We’ve all heard the saying “patience is a virtue”, and for the most part, we believe it. Just Google patience, and you’ll find a list of pop culture suggestions to improve your stamina and wherewithal through the trials of everyday life. And patience is a necessity in this life, isn’t it? Just imagine, in today’s world, of twenty-four seven work, busy commutes, and media bombardment–if you don’t have patience, it is easy to live life worried, stressed, bitter, and angry.
Having lived near a major city hub for almost a year, I can tell you about traffic, work commutes, and honking horns. It’s normal everyday life in 21st century American culture. We are busy, and although patience is admirable, who even has time for it in today’s world?
Approaching my wedding anniversary, I decided to review 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. There’s a lot packed into these verses, so I’m going to stick with just the first phrase today. “Love is patient.” Our culture today claims to have love for a lot of people and things. However, that doesn’t seem to include our spouses. According to the CDC, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. We clearly don’t understand what love requires, so it’s time to go back and review. What does God mean by “love is patient”?
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to find out is to look at the stories He recorded of others who needed patience:
So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him, because of his LOVE for her.
According to the New Testament, the church is described as patient through trials (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5, Romans 8:24-30, Hebrews 11:13, Romans 5:2-4).
In 1 Samuel, Saul was not patient and in chapter 13 offered a sacrifice to God without waiting for Samuel. This causes him to lose God’s blessing, and God replaces Him with a man “after His own heart”. David–the man God described–has to wait on God’s timing to fully take his thrown as king. This tells us that the heart of God is also patient.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
So why is God patient?
Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ.”
So God is patient out of love for us, just as we are to be patient out of love. We can’t have one without the other.
However, sometimes our impatience is our way of finding justice. When we are irritated and have a just cause, we lay into our horn so traffic moves out of our way. When we’ve politely requested that the clothes or dishes are to be placed in the dishwasher or the hamper, and we find the stack sitting out yet again, we roll our eyes. At minimum, in the quietness of our thoughts, we grumble and complain about those God has blessed us with; however, usually, we approach them with the wrong attitude, tired of having to address “the issue” yet again. The problem though is not truly the car in front of us, the clothes laying out on the floor, or the dishes that magically didn’t make it to the dishwasher. The problem is bigger than that. The problem isn’t the situation, it is the heart. By all means, we can politely and respectfully address the issue, but that is not how we often handle ourselves and the situations that arise in our lives. Instead, we grumble, complain, and build up bitterness towards the other person.
God models something entirely different. In Romans 2:4, it states that God’s kindness towards us is intended to turn us from sin. Isn’t that amazing?! God loves us despite our sin, but He also wants us to have a chance to leave it behind. What if we were patient like God was patient with us? I think the results would be much greater than when we criticize, grumble, or complain. I think our patience wouldn’t go unnoticed, and most of all, I think it would please our Savior.
We are called to patience, because:
1. It builds our maturity. Patience helps us stand and not falter. God does not promise everything in life will be easy. The Bible clearly shows us the opposite will be the case at times, and in those moments, we are to be diligent. This is shown through the early church’s example and in Romans 12:12.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
When marriage and life seem hard, we must be faithful in prayer, and the continuity of our prayer, reflects our patience with God and our spouse, as well as our maturity during the waiting.
2. It represents Christ’s sacrifice for us. God has been patient with me; therefore, I must be patient with others (John 15:12, Matthew 22:36-40).
One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 4:1-2:
Walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another.
The end of Ephesians 4:2 says “showing tolerance for one another”. We claim to be a very tolerant people, a tolerant nation. Honestly, we tolerate just about everything anymore, but the one thing we don’t seem to tolerate is our spouses with love. We have received a very high calling. Our marriages should look different from those outside the Christian church. With humility and love we must show our spouse the heart of Christ, and with this intentional act, the world will know the tender courtship of their own Savior.