6 Ways We Can Grieve the Holy Spirit

When we, as parents, give instructions to our own children and they do not obey, we don’t throw them out of the family. But our hearts suffer because we see that when they rebel, they are hurting themselves and sowing seeds that will reap destructive consequences later.

How much more does our heavenly Father want what is best for us? This is why the Scripture says he is jealous over us (Nahum 1:2). He doesn’t want the enemy of our souls to get his talons into us with deception and evil works.

We know we are forgiven by the blood of Christ. All our sins have been washed away and when we accept that gift, we become part of the family of God (Romans 10:9). Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Being born again doesn’t mean we won’t still commit sin. But because we are members of heaven’s family, it distresses the Lord when we do not follow His commands.

Paul’s instructions to the church in Ephesus told them not to grieve the Holy Spirit.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30 NIV)

What are some ways we can cause this type of distress?

1. Negative Speech

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

Constant complaining thrived in the camps of the Israelites in the wilderness. Nothing satisfied them. Instead of focusing on the Lord who rescued them from slavery and the provision He gave in a land where nothing existed, they found something wrong with everything.

They accused Moses, doubted God’s Word, and wanted to return to the land of Egypt.

This tested the Almighty to the point that those who rebelled were kept out of the promised land. Their hearts became so hardened that this group of people were never going to hear Him (Hebrews 3:7-11).

The same heartbreaking attitude can be reflected in our words if we don’t keep a watch over our mouths.

 2. Uncontrolled Emotions

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV)

All these words sound like the same emotion, but they are different in subtle ways.

Bitterness is akin to hatred. It is a root that produces bitter fruit or extreme wickedness. If this root stays planted, the branches of other evil actions can grow.

Wrath is indignation that can rise gradually and then subside. These are feelings that come and go due to thoughts and exposure to the actions of others.

Anger rises when we abhor injustice. This feeling can be used righteously as in Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. But we must guard ourselves that we don’t use anger in a vengeful way when we feel that we have personally been wronged (Ephesians 4:26).

Clamor is a deep crying or wail in distress, like self-pity. Malice is the destruction of a person’s character through slander or to blaspheme and give no respect to God.

The Israelites committed all of these against Moses and their leaders and especially to Jehovah. They wailed in distress at their perception of lack despite the provision given to them.

We can all be guilty of these emotions at times, and we know how destructive they can be to our lives. The Holy Spirit aches when we conduct ourselves this way because we are only hurting our own souls. A constant lifestyle of wrath can harden our hearts.

 3. Lying

Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25 NIV)

It’s hard to admit that we, as Christians, sometimes tell a fib. We may think we don’t fall under this category, but we can find ourselves not telling the whole truth at times. And a little bit of falsehood is still a lie. False flattery is one way we lie to each other. We don’t want to offend our brothers and sisters, but we also shouldn’t say something we don’t mean.

What about gossip? Words disguised as prayer requests or stories spread as attempts at aid can still be classified as lying. Repeating stories and rumors about another person can harm their character and hurt our own image. The more they are repeated, the details can grow skewed. Why would trust be granted toward someone whose false words can penetrate like a sword?

When Paul wrote this letter to the church at Ephesus, he was writing to people who had come out of a heathenistic lifestyle. What they did before they knew Christ was normal to them, and some of those bad habits transferred with them.

The mindset of the Greek scholars at that time was that it was more profitable to lie than tell the truth. This thought process didn’t die out but has also carried over into our modern society.

We are members of one another, the same family (1 Corinthians 12:26). When one hurts, we all hurt, so why would we want to damage each other with untruths?

4. Falling for Deception

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 5:6)

The troublemakers of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram came against Moses and tried to usurp his authority (Numbers 16:1-3). In Exodus 32 the people were deceived into building a golden image. They trusted in their own assumptions that Moses wasn’t coming back from the top of Mount Sinai.

Jesus warned about wolves in sheep’s clothing coming in with false words (Matthew 7:15). The Galatians swallowed the lie that they also needed to obey the Law of Moses along with belief in Christ to be saved (Galatians 5:4).

We can only stay on course by knowing the truth and not listening to anything that contradicts what the Bible says. We do this by grounding ourselves in the Word (Romans 12:1-12).

The Holy Spirit is grieved when we believe anything other than truth. The result of listening to false doctrine can draw us away from Him and into sinful actions.

5. Stealing

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)

Robbery is not part of the lifestyle of Christians. We don’t hold up banks or stores and ride off into the sunset with the loot. But the size or value of an item is not what determines theft. Even if we didn’t intentionally take money or products, keeping incorrect change, or not returning an item a clerk mistakenly places in our bag is defrauding the store.

People can also steal by cheating on taxes or falsifying business documents. These could also fall under the category of lying.

According to Adam Clarke’s commentary, the rabbis condoned stealing if part of what was taken was given to the poor. Some members of that party committed the acts themselves. But a Robin Hood attitude about taking from another person is not acceptable and God considers it theft.

Human nature is the same now as it was in biblical days. We may think it’s no big deal. These are small indiscretions, and these behaviors may seem insignificant. But they do matter. God sees all, and He is saddened when we don’t reflect His character.

6. Drunkenness

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)

The debate about Christians drinking alcohol will probably continue until Jesus comes back. But the Scripture is clear about drunkenness. This is another problem Paul addressed in several places due to the background the new Christians converted from.

He had to warn the Corinthians about drunkenness because they were misusing the communion table (2 Corinthians 11:21).

In Romans chapter 14, Paul addressed disputes over food. He used this as an example of the law of liberty. While all food could be sanctified by the Lord, a person weak in their faith could fall seeing one of the believers eating food they considered unclean.

The same principle can apply to alcohol. We are not to judge, but we are also told not to be a stumbling block to another person’s faith (Romans 14:13). We should consider how all activities and attitudes we engage in can be interpreted by others.

How Can We Alleviate the Grief We May Cause?

Be imitators of God.

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. (Ephesians 5:1)

Walk in love.

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:2)

Be kind and forgive each other.

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Purify your speech.

Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:19)

Give thanks.

Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20)

Live in the Fruit of the Spirit

We are forgiven for all these soul wanderings, but that doesn’t give us a free pass for committing any fleshly act. Continuing to walk in the fruit of the Spirit will keep us sensitive to His voice and will empower us against any temptations. If His fruit is dominant, our lives won’t cause anguish to the One who lives within us.

This season of thankfulness can remind us to keep our priorities aligned. Praising the Lord will put our focus on Him instead of what our human desires demand.

Rather than grieving the Spirit, we can praise and thank Him.

Barbara Latta is a true southerner and is transplanted from Arkansas to Georgia. She writes a monthly column in her local newspaper and contributes to devotional websites, online magazines, and has stories in several anthologies. She is the author of God’s Maps, Stories of Inspiration, and Direction for Motorcycle Riders. She enjoys traveling with her Harley-riding prince on his motorcycle taking in the creativity of nature. Drinking coffee on the patio while the sun comes up is her favorite time of day. Barbara shares about walking in grace and thriving in hope on her blog, Navigating Life’s Curves, at www.barbaralatta.blogspot.com. She cherishes her role in life as a wife, a mom to two grown sons, and Mimi to one granddaughter.