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Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

I knew I would be asked to take the position.  I was naturally the next in line of succession.  They knew I had the leadership skills and an investment in the organization.  When the call came, I said, “Yes” without much thought.  Partially out of pride and partially out of what felt like the inevitable, I accepted the two-year commitment.  It wasn’t until after my answer did I ask God to bless my decision.  A bit late.  His gift, you might say, to me was two years of lessons I would not have learned otherwise.  Lessons, if offered prior, to which I would have said “No thank you.”

My lack of patience in making important decisions brought me head on to one definition of the word “makrothymia.”  That’s the original Greek for the word we call patience in the list of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22).  Other meanings include forbearance, endurance, and longsuffering.  Those two years had long lasting effects as I endured character assassinations, hatred slung at me, friends deserting me, and more.  You see, with my simple, impatient answer of “yes” I had committed to being the PTA* president of a large elementary school.  A volunteer job that made me the lightning rod for all complaints, anger and frustrations from the parents of more than 1,000 school children.

Looking back, I realized even with waiting patiently for God to give me an answer I probably would have been led to the same decision.  My skills were needed to help shepherd the school through large-scale changes.  However, had I waited for His go ahead I would have had a completely different outlook on the result.  I saw what was happening to me as almost a punishment for not seeking His counsel first.  I have since understood that God forgives us for our sins but He doesn’t always save us from the consequences.  During that two year journey I learned that He did, in fact, know better than me.  And it was time to start leaning into that truth.

Some of the antonyms to patience include defiance, resistance and disobedience.  Well-worn words throughout the Old Testament.  Oh, those impatient Israelites!  It’s a good thing we are nothing like them!

Some became fools through their rebellious ways
    and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. Psalms 107:17 

That one line in Psalm 107 could be the end of the story.  However, as Christians we must remember this essential truth: He loves us.  He loves us so immensely, desires glorious joy in our lives, and peace in our souls that He doesn’t leave us to suffer.  We need only ask for help.  Psalm 107 goes on:

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them;
    he rescued them from the grave.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Psalms 107:19-21

I cried a lot those two years.  I cried in pity for myself.  I cried from hurt feelings.  I cried out of helplessness.  And then I cried out to God.  He told me to endure.  To keep doing the job I promised to do, but do it in His name.

It slowly dawned on me I had the entire process of faith down wrong.  It seems too simple: Ask God first.  Wait patiently for His answer.  Act on His answer.  It doesn’t mean the seas won’t churn.  It doesn’t mean there won’t be a few weeds in the garden.  It does mean we are acting in His will and trusting that He has good plans for us.

Believing the providence of God, embracing the providence of God, enables us to be patient and faithful in the long, dragged-out, often unexpected trials of life, amidst the most inexplicable circumstances, detours, and delays that, from our limited viewpoint, make no sense. 

John Piper

So, my friends, this week as we look at “makrothymia,” let’s first remember before we can even hope to bloom in patience or endurance, we must trust the love of God.

* For those of you not in the United States PTA is the organization at many schools that supports parents and teachers through volunteering and fundraising.

Coming up: Waiting impatiently

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