Our copy machine wasn’t working correctly and I just wanted to get through to a human being on the phone. I needed to make changes on my cable bill and preferred to speak to someone who had a grasp of the English language. Although my mechanic had assured me that my car would be done by 5:00 pm, it was past 6:30 pm and they were still working on it. Believe it or not, this was all just a day in the life of Kim Sullivan. Each situation brought me an opportunity to either lose my patience or love others.
Frustrating circumstances compete for our attention, drawing our focus from God and his plans toward the obstacles in our way. But God can be in fellowship with us in our sufferings. Jesus knows what it is like to deal with the annoying, everyday situations that tug on our patience like a pesky three-year-old pulling on our shirttails in a candy store. Jesus was constantly interrupted along the way, yet he wasn’t impatient or unkind. He didn't respond as if people were an inconvenience to his goals but rather as if they were the purpose behind his goals. The question is, how can we be more like Jesus and improve our patience walk?
Sometimes we are in need of a little grace. Scripture is clear that whatever we sow, that also will we reap (II Cor. 9:6). There are times when my decisions disappoint others, or when circumstances beyond my control cause me to over-commit and under-perform. It is in these times that I am trusting for a little grace and favor. After all, scripture instructs us, “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:31).
People are more important than your destination, goals and dreams. In fact, if you took careful inventory of your goals, you would probably realize that people are the reason for the things you most want to do in life. It’s so easy to forget the 'whys' of our daily tasks. We work, make dinner, and do laundry to serve our family. Yet, when our family interrupts this work, we often become impatient. Keeping sight of God’s Word and the fact that the people around us are the motivations for our tasks, helps our perspective to be one of patience and kindness.
This only works when your motive is to be like Jesus. We can imitate Jesus even when we don’t feel like it. If our purpose is pure, the outcome will be precious. We are called to “...be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1). Even if you’re not feeling very patient, you can act as though you are. Patience is a virtue and virtues aren’t feelings. They are characteristics worth striving for. Ignore impatience and choose to act according to the law of kindness and long suffering.
You can either lose control of your temper, or you can give up your right to control a situation by giving God’s Word control of your responses. Scripture says, “Let love be your highest goal!” (I Corinthians 14:1). and reminds us that, “Love is patient and kind” (I Corinthians 13:4). Part of submission is to bow our knee to the way God would have us respond rather than the way that our flesh would like to react. Let go and let God.
Most of the time when I am experiencing impatience, it’s because I am in a hurry. Usually, I’m in a hurry to do something good…noble even. This makes me feel justified in my hurried impatience. Staying calm and resting in God’s timing is a difficult task in today’s face paced world. The psalms reminds us to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It doesn’t say be in a hurry and know that I am God. We can better know God when we are quiet and present in our current circumstance, knowing that he is with us. Psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “Hurry is not of the Devil, it is the Devil.” When we are in a hurry, we are focusing on a task rather than people. This is always dangerous footing. The message translation powerfully instructs, “Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?”(Jeremiah 2:25).
We’ve all heard the maxim, “Lord, give me patience. NOW!” We may have been cautious about asking God for patience because we think that means he will send challenging situations our way so that we have the opportunity for patience. But remember, we are often encouraged to “practice patience.” It isn’t something we know how to do the first time, but rather it requires practice. One doesn’t expect to sit down at the piano for the first time and play a concerto. Instead, there are boring and repetitive scales and music theory that we must learn first. Don’t be too hard on yourself, we are all going from “from one degree of glory to another” (II Co. 3:18). Be quick to confess and repent to God and others when you’ve exhibited impatience. You are practicing and you will improve! At least that is my hope, as I sit here writing this article at my mechanic's shop, 2 hours after my scheduled pickup time!
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema