Patience has wonderful benefits, but is not to be had without a cost. It involves bearing provocation, annoyance and pain without complaint or anger. It means that one perseveres through adversity, being wronged, misunderstood and hurt by others, even those closest to you.
This is what patience does and the way love behaves (I Corinthians 13:4). Love tolerates pain, isn’t reactive, and doesn’t have to have the last word; it enables one to tolerate provocation without hating the person or becoming angry.
This is the way we act when we love others with the same kind of love God has for us. But there is a price for patience. It means there is suffering, agitation, and frustration.
Patience is not a virtue unless there is a struggle or a trial you are facing. In fact, it’s not patience at all. The strong one isn’t the person that is loud and aggressive toward someone that is unpleasant; strength allows one to patiently endure being wronged, attacked, and accused.
It’s like the quote I saw on a church sign, “If you think it’s weak being meek; try being meek for a week”. Meekness (and patience) implies opposition, accusation, and persecution. Maybe, it isn’t that severe in your family, but even the habits of your spouse or the ingratitude of your children will reveal the presence or lack of patience in your life.
The price of patience is enduring unpleasant people, circumstances, and personal problems. Patience is not a personality trait, but a quality the Spirit of God enables you to have when you face pressure – “The fruit of the Spirit is…longsuffering…” (Galatians 5:22).
Everyone wants the cake (patience), but few want the recipe (adversity). Do you tell your spouse you love them, but are impatient with them? Do you tell your children you love them, but are short-tempered with them? These are empty words.
The Bible states that the very first expression of love is “longsuffering” (I Corinthians 13:4). I’m all for telling others we love them (and we ought to do so frequently), but when we lack patience they do not sense love from us.
As Jesus was hanging from the cross He said, “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34) The verb tense in which Christ spoke this was one in which He said it over and over. One time was sufficient as it revealed His heart of love, but He said it again and again. Rather than crying out for justice and revenge, He was patient with His tormentors. That is love.
This behavior did not go unnoticed. The commanding officer in charge of the crucifixion, a centurion (a person in charge of 100 Roman soldiers), after hearing this and knowing it was heartfelt was convicted by the love of Christ.
“Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man”. (Luke 23:47) Perhaps those around us would be more convinced of our love for them by our patience than our telling them that we love Jesus. (I’m all for telling people we love the Lord, but if you’re impatient, it’s best to keep your mouth shut. It cancels out everything else you are saying about God). Maybe this is one reason children that have grown up in church stop going when they are not required to go. They haven’t seen love (patience) modeled in the life of their parents or others that profess to know Christ.
I have discovered that when I am impatient it is because I want God to change a person or a negative circumstance in my life. The reality is that God wants to change me – and He uses people and problems to do that.
One of my duties as a pastor is to provide premarital counseling and a piece of advice I always give to each person is to not marry the other person with the expectation that they will change. Love isn’t characterized by being a control-freak, but by releasing control of your responses to the Lord when your spouse irritates you. Only God’s love can enable you to be patient.
My wife, Paula, doesn’t know I love her when I say it or bring her flowers (though both are important) as much as if I am patient with her and do not try to change her. Your husband doesn’t feel loved when you nag him or pressure him to get your way. He knows you love him when you are patient with him.
In our family I have learned that the greater the disobedience from my child, the more important my patience is in the way I deal with them. It’s easy to be patient in small things, but when an action has major consequences, patience is especially important. (That’s what the Lord Jesus did for us when He was on the cross, He patiently offered forgiveness when it was our sins that placed Him there. It was the greatest injustice in history).
Love is revealed by patience. But patience has a price – conflict, an abrasive personality of a coworker, the blind spots your spouse has in the ways they hurt you, having to tell your children more than once to do something. This is not for the weak, but for the strong. God will give you His strength to be patient.
What is your test of patience at work? Is it a task or a person? Who tests your patience most in your family? Who is difficult to love at your church? Next time, don’t ask God to help you to love them, ask Him for patience and they will know you love them.