This is how I explain the concept of patience to a six year old:
“Patience is waiting with a good attitude.”
Works for adults, too.
Patience is the fourth fruit of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5, verses 22 and 23.
I know we often think of patience as not losing it in day to day dealings with, you know, other people, but I want to look at big-picture patience because I think it has a huge bearing on our attitude in the little things.
Lots of people in the Bible had to be patient as they waited on God, since apparently to him one day is as a thousand years and vice versa.
Noah had to patiently endure taunting and people walking by him in the dry desert holding umbrellas just to get his goat.
Job waited (sometimes wishing he had never been born) as his whole life was ripped apart piece by piece, refusing to curse God.
Jacob waited seven years to marry Rachel, toiling for his trickster father-in-law-to-be, only to be given her older sister Leah instead. Now Laban insisted he work seven more years if he wanted to marry the woman he actually loved..and Jacob said yes!
Jesus waited thirty years to start his ministry. Joseph and Mary were probably wondering just when God was going to reveal their son as the Savior of the world, not to mention all the Jews who’d been waiting thousands of years for prophecy to be fulfilled!
Some people waited better than others.
Abraham and Sarah tried to circumnavigate their infertility and thought it would be a great idea to get children through another woman as they waited for God’s promise of a son. Ishmael, the father of Islam, is born through the maidservant Hagar. Thanks, you two.
All but two of those freed from captivity in Egypt died in the desert as they waited for Moses (who was following God) to lead them into promised land. I admit, wandering for forty years would have been tough, but they had seen God do the impossible (remember that time the Red Sea parted??) The Israelites complained non-stop, built idols to worship instead of God, and longed for the perceived ease of their former lives as slaves. Yikes.
It’s easy to look back and think they were just terrible people, but human nature hasn’t changed a bit since then. We still have a sense of entitlement when it comes to what we want, and if we’re not careful, it can make us (and our friends and family) absolutely miserable.
So let me ask a question: In a culture where we want everything now, how do we wait well?
I would say for the Christian, patience is more than waiting with a good attitude. It is trusting God with our lives, even if we don’t get what we want, because we know what God has promised us: Jesus is coming back to set all things right and free his people from the tyranny of sin and death.
Patience is not you and me sitting around waiting for whatever it is we think we can’t live without. It is engaging in life, in faith, and with other people while we wait because we have been entrusted with the Gospel and many of our friends and neighbors don’t know Jesus.
Right now we can look around and see the world is broken. It might seem God isn’t moving at all, especially when our own life isn’t going the way we hoped. But God keeps his promises.
Noah waited on God, and when the raindrops started falling he was able to walk onto that ark, his family spared. Humanity spared.
Job chose to honor the Lord even when his circumstances hit like a million feet below rock bottom, and the Lord restored him and blessed him way beyond what he had before.
Jacob’s patience payed off, and he checked under the veil this time. Jacob finally held the woman he loved (poor Leah), and he and Rachel had two sons, one of whom was a man by the name of Joseph (cool coat, ended up in Egypt). If he’d married her seven years earlier, would Joseph have even been born?
Jesus may not have been on everyone else’s time schedule, and he didn’t look anything like what the Jews expected, but our Savior went willingly to that cross and bore the savage death for our sins.
Life may not turn out how we planned this side of heaven, but we know God has a glorious future planned for those who love him. Jesus is coming soon.
Can we wait with a good attitude (you know, rejoicing always, giving thanks in all circumstances, etc.), trusting God knows what is best? It may not be easy, but the alternative is either scheming to get our way (which never ends well), or becoming that bitter person who can’t take her eyes off her own dissatisfaction. Even more, can we release our death grip on things God hasn’t specifically promised us and live joyfully anyway? We can’t control our circumstances or other people, but we can choose how we respond to them.
Patience allows us to have joy while we wait, to be happy for others when God blesses them, and to keep our hearts centered on the hope that never fails: Jesus.
We can have patience because he is worth the wait.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. ~Romans 12:12
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ~2 Peter 3:9