We long for enduring love. Our aching for resilient love is an indication we are made in God’s image. The Bible tells us that God is love.
One of the remarkable characteristics of God’s love is that his love is patient.
Recently, I spoke with a man who – when I was in high school – taught me in Sunday School. He told me that he professed faith in Christ as a young teen. He said: “Then I took a 17 year hiatus from God.” Today, as he looks back at the “miracles” (his word) that occurred during those 17 years, he is grateful for the patience of God. God valued him even when he did not value God.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient (the Greek word is: makrothumeo) with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3: 9). Peter is writing about the days of Noah. What patience God demonstrated then – he waited a thousand years before destruction came.
Now, I need to tell you that too often I am impatient. Via would tell you that and our children would too. God knew I needed extra courses in patience – so it has helped to have eight children – and it has helped to be a pastor. Still, I need more lessons – daily.
And, with me, you need patience. If we want to choose life, we will need to do what most people dread – pray for patience.
Before we pray for patience, we may need to get over some hurdles. We may believe that patience will come to us if we simply wait for it. No, we need to ask God for this gift. We may have believed gossip about patience. Like its friend, meekness, patience is often slandered. Ambrose Bierce, in his 1911 “Devil’s Dictionary,” has this entry: Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
Here is where a Christian understanding of patience helps. In Christ, we are reconnected to God. Since patience is a characteristic of the ever living God, it has an unhurried but throbbing exuberance. It is ALIVE!
As we pray for patience, we are praying for passion. Both patience and passion come from the same Latin root: pati – “to suffer, to endure.” So, patience is a powerful word. Real patience is an ultra-marathoner in life. We believe that the view from the top of the mountain is worth the difficulties of the journey. Patience gets us there. Patience stirs up fervor, ardor, enthusiasm and zeal. What glory there is in real patience.
As we pray for patience, we are praying to be able to love. When Paul wrote the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, he listed sixteen attributes of love. Patience is first. FIRST! This is like lightning from a clear sky. We don’t expect patience to be FIRST. In other words, love is tough enough to endure the hardships and pains of this world – not assertively abusing or passively enabling what is wrong – but passionately trusting God and partnering with him. So, let’s repent – change our idea of what real love is. If we are to love at all, we must begin with patience.
Understanding the varieties of words used to express “patience” may help us recognize what is being asked of us. The Greek word Paul uses for patience in 1 Corinthians 13 is makrothumeo – makro [takes a long time to express] – thumeo [wrath]. Again, this is a powerful word. The KJV translation is: “Love suffers long.” Our English word, “forbearance” – to bear up for a long time without expressing anger, is the ability to be long suffering, slow to anger. Now, we see why patience is so challenging.
George MacDonald once wrote: The principle part of faith is patience. So, God promised a Redeemer and those who believed him patiently waited until Jesus came. “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8). We long for his second coming because then we fully will be like him. Let’s repent of harsh abusing impatience and counterfeit enabling patience. Let’s thank God for his patient love. Let’s risk praying for God’s patience. Christian, his character is your destiny. Patience will blossom into possession.
Sucking out (some of) the marrow-nourishment from the bone-words with you,
PS Here are three of my favorite poems about patience.
My favorite poem about God’s patience is by Dorothy Sayers (1893 –1957):
Hard it is, very hard,
To travel up the slow and stony road
To Calvary, to redeem mankind; far better
To make but one resplendent miracle,
Lean through the cloud, lift the right hand of power
And with a sudden lightning smite the world perfect.
Yet this was not God’s way,
Who had the power,
But set it by, choosing the cross, the thorn,
The sorrowful wounds.
Something there is, perhaps,
That power destroys in passing, something supreme,
To whose great value in the eyes of God
That cross, that thorn, and those five wounds bear witness.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889) always slows me down. Here is his poem about patience:
PATIENCE, hard thing! the hard thing but to pray,
But bid for, patience is! Patience who asks
Wants war, wants wounds; weary his times, his tasks;
To do without, take tosses, and obey.
Rare patience roots in these, and, these away,
No-where. Natural heart’s-ivy, Patience masks
Our ruins of wrecked past purpose. There she basks
Purple eyes and seas of liquid leaves all day.
We hear our hearts grate on themselves: it kills
To bruise them dearer. Yet the rebellious wills
Of us we do bid God bend to him even so.
And where is he who more and more distils
Delicious kindness? – He is patient. Patience fills
His crisp combs, and that comes those ways we know.
Christian, the Holy Spirit does produce the fruit of patience in us. In that regard, here’s a clever poem. It reminds us of Jesus and the fig tree.
Soon He will bedig you.
In spring with blooms He will bewig you.
In summer He’ll summon jade garb to resprig you.
In fall on patient twigs with fresh fruit He’ll refig you.