despite natural self-interest, it plants the seeds of spiritual fruit. Doing the hard thing, for Christ’s sake, is what makes “goodness” become a natural part of oneself. Christ used the symbolism of fruit to demonstrate how this spiritual maturity comes about in a person’s life. Most fruit growing in the wild is small and bitter, while the cultivated variety, the result of hard work, is so much more satisfying.
When I look at people like my friend, I remind myself that her beautiful spirit is the result of hard work and sacrifice. I try to admire, rather than envy, such people as I work to hoe out the hard clods of my selfishness and pride, pull the weeds of conceit and self-indulgence from my life, and pour out the living water of Jesus’ love. My garden is only beginning to blossom… but with some more cultivating I think it may have potential.