Saint Francis of Assisi said:
“No one will ever know the full depth of his capacity for patience and humility as long as nothing bothers him. It is only when times are troubled and difficult that he can see how much of either is in him.”
I have found this to be true over and over again, especially in the area of patience. I have a feeling that I am not the only impatient person around though. We are impatient people aren’t we? But you what? One sign of a growing Christian is that they become more and more patient in life.
What is patience?
In the New Testament there are three words used for “patience”. The word that is used in Galatians 5:22 is the Greek word “makrothymia”. This is a compound Greek word made up of the words “makro” meaning “long”, and “thymia” meaning “anger”. So literally it means “LONG TO ANGER” as opposed to “oxythymia” which means “sudden anger.”
We all know people who “have a short fuse.” They are quick-tempered and easily angered. I have found “oxythymia” looking back at me in the mirror more times than I would like to admit; my fuse has sometimes been cut short.
That’s why we need the fruit of the Spirit; we need “makrothymia”; we need a long fuse, to be slow to anger. Patience is the prolonged control of anger or restrained wrath. This Greek word also carries with it the connotation of “holding up, bearing with, and enduring especially during trials.”
Why is it so hard to develop patience?
I would like to suggest four reasons:
1. Because patience is contrary to our human nature.
If the fruit of the spirit is patience the fruit of the sinful nature must be impatience. We are impatient because we are sinful by nature. Patience is not something we are instinctively born with.
Patience is also contrary to our human nature because there are weeds of pride, selfishness and anger that can choke out the fruit of patience in our lives. We have become an impatient and oftentimes angry culture. You see it at work. You see it in school. You see it on the highways.
2. Because of hurry.
Our culture is in constant hurry up mode. Some of us are so used to going fast, we can’t stand delays. And we lose our minds when things go slow. Virginia Brazier says:
“This is the age of the half read page. The quick cash and the mad dash. The bright night with the nerves tight. The plane hop with a brief stop. The lamp tan, short span, the big shot and the good spot. The brain strain and the heart pain and the cat naps till the spring snaps and the fun is done.”
We’re in a world of fast food and quick print and expressways and 10-minute oil changes and instant cameras and microwaves.
3. Because of technology.
We have computerized gadgets that work so quickly that instead of slowing down our lives they just teach us to be more impatient. Have you ever stood at an ATM machine and thought, man this goes so slow? It wasn’t that long ago that we had to stand in long lines at the bank to get money. Remember when a 28K internet modem on your computer was fast but now we have to have high-speed connections to make our computers go faster.
4. Because we have convinced ourselves that impatience is a virtue.
We hear people say, “Well, I may be impatient, but I get things done.” We like “type A” personalities, hard-charging people who get things done, and somehow impatience is seen as a virtue.
How do we go about developing patience in our lives?
I would like to suggest two ways:
1. We can develop patience in our lives by remaining close to Christ.
Jesus, in John 15:5 said:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Our human nature is not going to move us be patient on own. We must get that patience from Christ. We desperately need to have Jesus give us His perfect patience; a divine patience that will transform our lives. That means that we must grow close to Him on a daily basis. The closer we get to Jesus, the more His patience will wear off on us. So it is important to receive the nourishment that only Jesus Christ can give.
We cannot produce patience unless we’re remaining in Christ, unless we’re walking in His steps, unless we’re reading His Word, unless we’re growing in our prayer life, unless we’re spending quality time worshiping and fellowshiping with brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. We can develop patience in our lives by learning to be still.
As a culture/society we can’t slow down and it is killing us. A big reason for this is because we have no idea what scripture means when it says:
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
John Ortberg in his book “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” said this:
“Again and again as we pursue the spiritual life, we must battle hurry. For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.”
Some practical ways we each can learn to slow down and teach ourselves patience.
(from John Ortberg’s book “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”)
- Eat your food slowly. Chew at least fifteen times before you swallow.
- Stand at the longest checkout lane. For the next month, when you are at the grocery store, look carefully to see which checkout lane is the longest. Get in it and then let one person with a full cart go ahead of you.
- Go through one day without wearing a watch or using the cell phone. You won’t know what time it is and you won’t know who you need to call right away. But it might help you slow down.
- Take a walk.
- Spend some time in the park.
This list could go on and on but you get the idea. We need to learn to slow down and teach ourselves patience.
Patience. There are few virtues we need more, but few virtues that are harder to come by than patience. Patience is a real struggle for many of us and the reason it is such a struggle is because we are working at it with human effort.
If we struggle with patience then our real struggle is a spiritual one and we need to come and meet with the Lord. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to do a work in our heart and life so that the fruit of patience begins to bloom and grow in our life.
Are you an impatient person? How does impatience show up in your life?