Let’s try a word-association test. I’ll say a word, and you say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready? “Patience.” (What, you don’t want to play anymore?)
Of all the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in us, the prospect of acquiring patience unsettles us the most. How many times, for instance, have we heard—or said—something like this: “Don’t pray for patience, because you just might get it!” Kindness, goodness, and faithfulness? Yes, Lord, make me more like you. Love, joy, and peace? Come and fill me to overflowing. But patience? Please, Lord, not today. I don’t have time for it.
We’re so thankful when others endure us with grace, and we respect them for their forbearance, so what makes this particular virtue so difficult for us to practice? I think it is because patience is the “time element” fruit: it requires us, amid trying circumstances, to relinquish control over a protracted and often indeterminable period of time. An act of kindness may only take a moment, and we love in real-time. Patience, though, means waiting in faith—abiding a difficulty we cannot control and hoping for what we cannot see—for who knows how long?
Patience is a struggle for us, but it is the very nature of God. We see it in the Heavenly Father’s assurance to His Kingly Son, as David reveals: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’”1 We experience it in God’s regard for us, as Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”2
The fact of the matter is, for all it demands of us, patience gives us back much more. So, let’s try our word-association game again . . .
“Patience.” “Rest.” Patience beckons us to rest in God, rather than to churn in doubt.
“Patience.” “Honor.” Patience calls us to honor those we might otherwise belittle.
“Patience.” “Grace.” Patience invites us to “pay forward” the grace God has shown us.
“Patience.” “Contentment.” Patience matures us from situational happiness to unconditional contentment.
“Patience.” “Opportunity.” Patience allows us to repair relationships we have damaged through impatience.
“Patience.” “Enjoyment.” Patience frees us to enjoy the moments we might merely have endured.
“Patience.” “Humility.” In patience, we trust the faithfulness of God and esteem others as our equals.
“Patience.” “Clarity.” In patience, we exchange our agenda of ambiguity for God’s calendar of clarity.
“Patience.” “Faith.” In patience, we overcome the weakness of doubt with the strength of belief.
Father, dare I ask for patience? Yes, though it costs me my will, I choose to trust in your sovereignty, your wisdom, your love, and your faithfulness. Grace me to flourish in the grace and peace I’ll find in patience. In Jesus’ name and the power of your Spirit, I pray. Amen.
Christ in me is humility.
[Read today’s Scripture in Mark 12:35-37.]
1 Mark 12:36
2 2 Peter 3:9