We’ve all prayed that prayer, “God, give me patience……and make it fast!”
When we look at the fruit of the Spirit, we like love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and meekness because they are all traits that make us feel good.
Patience, however….well, I think if we could just cross that one off of the list I think most people would.
But perhaps that is because we don’t really understand patience.
Patience is equated with unpleasant feelings, with suffering. Perhaps because in some translations the word “long suffering” is used.
But “suffering” doesn’t mean suffering in the sense that we feel tormented by the behavior of others.
It simply means that we have chosen to journey with those around us until we reach the goal.
There are three things that we misunderstand about patience, three ways that we have erroneously defined patience. It’s time to clear them up!
3 Things That Do Not Define Patience
We often think of patience as someone waiting around for something to happen. As a little kid, when you would incessantly ask your mom for a cup of juice while you’re mom was ironing your dad’s dress shirt, she would reply, “Be patient!” And you would be forced to wait until she was done.
While patience most often requires waiting, waiting doesn’t have to be passive. While we’re in a state of waiting, God is doing a work in our hearts.
We have become so used to everything being instantaneous. Instant food, instant coffee.
Remember when you used to boot your computer or your cell phone and it would take 5 minutes or longer? What about when we used to have to dial-up to get on the Internet?
We don’t like to wait for things; and not having to wait has become a positive trait in this world; but in the Kingdom of God it is just the opposite. The more we learn to look at waiting as an active work, the more we understand that patience isn’t passively waiting for something, it is actively allowing God to grow His character in our hearts.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Patience requires faith; and faith is being so convinced that something is true that you cannot be swayed from that conviction.
But so often the longer we’re forced to wait for something, we begin to lose hope that there will be a good outcome. So we grow pessimistic and cynical.
In reality, pessimism only proves that we lack patience, because in our hearts we’ve already given up. We’re just biding time until that other shoe drops.
True patience is choosing to trust God in the process. The process may be long and it may tempt us to get frustrated, but we know that the process is really only God doing His work in our heart.
It also trusts God with the outcome; knowing that if the outcome doesn’t look like what we’d envisioned, God has something much better in mind.
Patience and faith are intricately intertwined.
3. A Victim Mentality
Patience doesn’t make you a victim to its evil plan of trapping you in a time warp of waiting until some villain decides that you’ve suffered long enough and finally sets you free.
We are tempted to take this approach with a manipulating, abusive family member, a neighbor who is being unfair, a controlling boss, or an irritating co-worker.
We endure through the situation with a victim mentality, hovering and waiting until it’s over.
Yet, this isn’t the picture of patience we read in the Bible. God doesn’t make us victims, He makes us victors! Patience requires a renewal of our mind and reset of our emotional defaults!
God doesn’t design negative circumstances, but He does allow them and chooses to use them bring about good things in our lives.
Perhaps He wants to teach you the value of having personal boundaries or the joy of giving grace to those around us when it’s not deserved or earned.
Maybe He wants to teach us that its okay to stand up for justice or to look past someone’s idiosyncrasies so we can see their beauty inside.
When we stop looking at negative circumstances as something being done to us, and allow God to show us what He wants to do through us, we’ll throw off that victim mentality and begin rejoicing in the fact that He has made us to be more than conquerors through Christ Jesus!
When we allow God to renew our minds and allow that seed of faith to be planted in our hearts, we will begin to approach patience from a whole new perspective.
We will begin to see the journey as important as the destination; knowing that on this journey God is teaching us important life lessons that we need so that when we reach our destination we have spiritual maturity and the likeness of Christ shining in and through our lives.
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