I’ve been thinking a lot about patience as of late . . . as in how I need more of it. It seems like the longer the coronavirus pandemic goes on, the more impatient I become. Just ask Laura.
I decided to go back to Scripture and learn more about the virtue of patience. I need a fresh dose of the Spirit bearing fruit in my life, of which the fourth characteristic is patience. Maybe you do as well.
So, here goes. Patience is our English translation for the New Testament word, makrothymia, also translated as “endurance, forbearance, long-suffering, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance.” Used fourteen times in the New Testament, it primarily brings encouragement to Christ-followers not to give up hope but to bear up in times of trouble.
We are told to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12, ESV). “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains” (James 5:7, ESV). “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25, ESV).
We want it. We need it. But how do we get it . . . patience that is? There are a number of “techniques” taught through varying religious and philosophical world views. Empty your mind (Buddhism). Think positive (Quimby to Schuller). Do what works (American Pragmatism). Party like it’s 1999 (Prince, et al.).
All of these approaches are left found wanting, however, because they don’t get at the core issue. Whether we try to numb our impatience (Prince and forms of Eastern religion), or we try to fight through our impatience by being positive, busy, and successful (Ecclesiastes and forms of Western ideologies), we are trying to find answers within, and what is inside us doesn’t fix us. We either try to empty ourselves or fill ourselves with things to mask our brokenness, but what we ultimately need is something or someone to our brokenness.
O, and by the way, His name is Jesus.
Impatience is our response to circumstances whirling around us. Patience is the Spirit’s response to those same circumstances. He indwells us and produces His fruit within us (Galatians 5:22), so that perseverance will finish its work within us leading to maturity and wholeness where we lack nothing (James 1:4).
This point cannot be overstated. I cannot make myself patient. As long as I try, I actually become more impatient with my lack of patience. I can, however, turn to Jesus who gives me His Spirit who produces patience within me.
So, what’s the key? I have to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). I exercise my faith. I stay connected. I work out what God has worked in (Philippians 2:12). The struggle to gain patience is not fought alone. “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:29, NIV).
Do you want to be a more patient person? Then be a more Spirit-filled person by daily walking with Christ.