It can prove difficult to be patient in many trying circumstances. It is especially difficult for young children to wait patiently when they’re bored or there’s little to distract them. Perhaps you’ve witnessed a toddler “meltdown” in a grocery store where he or she can’t wait to leave or has been denied some transient treat (where the treat wasn’t really desired other than to break up their boredom).
Over time we develop a greater tolerance for waiting, but it is a learned behavior to be patient. It requires self-discipline and reinforcement as we grow up and learn to tolerate greater periods of inactivity or time before an expected end result appears.
Obstacles to practicing patience are many: other people may add delays to our waiting, rude people cut lines adding further delay, some take longer than we think they should, store clerks need to get assistance from managers, etc. It would be easy to succumb to our un-disciplined self and get angry – even to the point of an adult-sized temper tantrum. Seldom does getting angry do much to solve the perceived problem (getting what we want, delivered immediately) and our impatience is typically rooted in selfishness. The “me first” and “I want it now” impulses are ultimately self-destructive and counter to what we’ve been taught in the Word:
- Philippians 2:3 (NASB) Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
- 2 Corinthians 12:20 (NLT) – For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior.
- James 3:15 (NLT) – For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
- Matthew 16:24 (NLT) –Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.
- Proverbs 19:11 (NLT) – Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.
- Proverbs 14:29 (NLT) – People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.
Further, the Bible has a good deal to communicate about patience:
- Psalm 37:7 (NLT) – Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
- Psalm 27:14 (NLT) – Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
- 1 Cor 13:4-7 & 11 (NLT) – Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.
- James 5:7-8 (NLT) – Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
- Ephesians 4:1-2 (NASB) – Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love
Patience has a lot to do with selflessness and with demonstrating love towards others. Patience is part of our calling to walk worthy, but it can be difficult to wait patiently especially when we’re bored, lonely, afraid, or witnessing people getting away with inappropriate behaviors.
What can we do to build our patience? I think we need to remember that God is sovereign — He is in control of everything nothing can happen except by His permission. He is awesome and fearful (deserving our complete respect), but He’s also perfect and loving. He demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners (in rebellion to His commands, directives and intentions for us) He allowed His only son to die in our place, paying the penalty, accepting the punishment for our own lifetime of sins (Romans 5:8)
Philippians 4:4-9 also provides good advice on learning to focus on the positive and build our patience during adversity:
(NASB) Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) also reminds us; “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” When we let go of a problem and wait on the Lord to deal with it, we give Him the glory (credit) for carrying us through that situation. Fussing and fighting makes us think we solved the problem on our own — robbing the glory from Him who is our very present help (Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.)
I also think it helps us develop patience (and love and other attributes) when we are more consistent at getting into the Bible. Some have called the Bible a handbook for living, and others have called it our “user’s manual for life” — whatever we may call it, it’s less effective sitting silently on a bookshelf and most effective when we’re reading and studying it intently.
What about you?
- Do you struggle with patience in certain circumstances?
- Have you grown in demonstrating patience as you matured and got older?
- Have you found that impatience often feels rooted in some form of selfishness?
- Do you have favorite verses that remind you to be patient, or tell of the benefits of being patient?
- Have you confronted difficult circumstances with prayer and bible study?
- Do you find that sharing your frustration with friends helps you build patience in certain circumstances?