FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Is the Fruit of the Spirit More than What You Thought? with Jessica Thompson

with Jessica Thompson | November 1, 2022
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How do we get the fruit of the Spirit in the first place? On FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson host author Jessica Thompson, who beckons us back to our true source of love, joy, peace and change.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

How do we get the fruit of the Spirit in the first place? Author Jessica Thompson beckons us back to our true source of love, joy, peace and change.

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Is the Fruit of the Spirit More than What You Thought? with Jessica Thompson

With Jessica Thompson
November 01, 2022
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Dave: Do you remember that time—[Laughter]

Ann: Yes!

Dave: —sitting on that park bench in Michigan, and we had that big fight; and all those people were walking by?

Ann: I can remember it, because I was crying—and I was trying not to cry, because I was in public—and people were walking by.

Dave: Yes; we should have gone somewhere private.

Ann: Why didn’t we?

Dave: But it just erupted in this public park.

Ann: You were mad at me.

Dave: I’m a pastor in the city there, so people—anyway, all I know is, I was so mad.

Ann: What was it about?

Dave: Who knows?! I mean, I have no idea; but I know I was right, and you were wrong. [Laughter]

Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave: Yes, you are. And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on the FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.

Dave: Here’s why I remember it so distinctly—is I was so mad—and in the same moment, in my brain, I’m like, “I need to be tender. She needs me to be tender; and I should be. Even though I’m mad—whether I’m right or wrong, or whatever—I have to be tender right now.” I know I have to respond the right way, and I teach this stuff!!; you know? And I remember thinking, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I cannot change my heart to be the man and husband that you deserve in this moment; I cannot do it!

I was just sitting there, and there was just silence. You were just crying, and I’m just sitting there. We were not looking at each other, and I was just looking at these people walking by. I’m just, “Arghh!” I’ll never forget about it.

Ann: —which I have to say, too, I hardly ever cry; so I needed—

Dave: That’s why I knew! It was like, “She’s crying!”—it’s like once a year—so that means I really blew it. [Laughter] I mean, I just thought,—

Ann: I was so crushed!

Dave: —“You deserve a tender man right now,—

Ann: Yes!

Dave: —“and I’m that man”; and I couldn’t be that man. I just remember just this quiet little prayer: “God, I cannot be tender, and I need to be tender. Would You give me the power to be tender?” And He did! I mean, it wasn’t instantaneous; but as I sat there, my heart softened up. I turned to you.

Ann: Okay, I’m just going to say: you were super-sweet.

Jessica: Aww!

Dave: You remember?

Ann: Yes! Because, I mean, at that point, we weren’t fighting that often; but this was a really big one. I remember feeling incredibly hurt/rejected. I didn’t expect you to be tender, because I knew that you were hurt too. So when you responded that way, it melted my heart.

Dave: Yes; and the reason I’m bringing it up is it was another memory of: “God is real. His Spirit lives, literally, in our temple.”

Ann: Yes!

Dave: We can ask Him for His power when we don’t have it. I’m not saying every time it’s going to be just like that, but it was just this sweet memory of like: “It’s real. The fruit of God and the fruit of His Spirit is available.” I had kindness, which I couldn’t muster up.

Ann: And so often, we don’t tap into the power of the living God living within us through His Spirit. We just kind of gut it out and try to do it on our own.

Dave: Yes; so you can hear Jessica Thompson. [Laughter] She’s over there “oohing” and “ahhing.”

Jessica: I’m like, “You guys keep preaching! [Laughter] Keep preaching!”

Dave: But Jessica is back with us—you know what we’re talking about—you’ve written a book about the fruit of the Spirit. We’re going to talk about it in a minute, but welcome back.

Jessica: Thank you.

Dave: Your book: you’ve called it How God Loves Us: Forty Days to Discovering His Character in the Fruit of the Spirit.

Jessica: Yes.

Dave: Obviously, you know, I was talking about needing kindness, which is a fruit of the Spirit.

Jessica: Yes.

Ann: Patience, love—

Dave: Is that something you’ve experienced or not experienced?

Jessica: Oh, for sure! And I think, thinking about that verse that talks about “the very power that raised Christ from the dead—

Ann: Yes!

Jessica: —dwells in you.”

Dave: —in us.

Jessica: It’s: “…lives in us”! And yet, how often do we just stop in that moment?—not very often! And honestly, it was probably the work of the Holy Spirit to even get you to pray.

Dave: Right, right.

Jessica: Right? So how often do we even stop in that moment, and just say, “I need Your help! I mean, I need just a little bit of tenderness in my heart. You have said that You’ve taken my heart of stone and given me a heart of flesh, but I do not feel that right now.

Dave: Right.

Jessica: “All I feel is this heart of stone,”—even in our thought process!—“Oh, I need to ask for help right here!” How different would our lives look if we would just do that?

I know I’ve experienced, in those moments—where you’re aware of your impatience; where you’re aware of your unloveliness or unlovingness—if you could just stop and ask, “How has God loved me in this moment?” When the Holy Spirit has prompted me to do that, and I’ve done that, it breaks your heart in a beautiful way—like you said—when he [Dave] displayed that to you,—

Ann: Yes, yes.

Jessica: —it just breaks your heart. When your heart is hard, and you think, “I am loved even still,”—ahh!

Ann: I think of the Scripture: “A gentle answer turns away wrath.”

Jessica: Yes.

Ann: And I know that I was hurt; I was angry, but I was also broken—his gentleness/his tenderness—it turned me softer.

Dave: I’m laughing, because I’m like, “It wasn’t my gentleness! It wasn’t my tenderness!” [Laughter] I mean, I couldn’t muster it up.

Jessica: Yes.

Dave: That’s how the Christian life—most of us live it that way—“I’ve got to try harder; I’ve got to grunt it out.” Like I’m a tree/an apple tree—they don’t go, “Uh, I need an apple!”—[Laughter]—they connect to the root!

Jessica: Right.

Dave: Jesus said, “I’m the Vine; you’re the branches. He who abides in Me bears much fruit. Fruit comes from abiding. But so often, we just run away from that, or we try to do it in our own strength; and it never works.

Jessica: Right; so I think the key is for you to say, “I realized I couldn’t do it myself,”—it’s that coming to the end of yourself.

I’ve heard it said that: “God’s office is at the end of our rope”; you know, He just sets up office there. [Laughter]

Ann: That’s good.

Jessica: When we come to the end of ourselves—when we get to the point, where we’re like, “I cannot be nice to this person! I cannot listen to them talk anymore,”—when we get to the very end of ourselves, and say, “You know, what? I need Your help,” that’s the moment He meets us; right? That’s the moment that He’s the closest—He’s near—and He changes our hearts.

Ann: Well, this just came to my mind—and some of our listeners have probably heard this—but I was at the end of my rope. I had gotten in a fight with a teenage son before school; he wouldn’t talk to me on the way to school.

Jessica: I’ve been there! [Laughter]

Ann: Yes! And I am one who needs to resolve the conflict; I don’t like it to linger.

Jessica: —same.

Ann: Yes; so I say to him, “Hey, let’s just talk a little bit before you go into the school.” He won’t look at me; he won’t talk to me. I pull up to the school, and say, “Don’t get out of the car until we, at least, just acknowledge one another.”

Jessica: Yes.

Ann: You get it? I can see you could be like this.

Jessica: Oh, 100 percent!

Ann: Yes; so he looks at me, with this look of disgust; he opens the door, and walks into the school. Now, I’m like, “What!? What have you done?!You can’t do this! You know this!”

Jessica: Right.

Ann: Finally, I’m at the end of my rope, and I say, “God, I have no idea; I need your wisdom. Your Spirit lives within me; give me something.”

Jessica: Yes.

Ann: And God gave me this picture in my head. I went home—I took a piece of paper; I drew a stick figure of a guy, and a girl, and this brick in between us—and I put it on his desk so he could see it when he gets home from school. He goes upstairs after school; he sees it; brings it down. He’s laughing, like, “Mom, is this your attempt at artistry?” [Laughter] I’m like, “Well, actually, that is kind of what happened to us today. That’s me; that’s you—and that brick—that’s the fight we had. And he goes, “Mom, I’m not even mad about that anymore.” I said, “I’m not either, but it doesn’t mean our conflict is resolved.”

Jessica: Right.

Ann: I told him, “CJ, I see parents and their kids—I see husbands and their wives—all over the country have a fight; they don’t talk about it. And they build a brick.” Then, I had this whole line of bricks between us. I said, “I don’t want to have any bricks between us.

Jessica: Right.

Ann: “I want to be able to talk through [the situation]. And when you get married, it’s important that you learn how to get rid of the bricks.”

Jessica: Yes; and I think, too, even in those moments, where we feel like, “I’m going to go to God,”—and then you just still feel at a loss—I think, sometimes, it might be good for our souls to sit in the discomfort of not being able to fix it; because it makes us a humble people, and it makes us more reliant on who Jesus is for us. That changes how we react in relationship; because if I think I can fix everything, you’d better believe I’m going to try.

Ann: Yes; me too.

Dave: Is the fruit of the Spirit, for the Christian—is it almost like, if you’re not living these—I mean, like it’s obvious, maybe not to you/but probably even to you—but definitely to others, because it’s all about relationships—and people are seeing, “Hey, man, there’s no joy in your life; there’s no kindness; it’s always the opposite.” Is it almost like a flashing light on your dashboard?

Jessica: Yes, your “Check engine”; yes.

Dave: It’s almost like, “Hey, dude, the fruit of the Spirit are markers that you’re in Christ; and you’re not there.” Is it something we should look at?

Jessica: For sure! I mean, if you are living your life—and let me just make this caveat, because there is mental illness—and so for me to say,” If you’re not always a joyful person, there’s something wrong with you.” I think we need to be careful a little bit here to acknowledge that, and to say, that there are circumstances and situations that are feeling seemingly impossible; so I want to make that caveat.

But at the same time, I want to say, “Yes”; if, generally speaking, you look at your life, and you don’t see any of the fruit of the Spirit. Then I think it would be a good thing, and a right thing, for you to stop and wonder: “Have I experienced God’s goodness? Do I understand the gospel? Do I understand the good news that I’m loved, and forgiven, and adopted, and accepted?” Because, if you don’t understand those things, then it would be very difficult for you to have any of those good things in your life.

Dave: Two thoughts came to me when you said that: number one is, “It’s easy for us to see that our spouse, or someone else, doesn’t have the fruit of the Spirit.”

Jessica:very easy!

Dave: You know what that means? You don’t have it—if all you’re doing is judging others: “They don’t have it,”—you don’t have it.

Jessica: That’s right.

Dave: But the other thought is: “It made me think of when our tongue is not saying what we want.” Whether we’re cursing, or gossiping, or slandering, or just cutting people [down],—

Ann: —or malicious.

Dave: —you don’t go do what my mom did to me when I was 13—you don’t get a bar of soap and say, “I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap,” after I cursed at the dinner table. [Laughter] I remember thinking, “Well, that didn’t work.”

She always threatened that she was going to do it; she finally did it. Guess what?—it didn’t change my tongue.

Jessica: No.

Dave: And Jesus said, “The tongue’s an overflow of your heart.”

Jessica: You were just thinking all the curse words then; you just didn’t say them. [Laughter]

Dave: Exactly! [Laughter] The only way you’re going to change your mouth is [to know] it’s a heart problem.

Jessica: Right.

Dave: You’re saying the same thing about the fruit—it isn’t: “I’ve got to get more love,”—it’s like, “Guess what?—you’ve got to go back to the root, which is, ‘Do I know Jesus?’”

Jessica: Right.

Dave: Because it’s His heart! And if I really am in Him, and allowing His power in me, it’s going to be a natural result. That’s what fruit is; right?

Jessica: Right! Absolutely.

Ann: Well, I think one of the things that was discouraging to me, as a young mom, was I wasn’t displaying any of it.

Jessica: Yes.

Ann: I was tired;I was grumpy. I mean, if you look at the fruit of the Spirit in

Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace”—listen to this one—“patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” I was a disaster! And part of it was just because of the stage of life.

Jessica: Right.

Ann: Part of it was I was frustrated in my marriage, and I was taking it out on my kids.

Jessica: Yes.

Ann: So Jessica, how do we apply that?

Jessica: I mean, I think the answer would be the same for a mom or a parent, who is trying to do those things, as it would be for a single person, who is listening today. The ability to change does not lie in yourself.

I think that we don’t understand just how patient He is towards us. In Isaiah 40, it talks about—and this is a verse that really carried me when my kids were young—“He carries those with young close to His heart”; I think it’s verse 11. He knows we’re dust. He understands our frame; He knows our weaknesses; and yet, the Bible tells us, in Hebrews, that “He sympathizes with us in our weaknesses.”

The help that you need isn’t going to come from looking at yourself and thinking, “Oh, I am such a mess!”—you’re just going to feel more condemnation. The power to change is going to come from looking at a God, who says, “Oh, sweetie, I know you’re in a hard season. I know that you have been spit up on, and peed and pooped on; I know that you have been mistreated or abused. Yet, I am for you; and I love you.”

Knowing He looks at us, even in the middle of our weaknesses, and the Bible says, “sympathizes with us,” oh, that’s the beauty to change! That’s the help we need! Spurgeon talks about that verse in Hebrews [and says] that “sympathizes” is where, if you have two grand pianos in a room, and you hit a key on one grand piano, that same string on the other grand piano vibrates. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but Spurgeon says it. [Laughter]

But the idea, though—and what he’s trying to get at is—when something hits you, Jesus feels it. So for the one, who’s been looked over for a promotion; or the one, who’s been abused; or for the mom or dad, who feels like they’re at the end of their rope with their kids, and they don’t have one single moment alone: He feels it with you; He sympathizes with you. When you remember that, you won’t fall into that self-condemnation; right?

Condemnation doesn’t change us—love changes us—the Holy Spirit uses that love to change us. So for that person, I would just say, “Look at Him!”—even if it’s just a split second—“Lord, help me not to be angry. Help me to be gentle,” or “Lord, give me one look at Your gentleness; give me one look at Your love,” He’s faithful to do that for you.

Ann: And I think it’s that—learning to pray, all day long—to be in that spirit of prayer. I remember, when our kids were little, I would just pray out loud so that they would see that it’s not just church [when we pray]; this is a relationship: “Mom’s constantly talking to Jesus.”

Jessica: Yes; “Why does mom always say, ‘God, help me!’?” [Laughter]

Ann: One of the things in your book, as you go through the fruit of the Spirit—and I love all the Scripture—but a beautiful part of it, too, is you talked about joy of being “rejoiced over.” Let’s talk about that a little bit.

Jessica: Yes, so let me read you this verse from Isaiah 62:4-5; it says this: “No longer will they call you deserted or name your land desolate, but you will be called ‘Hephzibah,’and your land ‘Beulah,’ for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you. As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”

I’ll get to the verse in a second—but my grandmother on my father’s side, we call her “Candy Grandma,” because she always had candy with her; she always wanted to have a party—if I ever took my kids over to her house, I would try to go in between meals, because I didn’t want her to make us a meal; but inevitably, we’d end up having second lunch, or early dinner, or whatever. She always—we’d walk into her house—and she would say, “It’s time for a party.” She would just scrounge around, and find whatever, and put it on the table. She was the kind of woman, who said hot dogs were her favorite fruit. [Laughter]

Okay, so that should give you a really good glimpse as to who she is. She also is the kind of woman, who would make up words, and use them constantly. Now, she used the word, “hootsie kadoodle,” as a way of exclamation. So something good would happen: “Hootsie kadoodle!” This is the kind of woman she is; you’re getting a picture of who Candy Grandma is.

Candy Grandma also called me, as I was growing up, “Hephzibah.” I had no idea what it meant.

Ann: And she never told you?

Jessica: —never told me. I just thought it was one of her weird words. My name is Jessica, so it sort of sounds like it. I was just like, “Oh, Grandma is just being Grandma.” So every time I would come into a room, she would be like, “Oh, Hephzibah, come over here!”

I remember one day, I came across these verses; I was reading them in my Bible. I saw that word in there: hephzibah. I was like, “Wait! What? Grandma didn’t make this word up?!” And I looked, and there was a little number by it. I went down to the bottom of the page, and it said, “My delight is in her.” What she was saying about me every time I walked into a room was: “My delight is in you.” She had all sons. I was the first granddaughter to be born; right? She really wanted a girl; so every time she saw me, she rejoiced over me. That was just who she was.

Ann: Ah! I could cry; that’s the sweetest thing.

Jessica: It is! And not everybody has the wonderful privilege to have a grandmother like that; she was a wonderful grandmother. But we all do have the privilege of having a God, who’s like that—because He says right here—she was taking from His Word. I mean, she was in her 50s; she moved to Texas. We live in California; she moved to Texas to learn how to speak Spanish so that she could go across the border and talk about Jesus to people, who lived in Tijuana. This is the kind of woman [she was]: just loved Jesus; loved the Word.

For her to take this word, and say, “My delight is in you,”—really, what that was—was this shadow of a greater love that God Himself—He says it about you guys and everyone listening: “My delight is in you; I rejoice over you”—those last words—“rejoice over you with singing.” Right now, we’re being rejoiced over with singing; because we’re hidden in the beautiful, glorious work of Jesus Christ, who lived that perfect life—always displaying all the fruit of the Spirit, all the time—and then taking our penalty for the times we don’t display the fruit of the Spirit. He looks at us and says, “I delight in you.” That’s a word we need to hear; —

Dave: Oh, yes!

Jessica: —because how often do we think God is—

Dave: We think He’s disappointed in us;—

Jessica: Oh, we think: “He’s disappointed,” or “…angry!”

Dave: —we let Him down.

Jessica: Yes, over and over.

Ann: I can’t tell you the number of years that I spent—

Dave: —decades.

Ann: —decades probably—my self-talk was: “You’re nothing,” “You’re failing,” “You’re not a good mom,” “You’re a terrible wife.” It was just over and over,of hearing that.

I’m going to tell you: “If you’re listening to those lies, those are from the pit of hell.

Jessica: That’s right.

Ann: “There’s only one person who speaks that over you; and that is, Satan. It’s not God!

Jessica: Right.

Ann: “Because He—listen to that—He rejoices over you.”

Jessica: Right.

Ann: And even if you have to take that Scripture in Isaiah 62—and you put it by your sink, or by your mirror, or in your car—just say that, like: “He rejoices over me!”

Jessica: When you guys hear that, what does that do in your heart?—it gives you joy; right?

Dave: Oh, yes!

Ann: Yes!

Jessica: So that’s what I’m trying—

Ann: It makes me worship, too: “How could You love me? And yet, You do.”

Jessica: Yes; these verses are so beautiful. It talks about: “…as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride”—you think about that moment, when that bridegroom is watching his bride walk down the aisle—that smile; right?—if he’s a good man, and he loves her. All the emotion that’s wrapped up in that moment: that’s how your God looks at you.

Ann: Ah!

Jessica: It’s just overwhelming.

Dave: One thing I thought, when you were saying that is: “We long that our kids would feel that from us, as their parents,”—

Ann: Yes.

Jessica: Yes.

Dave: —that they wouldn’t feel: “Oh, they’re disappointed,”—“No; they are delighted! Even in my failing, they sing over me.”

Jessica: Right.

Dave: That would bring a son or daughter home.

Jessica: Right.

Ann: And we can love our kids like that through the way our heavenly Father loves us.

Jessica: Right; so if your identity is not wrapped up in—“I have to have good kids so that I can think of myself as a good parent,”—if your identity is, instead—“I am loved and delighted in,” then we can share that with our kids!

But if we think God is demanding, then we will be demanding with our children. If we think God is disappointed, we will act disappointed with our children. But if we believe the truth, that He is, right now, rejoicing over us, and loves us—oh, man—we can share that with our kids. We can share that freedom with our kids; and that, honestly, is such a beautiful piece of this. It changes, not only our relationship with God, but our relationship with others.

Shelby: Wow! Talk about all-encompassing. You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jessica Thompson on FamilyLife Today. Hey, stick around; Ann’s got some words of encouragement for us before we’re done.

But first, every gift gives [us] the power to help someone else pursue the relationships that matter most. So thank you so much for empowering others to pursue those relationships and see the world change. It’s only with generous partners, like you, that we are able to bring these kinds of conversations with people, like Jessica Thompson, to life.

When you do partner with us, we’d love to send you a copy of How God Loves Us: 40 Days to Discovering His Character in the Fruit of the Spirit. Jessica’s book is our “Thanks,” to you when you partner, financially, today with us. You can give, online, at or by calling 800-358-6329; that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

You know, I have the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, here with me. We’ve got a lot going on with the Weekend to Remember®; right?

David: Yes, as we start this month, we have 17 Weekend to Remember getaways FamilyLife is hosting all over the country this month. Plus, there are some in December also. Meg and I are going to Saratoga Springs to speak at the Saratoga Springs Weekend to Remember. We are all over every time zone.

We would love for you to go to; check it out. We tell you, all the time, about the life-change that happens. They have been a blessing to Meg and me, personally. We love speaking at them, and we also love going ourselves. Every time we go, we’re in a different season of life; and God meets us in a unique way.

I would just say, “If the holiday season that’s ahead of us often drifts apart in your relationship, and in your marriage, go check out the Weekend to Remember dates out there; mark out time that will bring you closer together as you navigate these two months ahead.

Shelby: Yes, you can find the locations and dates for multiple Weekend to Remember events happening all over the country. Just head to and find the Weekend to Remember link at the bottom of the page.

Okay, here’s Ann with some more encouraging words.

Ann: If you have kids—or maybe just friends, or someone who’s close; maybe it’s a neighbor—to be able to look at them to rejoice over them/to say words that bring life and a smile to their face. Maybe they can’t hear God right now—but they can hear you—and you’re loving them, through the Father, and through the Holy Spirit.

Shelby: Tomorrow on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson are joined by Ron Deal from FamilyLife Blended® to talk through an interview he did with Mary Jeppsen about how the chaos within co-parenting is actually harming your child. That’s tomorrow; we hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife, a Cru® Ministry.

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