Our kids are good at knowing our hot buttons. They are even better at pushing them. An urgent bill, a mountain of dirty laundry and a bunch of bickering kids is enough to cause even the calmest parent to loose their cool. The Bible has a lot to say about self-control because it is something that affects all members of the human race. Even if we manage to hold in our emotional outbursts, God knows our hearts (remember what Jesus had to say about those “white-washed tombs?” – Matthew 23:27-28).
So why do so many of us struggle in this area of self-control? The simple answer is: sin. But you already knew that. The more complex answer is this:
A lack of self-control reveals a complete focus on self.
Take a minute. Read that again.
I know, it hurts a bit. I am sorry about that. It stung when God showed it to me. Not only is the heart of self-control problems an over-focus on self, but more often than not, our remedies to gain more self-control are even self-focused. Maybe you have tried one or more of the following in your quest for keeping your cool with your kids:
- resolve to try harder and do better
- ask God to help you more (“fox hole” prayers)
- use self-talk (“I can handle this”)
- take more “me time” in order to handle the demands of the day
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:3-8
Look at how many times the word “knowledge” is used in this passage. Now look closely at the fact that it precedes self-control. It seems to make sense that the more we know God, the closer we will get to Him. The closer we get to Him, the less we will care about ourselves. The less we care about ourselves and our own interests, the more self-control (rather, God-control) we will have. A God-orientation instead of a self-orientation, can keep things in perspective. When we truly understand who God is and what He has done for us, our fleshly desires get put in their place.
So if you struggle with self-control, try getting to know God better. Here are some ways you can that:
- memorize a favorite piece of Scripture
- meditate on the names of God
- talk about your favorite attributes of God with a friend
- keep a daily journal about how you see God working around you
- read the book of Isaiah (if you want to know who God is, this is a great place to start!)
- recite your memorized Scripture (out loud or to yourself)
- focus on a favorite name of God
- think on the greatness of God (imagine Jesus walking on water, God parting the Red Sea, Jesus calming the storm)
- take a time out; go read your journal about God’s constant hand and control over His world and yours
It turns out that the key to self-control is handing the reigns over to the One who controls everything.