The value of patience in one’s Christian life: Some reflections

Image24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”
 – Romans 8:24-25

The skies were ghastly, the wind was gusty, the ocean was furious, and the waves kept crushing in the ship. Clearly, the disciples were not having a fun time. The raging storm was not helping; if anything, it aggravates the sentiment of panic. They were in fear, holding on to their dear lives, and wishfully thinking the sun would show up. But there is this one man who slept through the storm as if it was the best day to lull oneself in deep sleep, and Jesus is His name. He went out of His room, ordered the winds and waves to be still, and still they went.

If you would be caught amid a storm, how long could you wait to let it pass? To make things much complex, how long could you wait for a storm to pass if this storm is as destructive as it could get?

The Biblical notion of patience

Patience is generally defined as “waiting without complaint”, or to expound, it is “enduring discomfort without complaint.” So what is virtuous about that? If you were patient, would it mean that you are some sort of a martyr who does not fight back when your superior passes some workload which is out of your jurisdiction? How the Holy Bible conceptualizes patience is far different from how we make sense of this word. It is not just passive waiting or gentle tolerance. It is active and enriching as it involves action, namely endurance. In Hebrews 12:2, we find the phrase “and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” As one commentary puts it, “patience is persevering towards a goal, enduring trials, or expectantly waiting for a promise to be fulfilled.”[1]

Why patience is an important Christian virtue

As identified by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Galatians, patience is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit. The value of patience is not to be ignored. The Scriptures have, in many instances, emphasized its importance to the life of a Christian. We read some Biblical precedents not only about tests of faith but also tests of patience. Some of our forefathers who went before us have their patience tested. Some brilliantly passed and some utterly failed. Even in the lives of some Biblical characters that we have grown to know, patience has made or broken them depending on how they applied this golden virtue in their lives.

Job’s persistence could not be more relevant. His affliction was capable of triggering impatience but he emerged victorious when he trusted God and kept himself patient throughout his suffering. Job knows with all his heart that God permits this because He wants to bring out the best in him. It is by no wonder why Job said, “But he knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Joseph’s life is equally relevant. How Joseph responded to his cunning brothers is praiseworthy. He could have punched them right in their faces (though I doubt he would do that as one against many might beat the odds in his favor). He could have hated them for their selfishness and egotism. But he did not. He could have probably wondered why he was behind prison bars at Egypt but he waited for God’s promise to be fulfilled in his life, which God did fulfill.

We could also draw lessons from Adam and Eve’s life, only that the story did not end that well. Our first parents became impatient of God’s will and until now, we are paying the costs. The Old Testament patriarch Abraham has also his share of the infamy. He had married his wife’s handmaid Hagar so he could bring a son into the world and fulfill God’s promise.  We learn that Hagar bore a son but this son only caused trouble. Abraham had to wait for years until Isaac would be born, and this time his son brought blessing to his home. There is also King Saul who went tired of staying within the ambit of God’s will and followed his own. The result was disastrous. Instead of waiting for the prophet Samuel to come, he rushed past God’s will and offered the sacrifice by himself. This became the start of his demise.

While patience is a Christian virtue, impatience is not. Patience allows us to uncover God’s truths and learn from them; impatience impedes our clear understanding of God’s precepts and pushes us to give paramount importance on our own understanding of things. As Moody Church’s Dr. Warren Wiersbe explains, impatience is a mark of immaturity, unbelief, and fleshly living.  By nature, we want things to happen in a rush. We want to take hold of them immediately. We are always in a hurry. But, as Dr. Wiersbe adds, “if we really trust God, then we will wait on Him to accomplish what He has promised.”[2] Faith and patience go together. The two are inseparable.

As we are talking now about patience (and the opposite of it), I would be glad to share some episodes in my life where impatience almost devoured me up.

The case of Facebook rants

I am a Facebook savvy myself so browsing to my News Feed is inevitable. And every time I go through my Feed, I notice some of my friends’ posts which I reckon are not shareworthy. Some simply lack relevance. Some are just so trivial and mundane but some are unforgivable. I am fully aware that Facebook serves as a medium where people can express what they feel or think, but does this give them license to flood the Feed with their rants and all? Freedom is not absolute as it has restrictions too. This I have to tell to myself every time that sort of posts pops out like a mole’s head.

I cannot help but be annoyed as I am very critical and particular with what I am reading. I have once toyed with the idea of unfriending irksome friends who find belting frustrations and their eccentricities in public very fascinating. Surprisingly, I have not unfriended anybody so far.

The traffic jam story

When I was still an undergraduate student, I make my way to school by commuting. For four years and even today, I still ride aboard a bus. Assuming the road, the driver, and the bus do not screw themselves up, Las Piñas City is only thirty (30) to forty-five (45) minutes away from Manila. But because of heavy traffic flow and, in some cases, traffic mismanagement and weather disturbances, the travel time goes around from two up to two and a half hours. The traffic flow is unbearable, most especially in Taft Avenue, Manila where there are too many intersections and streets are extremely busy. Being caught in a traffic jam can be irritating at times, if not all the time. It can be all the more dreadful if you are in a hurry and you do not want to spend your lifetime in a public vehicle. It is much worse if you happened to know that the traffic enforcer causes the jam all along.

There were instances when I just want to get out of the bus and fly like a peregrine falcon. I remembered one time when I almost muttered something audible about the driver as he kept on stopping frequently in a ten-meter interval (like there are bus stops everywhere). When water pipelines were being installed in Las Piñas few years ago, road blockages and deep excavations were common in roads. That time, the heavy traffic flow became much heavier and burdensome. You cannot help but realize that the time you spend sitting in the vehicle could have made up with the time you spend in doing something significant. But then, you can do nothing but wait and, if you can, sleep.

The prize of waiting

God wants us to be patient. The agony of waiting could be there. The discomfort could be much worse than we could possibly imagine. But we have to rest our case on the truth: we will definitely not learn patience by just staring blankly at the ceiling, hearing a lecture, or reading a self-help book as patience is not about passive waiting. Dr. Wiersbe comments, “The only way we can learn patience is by going through the trials that God assigns to us. The trials of life are the tools God uses to mature us, to build our faith, and to get us the truth of the Spirit and not the flesh.”[3] After all, we know that there is always a prize when we wait. The prize of every ride after a traffic jam is you reaching safely to your destination. The prize of keeping up all night studying is you getting your diploma. The prize of waiting for the God-sent one is you being happy for the rest of your life. If we only know how to trust God and wait for His promise to be fulfilled in us, surely we will not end up in desolation. Instead, we will be rewarded.

 

References: 

Kennedy, L. (n.d.). The importance of patience in spiritual warfare. Retrieved from http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/christian-principles/spiritual-warfare/the-importance-of-patience-in-spiritual-warfare.html

Spiegel, J. (2010). The virtue of patience. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/spiritualformation/virtueofpatience.html

Image source: http://www.apuregeneration.com


[1] What does the Bible say about patience? Retrieved from http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-patience.html

[2] Wiersbe, W. (1979). The strategy of Satan: How to detect and defeat him. Illinois: Tyndale House.

[3] Wiersbe (1979), pp. 50-51.

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