The Importance of Patience

The military trained me to be decisive. I learned problem solving. I learned how to take action. What I didn’t realize was how quickly my patience was eroding away. I think sometimes people equate waiting as not taking action. We don’t want to be lazy, but we can’t lose our perspective to such a degree that we become frustrated or angry that things don’t happen.

Maybe we have a co-worker who’s not as skilled as you, and so takes longer to complete a task. Maybe your children are being disobedient or acting out. All these test my patience. However, I can’t fail those tests. And that’s the topic of this chapter.

Patience is love (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).  Patience is wise (Proverbs 14:29).  Patience shows faith in God (Romans 8:25). Patience is better even than victory in war (Proverbs 16:32). Patience is a show of strength (Psalm 27:14). Patience is Godly, for he is slow to anger (Psalm 103:8).

As the world progresses to more and more immediate satisfaction, patience is eroding away from society.

Look at debt. I have $50 a month to spend. I could wait and buy that $400 TV eight months, but for those who want it at that moment, they go into debt, paying perhaps as much as $1,200 for a $400 TV because they wanted it that moment rather than waiting.

As parents, we tell our children constantly to wait. “Dad is working!” “Mom is making dinner!” “It’s not your turn!”

But how often are you willing to wait? Do you slow down and stop at the yellow light or do you step on it to be sure you don’t have to wait at the light? I’m guilty of all of these follies, but the important thing is to recognize them as folly.

This isn’t the same as not working diligently. In fact, I’d argue that working diligently for years is a demonstration of patience. After all, anyone can quit if they don’t get the raise they’re looking for or the weight-loss they’re trying to accomplish. 

As a Christian, my lack of patience is a serious issue in my life. I ask that people pray for the Lord to help me be more patient. At this point, I’m humbled to see how often I lose my patience. I’ll be the last to point and mock at anyone who loses their cool, but each time I loose my temper is a failing on my point.

There are some hints to how to improve your patience:

Be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19).

Overlook an offense, for it is to your glory (Proverbs 19:11).

Don’t resist discipline (Proverbs 3:11).

If I try to see why I struggle with patience, the answer is because I struggle to do all of the list above. I let offenses bring me to resentment. I don’t like being told I’m wrong. I usually want to be the first to talk.

This is tough. At least, I struggle with it every day. The first step is recognizing when you’re focusing on yourself (your pride, your offense, your desire to be heard) and when you are being more thoughtful of others.

We’ve already talked about rebuking those who sin against you, and that’s perfectly holy so long as your goal is reconciliation.

Another thing you can do is practice self denial. If you want to play one more video game, turn the system off. You have every right to play a game, but turning it off is a way to tell your brain that you are in charge. If you want seconds, even if you’re skinny, deny that temptation. These little self denials are ways to put your body and heart under control. Avoiding debt is another way to do this. You can have that $400 TV, just make yourself wait the eight months and pay for it in cash. Delay gratification to avoid becoming enraged when you are denied gratification.

Again, it’s hard. Especially when you have the means to obtain things quickly, but the more you work on this, the more patient you will find yourself becoming.

For our panel: Why is patience so hard to maintain? What are some other ways to practice patience? When we find ourselves losing our patience, how do we hold fast to it? What are some of your favorite verses about patience? Why is patience referenced so often in the Bible?

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