Patience…Do You Have It?

Patience is a virtue! Patience is what gives us peace! Patience says God you take control, and I will trust you in the meantime…It is a great feeling to practice patience; not only when we want something, but in ALL THINGS! But what is patience to you though? How do you define patience?

As for me, I define patience as:

‘Patience is not about how long you can wait. It is how well you behave while you wait’.

So in other words, it is about the way you behave in your day-to-day lives whilst waiting on God. When you want more of God, your heart will automatically be connected to Him and not on earthly things. For it says in Luke 21 verse 34: “But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to the business of] this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose”.

The cause of being ‘overburdened’ comes from impatience. There have been certain times in my life where I was impatient for things. Sometimes it would make me over think things, and re-prioritize my decisions. It can be difficult when you desire something, but in your heart you are convinced that you have to wait. In the meantime, let us look at four points as to why patience is vital for our everyday lives:

1) Why Patience is a Virtue

To be patient is to endure without discomfort without complaint. This calls into play some other virtues, in particular; self-control, humility, and generosity. That is, patience is not a fundamental virtue so much as a complex of other virtues. An example from the life of Christ illustrates this. Jesus was very patient with his disciples. Not only with His disciples, but people who were around Him. Those that were trouble makers such as the Pharisees and Levites, those that would try to manipulate Him, those who would disobey Him. They were sometimes thick-headed, lazy, selfish, and slow to believe. Even from a merely human standpoint, we can see how frustrating Jesus must have been but He still had to HUMBLE himself despite all the pain and wait for God to show His justice. In spite of Jesus’ miracles and words of wisdom, they were focused upon themselves and wavered in their belief about who He really was. To say that was uncomfortable for Jesus would be an understatement. Yet do we find him railing at his Disciples, Pharisees or Levites over their foolishness and stupidity? Or making fun of them when they make mistakes? No, but what He did realise is due to their lack of belief, Jesus developed patience for them all and allowed them to learn from their unbelief. This is what we also should be practicing in our lives. When a friend or family member offends you, how will you take it? We should make conscious decisions to think about what we say before it comes out of our mouths, because not everybody’s learning ability aren’t the same. This is why patience is a virtue, and is good to practice waiting in love.

2) The Varieties of Patience

One way to distinguish different types of patience is based upon the nature of the discomfort involved. The following threefold distinction can be made:

– The first is the patience needed when facing a nuisance of some kind. A person or a set of circumstances may really irritate you, and you would love to complain about it, but you hold your tongue, knowing that such a grievance would be petty or make the situation worse. That person at the office who is annoying does not mean to pester you, and what good will it do to moan about the situation? Do you think speaking to someone else about the situation will make it all better? So you quietly endure these things. When you do this, you are being virtuous!

– The second type of patience is called for when facing boredom. Those who fall into situations at work or at home often experience discomfort in various ways. What do you do when facing boredom? My answer would be to seek God even more. Pour out your heart to Him, and in the meantime, brush up on your Word. Keep yourselves productive; don’t be idle.

– The third type of patience is the most serious and significant. It is the patience required when one suffers in some way, either physically, mentally or psychologically. If you’re struggling with pain, depression or mental illness, then patience is required of you. Or if you must assist someone else who suffers, a family member or friend, then you are called upon to be patient. Whether you bear the burden of affliction directly or indirectly, your challenge is to endure that discomfort. This does not mean you shouldn’t cry out in your distress unless its to God of course. Scripture advises us to do just that, so it’s appropriate because the degree of discomfort in some situations warrants a complaint. Yes at times, we are tempted to vent and complain, but this raises some important questions: Why complain and which complaints are worth discussing?

3) Why Patience is so Difficult

From a personal standpoint, I don’t know which is more difficult—exercising patience with God or human beings. Both can be tremendous challenges, and none of us have perfected the art of being patient with each other or with God, because if we truly did, we would not be complaining up till now. I become impatient with myself (a potential third category worth considering) because I struggle in being patient with other people and with God, and it is true. When I want something now, God tells me ‘in my time’. I tend to feel very uncomfortable, but as it says in Jeremiah 29 v 11 that His thoughts and plans for us are of good and not of evil, to give us a future, a hope and an expected end’.

But patience is difficult in both cases. First, why is patience with other people so difficult? A natural response is, “All human beings are sinners and therefore selfish and annoying.” But a psychological explanation also helps to explain why patience is so challenging which is the natural human condition of being immediately aware only of one’s own thoughts and feelings. When standing in line or waiting in traffic, for example, all the people who are waiting are equally as important to get what they wait for to arrive at their destinations. I know, however, only my own thoughts and am intimately aware of only my own needs, which naturally incline me to put myself first. The result is frustration that I’m not first, and this strongly tempts me to be impatient.

4) How Patience is Developed

Pain and suffering teaches us endurance and empathy. The experience of mercy and forgiveness inclines us to be more merciful and forgiving. We gain moral maturity each day precisely because each day brings some difficulty that we must overcome whether it is laziness, attitude problems, low-self esteem etc. Like it or not, we persevere, and we are morally the better for it. This is why James in the Bible tells us to “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4)That family member or work associate who annoys you is God’s gift to you to build your patience. If you’re stuck with a job you don’t like, and you can’t find any other work, then God is building your patience. Each nuisance, long wait, and affliction, traffic jam, missed bus, and body ache in the life of the Christian raises threshold of tolerance extremely. It is what can make you a more patient person. When we desire something, and we do not receive it instantly, it does test our patience, but also our FAITH! How much do we want something? Are we willing to wait? Just because you see someone get married, does that mean you too should rush into getting married? It is not always easy to wait, but when we do, we develop patience, and we also allow God to have His way in our lives to work us inwardly.

So patience is a virtue, a difficult but important one for every one of us. While every day our patience is tested and increased, we must be mindful of the process of sanctification and how God is at work in our difficulties, even in tiny annoyances, to make us more like Jesus. But as Peter says, we must “prepare [our] minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13). We must be intentional about increasing our patience, perhaps even by using mental exercises, but definitely by practicing the spiritual disciplines. Let us focus ever more clearly on the example of Christ in order to imitate Him in all things, large and small. Will you wait?