I wrestled with this title. I wanted it to be a reference to the gentleness of God the Father. Perhaps, though, that lies in a lingering misconception of gentleness as a part of God’s nature. “Grip” has some ugly (or at least undesirable) connotations. “The Art of Gentleness” seemed a much less…overpowering title. (Titling my blogs is a thought-consuming process!) Yet the Lord has been speaking to me about His relentless gentleness and His grip of grace that holds me fast. In Psalms David wrote to the Lord, “Your gentleness has made me great” (18:35). That verse forever altered my perspective on gentleness. The gentleness of God is not demure or soft. His gentleness is not puny and powerless, bending to meet the whims of others. It is not God’s conciliatory pat on the back in our times of sorrow and suffering. So often I have viewed God’s gentleness as a sort of secondary trait, the “weaker” or “lesser” part of His nature. But I have come to realize that is utterly wrong. There is nothing more fierce than God’s gentleness. His gentleness is relentless, fierce, and tender, meeting us where we are and pursuing us. In God’s hands, gentleness is mighty.
As I consider the gentleness of God, I think of my own daddy. As he used to do for my brother and I, so he does for my little sister. Just this morning my sister had a meltdown, and our family always has a solution for that: Daddy takes her flailing, sobbing, screeching, angry, sad self and says, “Right now you just need a big, squeezy hug from Daddy.” He then holds her body tight to his chest and won’t let go. Even though she might fling herself, push at him, or simply hang there in his arms and beg to get down, his arms hold her tight. “You don’t need to get down right now; you still need a big, squeezy hug. Stay here with Daddy,” he’ll tell her. He holds her until she quiets, her tears dry, and she cuddles into him instead of pushing away. He does this because he knows what she needs. Through the moments of pain and anger and deep sorrow, my daddy holds onto us. Relentless.
Last summer I remember pouring out the swirling emotions of my heart, full of confusion and angst, to my daddy. I didn’t really want him to give me answers – I didn’t need answers; I needed to be held. Even grown, I needed the comfort that only my daddy’s arms could offer. Thinking about these moments, I am utterly captivated by the gentleness that doesn’t relent. When I pushed away from my dad’s arms, thinking I could pull myself together after a few minutes, he didn’t let go. I didn’t need to “pull myself together”; I needed to be held, and my daddy knew that. The same arms have sheltered and held me through sorrows and joys alike. Relentless.
That is only my earthly daddy; our Heavenly Father is the source of gentleness, and His arms never fail. David was a warrior-king, a mighty man of valor. In Psalm 18 he describes how the Lord has prepared his hands for battle and how the Lord has protected him. He is worshipping the Lord for the deliverance and salvation that He has provided. The Lord scattered the enemies, vanquishing opposition with the mighty thundering of His voice and the miracles wrought by His hands. David has pursued and conquered his enemies. In the midst of this victory-song, he doesn’t exclaim, “Wow, God, your strength makes me great!” Instead he makes a baffling statement that is perhaps one of the most powerful one-liners in Scripture: “Your gentleness has made me great” (v. 35). Not the Lord’s thunderings, not the Lord’s blaze of glory nor His raw strength, but His gentleness. In this statement, David captured an essential part of God’s nature. Relentless.
“We wonder sometimes when God is so great, so terrible in majesty, that He uses so little violence with us, who are so small. But it is not His way. His way is to be gentle. He seldom drives; but draws. He seldom compels; but leads. He remembers we are dust. We think it might be quicker work if God threatened and compelled us to do right. But God does not want quick work, but good work. God does not want slave work, but free work. So God is gentle with us all — moulding us and winning us many a time with no more than a silent look.” – Henry Drummond, The Ideal Life.
The gentleness of God is not a lesser part of who He is. When all falls apart, when sorrow threatens to destroy us and the darkness to overcome us, there are His arms, relentless and offering a big, squeezy hug that holds us securely in our need. He knows how fragile we are, and He knows all the depths of our needs. He knew all our days and moments that would ever be before time began, while we were just a design and treasure in the depths of His heart. We may kick and scream, we may fear and doubt, we may be drowning in an ocean of tears – and still He won’t let go. It isn’t in His nature to give up on you. Stronger than steel, from everlasting to everlasting is His grip. It would be terrifying in its fierceness if not for the fact that He remains wholly tender. His gentleness is keeping you, dear heart, and it won’t let you go. The excellence of His strength lies in His relentless gentleness – not that we may be afraid but that we may be made great. More relentless than hungry flames, more fierce than a lioness protecting her cubs, more tender than the sweetest kiss – His gentleness makes us great. Dear heart, do not fear the inescapable wonder of His gentleness.