As a young teenage Christ-follower, I found myself sitting in my bedroom in distress because I seemed to keep making the same mistakes. Surely God must be fed up with me; I knew I was fed up.
I don’t remember what the wrong behavior was, but I remember the terrible feeling that I had failed Him again. I wondered if God would give up.
Instead, somehow my heavenly Father taught me about His great patience. He gently reminded me that He was not keeping score, not remembering the past failures He had forgiven. There was simply the choice of this moment, whether to trust or not. Of course, He wanted me to mature, but He knew better than I that it would take time. His love, as strong as ever, was not based on my performance, so He was patient. I could cling to the promise that through His strength, I would eventually overcome.
Such great patience has certainly not been a natural strong point of mine, but lately I have been pondering ways to explain what God is like, and patience has stood out as one of His. Coworkers and friends may remark how calm I am, but my husband knows better. Learning to wait or bear distress with patience is a lesson I have been working on for a long time. Too often I have tried to force things, bringing various degrees of ruin and injury, but the best things have come when I have trusted God’s timing. As they say, “Anything worth having is worth waiting for…”
How spectacular that according to scripture, to God, you and I are worth having. Even God waits…for us. God sees our failures and disobedience, hears our anger, and responds with wise and loving patience. Distorted understandings of God have led many to see him as one who doesn’t control his temper, who is ready to deal out fiery judgment in a snap. But I look at this amazing world where love exists, even with as broken as it currently is, and know it is true that it could only have come from a much better Being than that, a perfect one, in fact. Beautiful craftsmanship comes from those who are patient. In Exodus 34:6 and elsewhere, scripture describes God as “slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.” Second Peter 3:9 explains that God is slow to bring judgment because he is “patient, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.”
After God miraculously freed the Israelites from slavery and began leading them to a new land, the people who had vowed to follow Him and believe His promises, consistently tried his patience with grumbling and disobedience. Yet, He stuck with them, disciplining, teaching, forgiving, never removing His promise. Each response was thoughtfully and purposefully given. In Jesus’ interactions with people, we also see patience. He continued to teach his disciples even though they disappointed him and seemed to take a long time to learn certain lessons. Certainly he grew tired and hungry while people continued to clamor for him to minister to them, and still he was patient and kind. Even his stern actions and words of rebuke were given in self-control and righteousness.
God wants our redemption not our destruction, because He loves us.
Romans 2:4 says that God’s patience and kindness are intended to lead people to repentance.
Repentance is turning away from life against God to life with God, or from a certain sin to obedience. Our repentance allows God to give us spiritual life and a close relationship with Him. It allows Him to set us free from slavery to sin and shape us into who we were meant to be. Knowing the future, He loves and cares for us perfectly in the present.
No wonder 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “love is patient.”
Love is patient because love is “for” the other, seeking the well-being of the other, understanding that things take time. It knows mistakes are made when we don’t take time to gather information or consider options. It knows that regretted actions and words in haste can’t be taken back. Love works for relationship and reconciliation because love continues in spite of our imperfections. Some versions use the word “longsuffering” instead of patience. And isn’t that accurate sometimes? In patience, we “bear with one another in love”(Ephesians 4:2). That means, we “put up with” each other in love. In this environment, we grow and learn, find courage, hold on to hope, and accomplish great things.
As much as I joke that I don’t want to pray for patience and bring down trials upon myself, I actually do want to be patient too. So I’m glad that patience is one of the “fruit of the Spirit” listed in Galatians 5:22 that are produced by those who are filled and led by the Spirit of God.
John is encouraging also in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” The eternal source of love and life behind the universe, patiently reproduces His love in those who know and love Him wholeheartedly.
My patient moments are when I am at peace, trusting God’s hand in my life, moments when my desire to love outweighs my other desires and especially my fears. Those patient moments are when I am seeing people as valuable rather than nuisances when I attempt to see someone else’s side rather than cast blame. Ah, those are truly great moments. Knowing that God is not stressed or impatient, that his love remains steady, helps me to be patient too. Thank you, Lord! I’m sure I am not alone in this.
So I pray, keep filling our minds and hearts with Your truth and patient presence.
LaVonne Foix serves on the lead team at Restore Church, focusing on worship and women’s ministries, as well as being employed in retail. She is married to Pastor David with whom she spent eight years in youth ministry. Her BA from Vennard College is in Bible/Theology and Cross-Cultural Missions.