“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
During my mid-teenager years, I was very stubborn. Often, I would speak before I thought about my words and attitudes—or their consequences. When I quarreled with my parents, especially my mom, I would say things that I didn't necessarily mean. They were hurtful and led to more conflict and many regrets.
When I finally realized that this was a problem God was asking me to fix, I turned to the Bible. Scripture speaks often about self-control. Being more like Jesus means being able to control our thoughts and our tongues, giving us time to act and react like Jesus did. Following His example, we can be more positive and encouraging to others, and less likely to quarrel with our family members or coworkers.
Exercising self-control doesn't usually line up with our humanly desires. This is one of the many divisions between contemporary culture and biblical principles. Society tells us to do whatever we want, whenever we want, without thinking about others. God’s Word, on the other hand, stands firm on selflessness and putting the needs of others above your own. Loving others the way Jesus loved calls for self-control. When we slow down and consider the needs of others before we speak, there will be fewer regrets afterwards.
One way I have learned to control my tongue is to pause. I take time, being still in the presence of God, being able to realize that the devil attempts to separate us through quarrels that don’t matter. God calls us to more. Be more loving, selfless, and grateful for each other.
Crazy diets or extreme weight loss measures are not for me. I know the scientific studies show that slow and steady lifestyle changes are a healthy way to lose weight and keep it off. So, my tried and true method of assessing my health is the way I feel and the fit of my clothes.
Due to some recent illnesses, injuries, and commitments, I’ve been away from the gym for several months. The other day, I tried on three outfits before I found one that I could wear to work. Standing at the mirror, I told myself to cut back on the carbs for a few days until I got myself back under control. Not Keto, not Atkins, nothing drastic. But just cut back and deliberately think about what I’m eating. I walked right out to the kitchen and grabbed my favorite carb-a-licious breakfast snack. And continued directly to the Krispy Kreme box at work, eating a STALE doughnut—not even a tasty one!—without being able to stop myself.
The Bible promises that I can have self-control and can overcome. But not on my own. If I am led by the Spirit and filled with the Spirit, His fruit will overflow in my life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV). And if I invite God to help me in this struggle, He will make a way for me to rise above even these smaller temptations: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV).
Talk to God. Share your heart and struggles. Ask for His help. Then listen.
Yesterday, I relayed how I went straight from a mental resolution to cut back on carbs to gobbling up a horribly stale doughnut. Usually, I have at least enough willpower and sense to know not to waste my treat on something awful: save it and savor something really good to eat! But I had no helper and no accountability.
We often have a tendency to create a “picture perfect” view of ourselves, and to project that view to others around us. Wait. Who are we kidding? We know we don’t have it together. And the people closest to us know we don’t have it together. So why are we portraying this perfect image? Just lay it down and get real with a friend, a spouse, even a co-worker, especially if your hang-up has to do with your career and professional responsibilities. It is freeing to be authentic. But more importantly, it gives you another buttress to your self-control.
You probably don’t want to share with a drill sergeant, but your closest buddies need to know and support you. If your spouse is bringing home hot Krispy Kremes, he is hurting your efforts. But he may not even know. Have you told your girlfriend you want to stop spending extra time and money shopping away the stress? Have you asked your spouse to monitor your alcohol intake? Have you given your friend permission to (gently) remind you to get to the gym, read your Bible, or hold you accountable in some area? Allow them to help: “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV).
First, realize it’s hard to tell someone you need help. It’s hard to let them see the crack in your facade. But life is so much sweeter and easier with a companion who understands you, supports you, and encourages you to do what you are being called or nudged by God to do. If you need more support, it’s available at The Cove with many kinds of care and support groups. But you have to first decide to drop the facade and allow others into your less than perfect world. And God will meet you in that place of authenticity.
Anybody who has met me knows that I love planning ahead. I love preparing in advance to make sure that everything runs smoothly and I accomplish all my plans. I have the next five years of my educational career planned. I know what electives I’m choosing my senior year, what college courses I should take, what school I want to attend, and what I’d like to study. But if I have a vision for something, that vision needs to play out in a very particular way. My way. If something changes, such as an alteration in my schedule for what I wanted to accomplish that day, I get incredibly frustrated. I resist the change, because I know what my schedule should be. Or I have an outburst, believing that my whole week has been ruined.
My tendency to become consumed when things go wrong has been curbed dramatically by beginning my day with a Quiet Time with God. Spending each morning both reading and listening to what God is speaking to me helps align me with God’s plans and purposes, not mine. Proverbs 19:21 (ESV) says “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Ultimately, I can make as many plans as I want to regarding what I want my week or my future to look like, but God can and will easily overrule those. I am now more able to surrender “my way” through prayer and to know how God wants me to react in those situations instead because of my Quiet Time with Him.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic, though, if once you prayed about something one time, the problem would automatically disappear from your life? Unfortunately, we are very quick to run back to our old habits because they are so hard to break. Self-control is a difficult trait to learn, but starting each day with a Quiet Time will help reinforce us in disciplining ourselves. I still continue to get annoyed when something doesn’t turn out as I planned it, but reading God’s Word during my Quiet Time reminds me of how God wants to me to act. I don’t need to have an argument with my parents if they change my plans last minute, for God has given me a spirit of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). It’s easy to just give in if we mess up once, but allow your Quiet Time to be the reset button to start anew.
Last month, I started my senior year of college, and at first, I was really excited! But quickly, even within the first week, I had lost that upbeat, can-do attitude. In fact, after my first day of classes, I had a certified emotional meltdown and cried during my hour-long commute home. Between meeting the demands of a new semester and offering my best to the people around me, I began to feel as if this new season of life was too much for me to handle. A lot of my prayers during that week turned into crying sessions with God. I told Him repeatedly, “I don’t know if I can do this. It’s too much, and I feel like I’m drowning.” And whenever I wasn’t talking to Him, I was thinking the same exact things over and over: I can’t do this. It’s too much. I’m going to fail.
Overwhelmed by fear, I felt paralyzed. Believing I wasn’t good enough to succeed, I felt too discouraged to even try my best because—in my mind—I was just going to mess it up anyway. The verse that brought me out of my downward spiral was Isaiah 26:3 (ESV), “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Through Jesus, perfect peace is made available to us every single day. But sometimes we miss out on experiencing it because our thoughts are fixed on countless other things. Instead of seizing control of our thoughts, our thoughts take control of us—and we get pushed around by our own negative thinking.
Here’s a new thought: Has it ever occurred to you to push back? I know it seems impossible, especially since our thoughts move too fast for us to catch. But 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV) says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” In order to dismantle our negative thinking, we need to invite God to be a part of the process. We need to ask Him whether or not a specific thought honors Him—and if it doesn’t, we need to replace it with the truths we find in His Word.
As you go about your day today, I encourage you to pause and take note of the thoughts that cross your mind. If you find yourself focusing on anything remotely negative or discouraging (about yourself and others!), practice self-control by reminding yourself of Who God is. Remember that He is infinitely greater than all our weaknesses and problems combined. Remember that He is always good, loving, and faithful—and trust that He is always enough.