Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
Frustrations mounting, sweat-dripping, and steam coming out of my ears like a raging bull, I have again found myself at the end of my rope. What has me all bent out of shape, you might ask? Love life gone wrong? Nope. Problems at home? Nuh-uh. Money problems? Some days, but not currently. Then what?
Love bears all things. Love is patient. Patience is the ability or willingness to bear things. What kind of things do we have bear? We bear lots of things, like hardships, temptations, wrongs done against, suffering, trials, physical or financial problems, and many other things.
Would you (or do you) consider yourself to be a patient person? Do you always maintain a calm demeanor, think positively, and take a deep breath instead of lashing out with unkind words? With everyone? Or are you family and close friends excluded from the everyone category and patience is just reserved for acquaintances and strangers (people who haven’t seen your ugly)? I didn’t think so.
We all struggle with patience and the stresses of life can be cumulative so that the “last straw” can be something minor when you line it up with every other sin.
Patience is one of those attributes that you cannot learn by reading about it. It’s a quality that can only be acquired by persistent, enduring, practice– and for me it’s a drill that I go over, and over, and over again!
The original Webster’s dictionary offers this definition of patience: “the suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness, from a kind of heroic pride, or from a Christian submission to the divine will.”
Reading this definition, two things really struck me – first, “endurance without murmuring”. I, for instance, get so frustrated sitting in a traffic jam… counting the wasted minutes when I could have been doing something useful! Yet, what an opportunity for me to choose to quench the inner fumes – and use the delay to work on my patience!
For most of us, the instinctive way to act is to be quick to give our thoughts on something. This logically means that we’re not putting listening first. When we put ourselves before others by not listening, we’re devaluing them and in turn the relationship. True love waits. Sometimes this means listening first.
Or, more often maybe, that means putting up with something for the sake of our relationships. When someone does something that rattles us, how we react makes the difference in whether or not we’re acting in love. Quick, sharp words are most often hurtful. Loving, thought-out words spoken with patience will do more than win an argument. They’ll show the other person that we value them and care about how we make them feel.
The second thing that really hit me was, “a Christian submission to the divine will.” How many times are we placed in a difficult position, or forced to deal with an “impossible” situation? Or perhaps, an “impossible” person? These circumstances are always opportunities to grow in patience – or to learn to submit to God’s providential will, and often, to minister in some special or unique way.
My mother recently lent me The Love Dare, which starts with a challenge to patience, reads: “Few of us do patience very well, and none of us do it naturally. But wise men and women will pursue it as an essential ingredient to [many of their] relationships. That’s a good starting point to demonstrate love.” (pg. 3)
It continues: “Anger is usually caused when the strong desire for something is mixed with disappointment or grief. You don’t get what you want and you start heating up inside. It is often an emotional reaction that flows out of our own selfishness, foolishness, or evil motives. Patience, however, makes us wise. It doesn’t rush to judgment but listens to what the other person is saying. . . .As sure as a lack of patience will turn your home into a war zone, the practice of patience will foster peace and quiet. . . . Patience is where love meets wisdom. . . . Patience helps you give your spouse permission to be human. . . . It gives you the ability to hold on during the tough times in your relationship rather than bailing out under the pressure.”
We all agree that life is full of challenges, but we need to understand, grasp and live out the fact that patience is one of those things that we need to put into practice from the get-go.
Think about this: God’s love for us. Even though we have sinned and fall short of His glory, He is so patient with us (Exodus 24:6). Instead of losing patience, He sent His Son to die for us because He loved us so; He made that sacrifice: gave Himself for the world (John 3:16). God loves us even though we are sinners (Romans 5:8). His supply of patience is rich and unlimited (Romans 9:22, Galatians 5:22. 1 Timothy 1:16).
We see this evident in the life of Jesus. Even among His own disciples, how He endured their blindness, their misconceptions and hardness of heart! Philip had been for three years with Him, yet he had “not known Him!”—all that time he had remained in strange and culpable ignorance of his Lord’s dignity and glory. See how tenderly Jesus bears with him—giving him nothing in reply for his confession of ignorance but unparalleled promises of grace!
Peter, the honored and trusted, becomes a renegade and a coward. Justly might his dishonored Lord, stung with such unrequited love, have cut the unworthy cumberer down. But He spares him, bears with him, gently rebukes him, and loves him more than ever!
See the Divine Sufferer in the terminating scenes of His own ignominy and woe. How patient!”As a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” In these dreadful moments, outraged Omnipotence might have summoned twelve legions of angels and put into the hand of each a vial of wrath. But He submits in meek, majestic silence. Verily, in Him “patience had her perfect work!”
Isn’t it stunning when you realize that God would have the patience to wait millenia before sending Jesus to continue the work He began at Creation? And how Jesus endured with His followers?
Here is today’s dare: In email, phone, or letter—do not say or write anything critical or negative. Even if you are on the receiving end of a verbal attack, choose to be quiet.
Easier said than done, right? That’s true for me. I work in an environment where it’s easy to be negative with the influx of negativity we have coming in. It’s hard to be patient in the midst of rudeness and inconsiderate behavior (from the other person on the line). And it’s hard to not want to give the caller who seemed to think she knew your job better than you did a piece of your mind. Patience is not easy.
That’s the challenge of it. If only for one day you can choose to demonstrate patience in your communications, I believe that God will reward that act of obedience.
Scriptures to encourage you:
- A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. Proverbs 14:29
- A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18
- Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
- Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14
- So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books. 2 Peter 1:5-9 MSG
- And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. Hebrews 6:15 NASB
Is your patience being tested today? Great! Remember, love is (first of all) patient. The Lord is training you toward godliness –- and godliness is moving toward perfect love. With so much work to be done, He is really wanting to work this quality into your character now -– to perfect your love, and with it to transform the world around you for His glory!
Kendrick, Stephen and Alex, The Love Dare (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2008)