I want patience – and I want it now!
I can’t exactly recall the moment I began fervently praying for patience, but it was somewhere between having my first and second child. And within that time frame there have been countless moments where I have cried out, half-prayer, half-curse, “LORD, GIVE ME PATIENCE!!”
I soon discovered it’s a rather dangerous thing to pray for. Instead of relieving me from everyday frustrations with my children, God has, in His wisdom, provided me with more opportunities to practice patience. Because patience isn’t something we earn, but rather, something we learn. And I’m a slow learner, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
Perhaps you struggle with patience too. Why is it so difficult to cultivate patience in our relationships? Are we not getting enough sleep? Are we too busy? Maybe we need a holiday. Or maybe it’s because we fail to recognise that impatience is actually a fruit of a root. Our impatience is symptomatic of a deeper heart issue: pride.
Pride is the biggest stumbling block to becoming patient. Pride says, “My wants, my needs, my talents and my schedule are more important than yours.” This kind of thinking leads to expectations that everyone should centre on us, and everything should unfold according to our will and time frame. It’s why we struggle to extend grace to others; we see them as obstacles in the way of what we want or believe we are entitled to. Underlying every manifestation of impatience is the desire to be served, to be obeyed and to be in control.
Pride makes us easily frustrated with people who threaten to ruin our schedule, plans or reputation for punctuality. It’s why we have road rage. Pride also has a tendency to belittle others, to judge them, to look down on them. We become exasperated when others don’t think or do things the right way (i.e. our way), or at the same speed and competency as us. Proud people cannot “suffer” certain people, and impatience shows itself in interrupting others, getting distracted and hurrying people along in conversation. Pride says, “My time, my knowledge and my opinions are more important than yours.”
If pride is at the root of impatience, then humility is the life source of patience. Consider the greatest example of humility: Jesus Christ. It is absolutely staggering that God became man and gave up everything – glory, majesty, honour and worship and then humbled Himself (Phil. 2:6-8).
Jesus patiently accepted His Father’s will (John 6:38). He patiently taught his thick headed disciples. For a time, he even patiently rebuked the Pharisees’ hardness of heart and he patiently loved “sinners”. Jesus demonstrated patient endurance: “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). And He did this so that we might patiently walk with him and receive eternal life.
Christians are called to cultivate patience (Gal. 5:22) and to “be patient with everyone” (1 Thess. 5:14; Eph. 4:1-3; Col. 3: 12-13). That’s a high calling, but the God of Patience has given us His Spirit, so that by His power, we can extend patient love to others. When we recognise God’s patient mercy with us every day (Ps. 86:15; 2 Pet. 3:9), it should motivate us to show the same patient generosity in our relationships.
God is after radical heart change in you and me. And He will use anything and everyone as instruments in His hands to glorify Himself and conform us into the image of His Son. That annoying work colleague, difficult relative, toddler in a tantrum is God’s gift to us to build our patience. We can respond either with prideful frustration or humble thanksgiving.
Madeleine Turner worships at Ashfield Presbyterian Church, Sydney.