Asked about her inspiration for the song, Lambert replied, “I guess going through a lot of times where I felt empty…how many times have we seen The Wizard of Oz… everyone knows what the Tin Man represents–cold, and empty, and loneliness, and heartless…and it just opened my eyes to it even more going through pain myself, you know, sort of an epiphany.”1
Many people today feel empty or broken, even if they’ve arrived at the highest levels of success and fortune. Amid the struggles of life, it’s hard to keep a sense of passion and purpose. In an age of abundance, it’s hard to be filled. If life is so rich, we wonder, why are we so broken? In an age of entitlement and empowerment, why are millennials the most unfulfilled generation in recent memory?
It’s because the fruit of the Spirit is out of season in our culture. In season are the works of the flesh—“adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21). These qualities are spreading like weeds, invading our entertainment, government, social media, families, and technology.
But in our own backyard vineyards, we must cultivate the qualities God longs to reproduce within us—the fruit of the Spirit. Purposeful passion for life can be achieved when we determine to live according to the nine decisions they represent.
- We find love in caring more about the needs of another person than for our own. We don’t find fulfillment in trying to be fulfilled. Fulfillment is the by-product to seeking to fulfill the needs of others. Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Dean Kamen, a brilliant inventor, is at his best when meeting the needs of others. In the 1970s, he developed a portable drug infusion pump after his brother, a medical student, explained the needs of patients stuck in hospitals when they could be home. A little more than a decade later, Kamen developed a portable dialysis machine that changed the lives of multitudes. Then he had an idea he touted as the greatest invention of his life. It was unveiled with great fanfare—the Segway. But it flopped. Kamen thought everyone would have several in their garage. Instead, Segways are only used by security guards in malls and a handful of tourists in large cities. The Segway flopped because it didn’t meet a real need, whereas Kamen’s other inventions truly served others. We’re successful in personal fulfillment when we can fulfill the needs of others by choosing to love them with the love of Jesus, available to us by the Holy Spirit.
- We find joy in serving Jesus. Do you remember this old song: “There is joy in serving Jesus as I journey on my way, / Joy that fills the heart with praises, every hour and every day”?2 That chorus is seldom sung now, or practiced. But there truly is joy in going about our daily tasks as if doing them for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).
- We find peace in trusting Scripture. Whenever you face a dark moment, there is something wonderful about finding a place all alone, meeting with God, pouring out the problem before Him, and searching the Scriptures until He gives you a word of reassurance from a verse or promise in the Bible. Afterward, the crisis will pass. The problem will fade away. But that Scripture the Lord gave you will stay with you as long as you live. It will also equip you to help others going through similar experiences.
- We find endurance in being committed to the cause. John Eliot, an early missionary to the Native Americans, said: “I can do little, yet I am resolved through the grace of Christ, I will never give over the work so long as I have legs to go.”3 Sometimes we feel we can do only a little for the Lord, but how important to keep on doing it! Little tasks performed faithfully over long periods yield big results. Often in my life, I’ve drawn strength from Hebrews 10:35-36: “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” We are serving an eternal God who calls us to everlasting service. When the tasks seem small or the burdens feel heavy, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and run with perseverance. Therein is our fulfillment.
- We find compassion by opening our hearts to the unfortunate. I have a theory that most of us harbor a little hidden whispering guilt that we aren’t doing enough to help the hurting masses of the world. We feel we should do more to feed a hungry child, encourage a disabled veteran, provide water for an impoverished village, or medicine for a ravished region. Yet when approached by panhandlers on the street, we seldom feel good about indiscriminately handing them money. What, then, should we do? Here’s a good place to begin. Find one credible way in which you can open your heart to those in need, and focus your resources on that opportunity. Perhaps it’s through a benevolent organization you trust, or perhaps it’s through a personal situation you know. Prayerfully find a way of opening your heart to “the least of these” and begin your own thoughtful ministry of compassion.
- We find generosity in stewarding God’s resources. The relationship between compassion and generosity encompasses all our lives and resources. The deepest needs in our world are not merely physical, but spiritual. Our churches, our causes, and our ministries need ongoing support. Giving to the Lord’s work brings a sense of fulfillment, and volunteering for Christian service gives a sense of gratification. The Lord has a way of taking our gifts and multiplying them for eternal good.
- We find integrity in representing ourselves honestly. Ecclesiastes 7:1 says, “A good name is better than fine perfume” (NIV). When someone uses a unique perfume and cologne, we get a little whiff of them as they come, the scent lingers after they leave, and we can often remember their fragrance after they’re gone. That’s the way our reputations are. God uses us to spread the aroma of Christ everywhere (see 2 Corinthians 2:14-15).
- We find humility in shifting conversations to the other person. Here’s an idea: This week while engaged in conversation with someone, deliberately steer the conversation toward the other person. Not rudely, of course, or intrusively, but graciously. It’s surprising how quickly we talk about our ailments, our children, our grandchildren, our problems, our blessings, and our opinions. But we learn nothing in the process, and sometimes we bore the one listening. Try practicing James 1:19: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, [and] slow to speak.”
- We find self-discipline in tackling our weaknesses one at a time. One of the reasons we’re unfulfilled is because we let temptations get the best of us. When we yield to our besetting sins, it leaves us as empty as, well, the Tin Man. God knows how to strengthen our will power, but we must exercise self-control as He helps us. When we’re filled with His Spirit of power, He empowers our personal disciplines and helps us live as we should.
If you’ve lost your passion and purpose in life, don’t give up yet—or ever! God has a cure for the unfulfilled life, and He has a purpose for you regardless of your stage of life. Learn afresh to be filled with the Spirit and to let His nine special traits flood your soul with lifelong purpose and fulfillment as you determine to doggedly practice them each day. Remember what the apostle Paul said after listing these nine decisive attitudes we call the fruit of the Spirit, for it’s my closing admonition to you:
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
1Kelly Brickey, “Miranda Lambert Reveals How She Relates to ‘Tin Man,’” May 4, 2017, at http://www.soundslikenashville.com/news/miranda-lambert-reveals-relates-tin-man/.
2Oswald J. Smith, “Joy in Serving Jesus.”
3Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 79.