God has been using this year to reveal an abundance of wrong thinking in me. Thoughts about my family, my relationships, my church, the Bible, and God, himself. I’ve been praying for God to renew my mind and to restore broken things, and in typical God-fashion, he didn’t start where I expected.

A year or two ago, I spent some time studying 1 Peter. It’s a letter written to believers scattered throughout modern-day Turkey. These believers were facing intense suffering and persecution because their lives looked so different from the people they were living among.

Recently, God prompted me to uncover what it means to have a “gentle and quiet spirit,” as Peter discusses in 1 Peter 3:1-6. Over the years, this passage has been used to champion submission, modesty, and other Biblical concepts which aren’t inherently bad, but have sometimes been misused to keep women in a holding pattern of fear and shame, especially verses 3 and 4: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

For the first 19 years of my life, I wrongly interpreted these verses to mean my purpose as a woman was to stay out of the way. To not draw attention to myself, to not inconvenience others with my appearance or my presence. I viewed myself as something to be concealed: body, mind, and soul.

This looked like picking clothes that were two sizes too big for me because I thought it was more modest to wear baggy, unflattering clothes. Or keeping my writing to myself because I thought it was prideful to share my thoughts and gifts with the world. 

As I revisited these familiar words, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper that having a “gentle and quiet spirit” does not mean you must be a wallflower. It doesn’t mean you have nothing to say or that you always go along with what everyone else wants. It doesn’t mean you have to make yourself small or hide behind false humility. Even more shocking was the realization that having a gentle and quiet spirit actually calls us to live confidently in all of life’s circumstances.

God highly values our faith and confidence in him. 1 Peter gives us two examples of this confidence, giving life to our understanding of what it means to have a gentle and quiet spirit.


1. A gentle and quiet spirit means hoping in God

1 Peter 3:5 explains the faithful women of the Old Testament who also adorned themselves with a gentle and quiet spirit. How did they do this? They “put their hope in God.” If you’re like me, you tend to put your hope in outcomes, your own strength and skills, and thinking “I know what’s best for me and I know exactly how to get what I want.” Yet, putting your hope in God sometimes means giving up your own plans, desires, and the need to promote yourself, and trusting that God is working on your behalf. It’s learning to seek his voice and his will, and trusting that it’s good, even in times when it might not make sense. And it’s believing he is always walking with you, protecting you, and advocating for you. It takes practice and perseverance to develop this kind of faith, and thankfully God is patient and pours out his grace when we question or fear.


2. A “gentle and quiet” spirit means being like Jesus

Another illustration discussed in 1 Peter is in Chapter 2 where Jesus is described as the perfect example of hope and trust in God. When Jesus was arrested to be crucified, he endured great humiliation and abuse, knowing that he was accomplishing God’s will for the redemption of the world. But just because he was on the greatest mission of all time, doesn’t mean he wanted it to be achieved through pain or loss. In fact, the night he was arrested, he asked God to let the suffering pass him by, but ultimately committed himself to God’s plan (Luke 22:42). 1 Peter 2:23 says, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” Jesus trusted, no matter what happened, that God was still good and just, and his purposes were being fulfilled. God would set everything right again (and he did, three days later).

Now, I want to address the elephant in the room. The passage we are looking at is written to women whose husbands are not Christians. However, these verses have sometimes been used to justify spousal abuse, and to persuade women to endure it and stay silent. But 1 Peter 3:7 charges husbands to be considerate of their wives and to treat them with respect. Likewise, Ephesians 5:28 urges them to love their wives as their own bodies, to take care of their wives in the same way they would take care of themselves. God never intends for husbands to be cruel or cause harm to their wives. And having faith in that situation might look like asking for help or removing yourself from harm’s way.

 God never intended for us to experience suffering. But because our world is broken, God came to earth to experience suffering alongside us. He came to teach us how to have faith, to show us compassion, and to bring healing through his death on the cross.

Jesus was called to the cross, but that doesn’t mean people are called to stay in situations of violence or abuse. Having a gentle and quiet spirit has less to do with our appearance, or our ability to literally be quiet, and more to do with our perspective.

It’s walking ahead with faith and confidence that God is on the move. This kind of confidence doesn’t come from our own actions or abilities; it comes from God and what he’s doing and how he wants to use us in his plans. It doesn’t clamor for attention or aggressively assert itself. It empowers us to give a gentle and respectful answer to everyone who asks for the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15). And it helps us move forward, even in the midst of great pain and confusion.

God graciously reframed the long-held wrong belief that told me I had to hide and cover myself in shame. Now, I try to walk confidently knowing that God is going before me and making a way for me and that he is going to use me and the gifts he’s given me to further his kingdom. So, we don’t have to worry about the paths we are on or strive to get to the “right” outcomes. We can trust that God is working it out, and we can put our hope in him.