“For ye have need of patience…” (Hebrews 10:36 – KJV)
The Bible says that Solomon, in the beginning of his reign over Israel, had enough wisdom to ask for wisdom to govern the people. I believe that patience is acquired in much the same way. You need to have a little patience to finally obtain true patience. What exactly is patience? One dictionary declares it’s “the ability to endure provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain with calm and strength.” y pastor, O. L. Powell, Sr. has often said it’s “the ability to idle your engine when you feel like stripping your gears.” That’s a good analogy.
You are probably wondering what the etymology of patience is, right? Where does the word come from? It’s an old French word that comes from the Latin patientia, which means “to endure.” It comes from the root word patī, meaning “to suffer.” I suppose you can say that you exercise patience when you endure, or remain calm, while suffering through some form of aggravation or irritation. If you are like me, you are faced with various forms of irritation on a daily basis. It usually comes from other people, certain circumstances, or even from me, myself and I. On occasion I even get frustrated with God. (Dare I be so honest in a public place?) There, I confessed it. Sometimes I lose patience with God’s will and timing. Maybe I’m not the only one.
However, James, a leader of the early church, reminded believers about the benefits of patience saying 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 1:3-4 – NKJV). Did you catch that? We are supposed to allow patience to work in our lives. Why? Patience is a virtue that is inter-connected with other virtues. George Savile said, “A man who is a master of patience is master of everything.” Like James taught, we become “perfect and complete,” or masters of everything when we have patience. More often than not, patience travels hand-in-hand with self-control, which is mastery over self. Through patience we become better even though the situation around us does not change.
Patience, as displayed in the Bible, seems to mean endurance. The author of Hebrews, writing about the Old Testament men and women of faith, plead with us to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12 – NKJV). Hebrews continues on to say of Abraham, “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (Hebrews 6:15 – NKJV). There are times when you simply have to endure before you can obtain. David testified, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1- NKJV).
Patiently waiting is one of the hardest things any of us can do. Who knew that such a passive action could be such a physical and emotional challenge? We have learned to wait, or endure, but it’s usually by tapping a foot, loudly exhaling, crossing our arms, rolling our eyes and looking around as if to say, “what are these idiots doing?” Go ahead and laugh. We’ve all done these things while waiting in line at Wal-Mart or the DMV. We look around as if to ask, “Is anyone else witnessing this total lack of competence; this complete breakdown of common sense; the sheer stupidity involved, the utter disregard for other people’s time? Who trained this employee? Is this customer that big of a moron?” I understand. I’m the only one raising my hand right now, admitting that I have done this. Maybe one day I can be spiritually mature like all of you, but when I am feeling impatient, this is how I act and feel. On the other hand, if I am the “moron” I hope people are patient with me. That’s the irony of patience, is it not? We don’t have much, but we expect others to have plenty toward us.
Lawrence G. Lovasik remarked, “The practice of patience toward one another, the overlooking of one another’s defects, and the bearing of one another’s burdens is the most elementary condition of all human and social activity in the family, in the professions, and in society.” Patience is oil that lubricates our relationships. It makes life run smoother. Without it, rash words are spoken, small flares up occur, and relationships are strained. We become openly annoyed by loved ones and their imperfections. We develop a frustration for the limitations and shortcomings of others not realizing we have our own flaws which demand a measure of patience, too. We get angry at our kids because they keep making the same mistakes. We believe that they should already have life figured out; yet we have been making the same mistakes, and at times, committing the same sins since we were teenagers. We lose patience with our children while at the same time desperately, secretly hoping that God doesn’t lose patience with us. Oh the irony!
Jesus, speaking to the church of Thyatira, told them, “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience” (Revelation 2:19 – NKJV). Jesus knows your patience level, but do you? Do you still get easily annoyed with others? How fast do you get aggravated over certain circumstances such as waiting in line? “Well, I don’t have much,” you might say. I understand, but the good news is you can develop more if you desire it. You just have to let it “have its perfect work” in your life. Take to heart the words of the English writer John Florio: “Patience is the best medicine.” Sometimes in life you just have to wait, and trust me, it tastes better when we have the right attitude.
Written by James C. Marse. Copyright © 2011.