Signposts: Daily Devotions

Thursday, May 29

But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.
—1 Timothy 6:11

The habit of thinking in opposites—that is, thinking only in terms of black/white, either/or—seems to be growing more common, even as our lives are becoming infinitely more complex. Granted, there’s a real comfort in being able to say, without doubt, that something is good or bad, right or wrong.  But there’s a danger in this as well.

In this dualistic mode of thought, we find it easy to see spirit and matter as mutually exclusive realms. Similarly, we imagine that faith can’t co-exist with doubt, that courage is never tinged with fear, that strength and gentleness cannot live side by side. The truth, however, is that they do. This is the paradox inherent in the spiritual life. Try as we might to reduce every choice to the simplest of terms, the math will never work; the world is a both/and place.

As a culture, we value security, high moral standards, and, possibly above all, strength. So where does this leave the Apostle Paul’s admonition to practice gentleness? Like the meek, who Jesus said would be “blessed,” the gentle are routinely written off as soft, overly compliant, easily wounded—hardly virtues to which we aspire. Though we seldom think of it in these terms, to “gentle” is in fact to “ennoble,” to “raise above the commonplace.”  It is to ease another’s anger, to lessen another’s distress. Ironically, gentleness is a gift that rises out of strength.

Only when we are confident in our own ultimate safety, the kind of safety we know in the arms of a merciful God, can we afford to reach out and lift up those around us. Only then can we be instruments of healing in a broken world.



O God, when the world feels like a harsh and hurtful place, give me the strength to be gentle, to live with compassion in the face of my fears.

The Signposts for May are written by Susan Hanson and originally appeared on in September 2004.