I’ve found that it isn’t a good idea to pray for patience. When I do, God sends me something to help me develop more patience. I’m pretty sure I prayed that prayer in September, 1996 and again in September, 2000. Both of my children were born in April. Of course, I say that jokingly. My kids may be my biggest test of patience, but I can’t imagine my life without them. So, maybe it is a good idea to pray for patience. God will give us just what we need to develop more. However, if you pray for it, be prepared for God to answer your prayer!
What I find as the most ironic part is that I got up this morning, intending to study patience. I got up early so I could have quiet time to myself. Of course, both kids got up 5 minutes after me. (Why is it that they never sleep when I want them to?) Now, as I am trying to read scriptures and figure out what to write, the Goose is testing my patience to the very limit. I’m pretty sure just thinking the word, “Patience,” caused these things to happen. Maybe I should think, “Chocolate,” and see what happens. Wait, watch this….”Clean house!”…… It didn’t work.
I am convinced that patience is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, fruits of the spirit to grow. It is the sopadilla fruit of the spiritual world. The sopadilla plant looks easy enough to grow. It grows slowly and takes five to eight years to bear fruit. Then, just when the farmer thinks his tree is producing fruit, something happens. The plant is extremely sensitive to cold. With just a small dip in temperature, it dies easily. It also molds and mildews easily. Isn’t that the same with our patience? Just when we think we’re finally growing patience, a cold spell comes along and kills it out. Then, our patience mildews, and we find ourselves snapping at our loved ones before we know it!
According to Wikipedia, patience is defined as, “The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” It is suffering discomfort without complaint. What kind of discomfort? Any kind will do.
I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life when I had to practice patience towards God. That sounds terrible, I know, because how could I not be patient with God? He created me. He knows me. He provides for me. Unfortunately, I forget that. I go to Him in prayer, and I give Him suggestions on how to fix the problems in my life. Then, when it isn’t fixed my way and in my time, I get impatient. I have found over and over that God rarely if ever fixes things my way. Usually, my problems are solved in a way that I never even considered possible. I’m pretty sure that’s God’s way of saying, “I’ve got this one. Stop trying to be in control.” Whatever it is, it’s awesome. I love to see how God will work things out. Isaiah 40:31 says, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” When I was young, I understood that verse. I didn’t know why I would need to wait on the Lord. Then, life happened, and I learned.
I struggle sometimes with having patience for God. I’ve gotten better at that as I’ve learned to trust Him. I know He will provide for me and take care of me, so when I find myself feeling anxious or impatient, I take a deep breath and repeat my mantra. “God will provide. He always does.” And He does, even if I have to wait for it.
I struggle even more with patience towards others. People really get on my nerves. They move slowly in front of me. They have annoying habits like crunching ice or chomping gum. They do things I don’t want them to do and say things I don’t want them to say. I am to be patient anyway. That’s easier said than done.
James 1:19-20 says, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” When is the last time you practiced being quick to hear and slow to speak? I know I don’t do that very often. Usually, when I’m talking to someone, I am thinking about what I am going to say and waiting for them to finish talking so I can speak. Instead, I should be listening to them. Especially in an argument or a heated moment, I need to learn to hush and hear. (Oh, I like that! That may be my new phrase for my kids. They’re going to hate it! “Hush and hear, children. Hush and hear!”) Ephesians 4: 1-2 says, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love.”
Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” There are times when we feel like we are doing good for all those around us and they do not appreciate us or reciprocate the kindness. We should do it anyway. That’s a form of patience. Instead of being rewarded here on earth for our good deeds, we can patiently wait for God to reward us in heaven. His reward will be better than what other people could give us or do for us anyway.
Perseverance is a word that is often used synonymously with patience. I think I like that word better. Perseverance sounds more difficult to me, so it reflects just how hard patience can be. It’s easy to just throw out the statement, “Just be patient!” but following through with patience is more difficult. It is endurance. It is perseverance.
The burning question is, “How do I develop patience?” I don’t know about you, but I want an answer to this, and I want it now! The Bible tells us in Romans 5:3, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.”
The bad news is that, to develop patience, we are going to have to face troubles. The good news is, if your life is anything like mine, you will have plenty of opportunities to grow! So, when someone is testing your patience, thank them for helping you become a little fruitier. When something difficult is happening in your life, protect your spiritual sopadilla and make sure it doesn’t die from the change in temperature. Take one moment at a time and count each moment you manage to be patient as a victory. An when your patience wanes, as I know it will, nourish your fruit tree with prayer and some scriptures, and move on to life’s next challenge. If you face today with a little more patience than yesterday, you have succeeded. Just imagine what you will be able to do tomorrow! -Al