Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!
For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. (James 5:7–11 NLT)
A few years ago, the comedian Chris Thayer quipped on Twitter: “I bought quick oats and two days later my roommate showed up with instant oats. I will not be humiliated; I must find an even sooner oat.”
In an era with instant oats, two-minute rice, and same-day delivery, we don’t often find ourselves with cause for building patience in our everyday lives. Even when we do, such as standing in a long line at the grocery store or sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, we quickly pull out our phones to distract ourselves. As a general rule, North Americans are not great at being patient.
In fact, even though we often find it severely lacking in our own lives, patience is everyone’s favorite virtue – for everyone else to have. This is true of most every virtue – the less of it we have in our lives, the more we expect it in others – but it’s especially potent in patience. And yet, this struggle we have to be patient in our everyday lives – by which we mean “able to wait quietly and without internal strife” – is really just a small part of what patience really means; it is the black and white version in contrast to the full-color spectrum of the word Paul uses in Galatians 5:22.
Christopher J. H. Wright writes that we would do better to think of patience also in terms of long-suffering and forbearance. He describes long-suffering as “the ability to endure for a long time whatever opposition and suffering may come our way, and to show perseverance without wanting retaliation or revenge” and forbearance as “the ability to put up with the weaknesses and foibles of others (including other believers), and to show forbearance toward them, without getting quickly irritated or angry enough to want to fight back.”
Patience is about so much more than simply waiting while maintaining a good attitude. It is also about graceful perseverance in suffering and enduring the faults of others by showing them great mercy.
If we are to truly be people living by the Spirit, then patience must be evident in all facets of our lives, whether that is silently praying while waiting at a bus stop, or resting in the peace of God while struggling in the months-long process of getting an accurate medical diagnosis to chronic pain, or responding to the harsh words of a dear friend with love rather than anger.
Are you living in the full-color version of patience that Paul writes about, or you are you still struggling with the grayscale version that allows you to quietly wait in the everyday moments of life?