Patience is simple, but not easy
Patience is one of the many things in life that can be simple to understand, but very difficult to put into practice. I read some advice on parenting which taught me to give definitions to words, concepts and expectations that I have for my children. As a result, my wife and I have tried to teach our son a very simple definition for patience, which he has learned to repeat. "Patience is waiting with a good attitude," is the answer we are looking for him to give. He isn't always willing to give us the right answer (even though he knows it), let alone the self-control to always act with patience. But he is learning. The definition is simple, only seven words long, but putting it into practice is much more difficult.
And I am learning right along with him. I may have the ability to understand an even more complex definition of patience, but I often struggle to be patient just like my son. As I have taken on more responsibilities in life and experienced more pressures, I have not always been able to remain patient in all circumstances. In some ways, I have behaved with less patience now than when Megan and I first got married. It is a genuine desire of mine to grow in my patience.
Patience is proactive
I recently read a couple quotes that have helped me to think more about my patience. In his book, Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders writes, "Often we think of patience in passive terms, as if the patient person is utterly submissive and half asleep. But this version of patience needs biblical corrective."
Additionally, William Barclay wrote these words in reflection on 2 Peter 1:6, which uses the word "patience" in the King James Version. Barclay wrote, "The word [patience] never means a spirit which sits with folded hands and simply bears things. It is victorious endurance."
Both of these quotes point to patience being proactive, not passive. An examination of Scripture supports this idea. In James 5:7-8, being patient for Christ's return is compared with the patience required of a farmer waiting for his crop. The farmer, while patiently waiting for the harvest, is also diligently working to weed the fields and help his precious fruit grow. James also exhorts his readers to "establish your hearts," in anticipation of the Lords' return. Both the farmer and the believer are meant to act, even while waiting patiently.
In Hebrews 12:1, we are told to "run with patience the race that is set before us (KJV)." Once again, the King James Version uses the word patience (the ESV translates this word as endurance). The sense of this passage is that even while we "run the race," which is far from a passive activity, we are meant to be patient and enduring.
The two quotes and the two Scripture passages all point to the same thing. Patience is not a passive activity, it requires a proactive posture. If we are going to grow in our patience, we cannot just sit back and expect it to happen. We must prepare ourselves and be engaged in our patience. This is what I am learning. This is what I am going to strive for in the coming weeks and months. I am going to be proactive in my patience.
5 ways to be proactive in patience
Proactive patience requires you to pray (for help)
The first place to start is on our knees. If we are going to grow in our patience, it will require God's help. Not just in the moment of need, but on a regular and ongoing basis. Pray with me for increased patience - for you and for me.
Proactive patience requires you to plan (ahead)
Like many areas of sin, impatience cannot be conquered if we only think about it in the moment. Examine your patterns and tendencies and consider what triggers your impatience (ie. time of day, location, when you are hungry, etc.). In response to this, make a plan that will help you to be more patient in those situations.
Proactive patience requires you to act (in the moment)
When you feel your impatience rise, you must act. Pray, take a breath, and remind yourself of your desire to grow in patience. Think through why you are getting angry, and respond with patience. Remind yourself of the grace you have been given through Jesus and extend that same grace to whoever is in front of you.
Proactive patience requires you to learn (from experience)
This step is essential if we are going to plan ahead for next time. We will inevitably fail at being patient, and we must learn from those experiences. As you reflect on previous moments of impatience, adjust your plans for next time so you can act with increased patience.
Proactive patience requires you to repent (when you respond in impatience)
If we respond with impatience, it will nearly always require us to repent. We will need to repent for the ways we acted in our impatience, and also for the impatience itself. Repent to God for your pride and impatience, apologize to the person you wronged through your actions and remind yourself of the gospel. God still loves you, that has not changed. Luther wrote, "the entire life of believers should be repentance." We should not shy away from this in the face of our sin. Repent, and believe in the gospel.
This is how I hope to grow in my patience - through pro-actively pursuing patience in my life. Will you join me?
Question: What has helped you grow in your own patience? Please share in the comments section below.