We’ve all heard the expression “patience is a virtue” – usually when we’re frustrated that something is taking too long, someone blurts it out! We live in an age where we can have anything we want almost instantly – think microwaves, internet searches, online shopping, and meal deliveries. We’ve become conditioned to needing things faster, and when we’re forced to wait, we lose patience. You won’t find “patience is a virtue” in the Bible, yet possessing the virtue of patience is a necessity for followers of God.
The world’s definition of patience is “a person’s ability to wait something out or endure something tedious, without getting riled up.” (Source: vocabulary.com) Having patience means you can remain calm, even when you’ve been waiting forever or dealing with something painstakingly slow. Yet, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines patience as “God-given restraint in the face of opposition or oppression.” Patience is only needed when there’s a reason to not wait. It’s only necessary in the face of opposition. Patience isn’t just endurance. We’re not exercising this restraint in our own strength. In truth, our only responsibility is to trust that God will provide the strength to hold on, and then act according to our faith in that promise.
Let’s look at 4 areas in life where patience may be in short supply yet needed the most. Although we’re looking at each area independently, they’re dependent upon and interrelated to each other.
Patience with Family
Try this quick exercise: list as many pairs of opposites as you can (strong and weak; bad and good; kind and mean … ). I’m fascinated by how God sometimes fills families with opposite personalities; within our family dynamics we live in this tension of likes and dislikes, love and sometimes hate. Is it possible that God in His creativity provides us an environment within our own family where we have to learn and practice patience? 1 Corinthians 13:4 (ESV) starts with, “Love is patient and kind …” Did you catch the first word to describe love – patience? Is there someone in your family you need to show more patience? Patience with family members is love.
Patience with Others
We often lose patience with others when they won’t do the things we want them to do, or when they do them differently than we would. Our impatience stems from unmet expectations of how we want things to be; when things doesn’t happen our way, we get impatient with the people around us.
Clarify the Want + Acceptance + Compassion = Patience with Others
This formula may be a helpful step to changing our mindset when dealing with others. Patience with another person means we don’t let our emotions get away on us when they do something we don’t like. It also means accepting, understanding, and respecting that they can live their life any way they want, and we don’t have any control over it. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 continues “… love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” Patience with others is respect.
Patience with Self
We’ve all been frustrated with ourselves … whether it’s with our relationship skills, life accomplishments, personal development, or shortcomings. Those of us who don’t have patience for ourselves are constantly self-criticizing and disappointed. How can we best honour God when we feel this way? To be patient with ourselves, we need to learn to draw our attention away from the critical ways we see ourselves. Instead, let’s focus on our God-given gifts and abilities, and work towards self-development through the transformative help of Jesus. Yes, sometimes life is hard and our situations can seem unfair; yet with confidence we can read:
“By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us – set us right with Him, make us fit for Him – we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that He has already thrown open His door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand – out in the wide-open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 5:2-4 MSG)
Patience with self is confidence – because of Christ.
Patience with God
When we bring our concerns to the Lord again and again, we can grow tired of waiting and can begin to feel like our prayers aren’t being heard or considered. Often our desire to take control and just “do the best we can” on our own becomes our human reaction to God’s silence. Yet, Galatians 5:22 lists patience as a fruit of the Holy Spirit – which means we can ask the Spirit to fill us, empower us, and direct us, even as we continue to wait on the Lord! But, this doesn’t mean circumstances will immediately change. You may still be sick, or your marriage may continue to struggle, and all the hopes you’ve held onto for years may seem to fade with increasing speed. Having prayed fervently too many times to count about whatever issue you’re facing, it’s easy to feel patience depleting. In those moments, be reminded of the nature of patience, and allow this to be an encouragement to you as you continue to wait.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:22-25 ESV)
You’re not alone … all of creation knows what it’s like to wait on the Lord. Consider some of the people in the Bible who waited before us:
- Noah and his family had to wait inside the ark for 40 days before the rain stopped.
- Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years after God told them they would have a child.
- The Israelites – due to their own issues, mind you – had to wait 40 years to enter the Promised Land.
Yet, in each case, God’s promise was fulfilled. There’s plenty of encouragement in the Bible concerning a need for patience and examples of people who excelled in it. Patience is developed through difficulties and troubles. When we lack understanding, it’s hard to accept God’s way. God’s providence towards you and me is such that we must trust God, hang onto His Word, and wait upon Him. Patience with God is faith.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4 NKJV)
To honour God, we have to learn to accept and understand what we can’t control. How do you develop patience with your family, with others, with yourself, and with God? Share your tips with me.
Ron Buschman, Couples’ Ministry Director, First Alliance Church
Email / 403-252-7572 (ext. 229)
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