Patience in an Impatient World


From waiting on traffic lights to the day when suffering comes to an end—life gives us little choice but to wait. Waiting well is a rare quality.

Though delays may seem annoying and senseless, God has a plan: our growth and maturity. Our displays of impatience are really just adult versions of childish tantrums. My six-year-old has them. So do I.

When I looked up the meaning of forbearance recently, I chuckled at the definition: “A good-natured tolerance of delay.” Forbearance, or its modern equivalent, patience, is the antithesis of the instant gratification we have come to expect in today’s society.

Stop sign—what’s that all about, anyway? Slow and go.

Long checkout line at the store? Surely they can afford to hire more cashiers—I have things to do!

Wait upon the Lord? God, don’t You know that I need this now?

The list goes on and on until our impatience leaves us stressed out, angry and anything but Christlike.

Such delays remind us that we are not in control; someone or something else is calling the shots and we don’t like it one bit.

Lessons in waiting

Ultimately, God is the One who controls all these delays. And the reasons are varied: He may want to teach us endurance, He may want to increase our faith, He may know we’re not ready for the next step and need more training, or He may want to redirect our attention back to Him.

Waiting goes hand-in-hand with trusting—we trust God’s judgement about all events in our lives, even the trivial ones that cause us to become irritated and angry. If we’re sensitive to the Holy Spirit, we’ll learn to recognise the lesson in each delay. Patience grows, not all at once, but little by little as we trust in God.

David learned patience. When he was just a teenager, God chose him to be the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:13), yet 20 years went by before he actually sat on the throne. David could have tried to speed things along by taking matters into his own hands, but he didn’t. He waited. Patiently.

If God were to provide us with everything instantly, we’d have no reason to walk by faith. David may not have understood why he had to wait so long, but he trusted that God would fulfil His promise in His own time and way.

Learning Patience

Following a few tips for devloping patience:

  • Devlop realistic Expectations
    There will be linesm traffic will move slowly and dinner will be delayed. Life doesn’t run like clockwork. Learn to expect and plan for such things.
  • Avoid Anger.
    Impatience leads to frustration, resentment and ultimately anger, which is dangerous to our physical. mental and emotional and spiritual health.
  • Realise that delays are only temporary.
    Resilient people recognise the fleetingness of it all and they know that this too shall pass. When we honour God with our words and our actions, He will redeem our time. It’s all in His hands anyway.
  • Be Proactive
    Instead of chooseing to be a vitctim, actively seek ways to make the most of your waiting time. Listen to the Bible on a CD while you’re in the car. Text a friend a word of encouragement as ou wait in line at the supermarket. Plan next week’s dinner menu while waiting at the doctor’s officr. Recognise what you can change and make the most of what you can’t
  • Give yourself time.
    Give yourself time. Delays are soemtimes inevitable, but they easily lead to impatience. Do you best to plan ahead so that you aren’t rushed to get jobs done.

Making allowances

Impatience doesn’t resolve the problem at hand, but it can have effects. Without patience, I’m unable to truly love. The apostle Paul, defining love in 1 Corinthians 13, began by saying, “Love is patient” (verse 4).

For the Christian, patience isn’t an option or a suggestion. We’re commanded to “be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). It’s the “everyone” that gets me!

So, if I’m to be patient with everyone, I have to make some allowances. Everybody has bad days. We’re all flaky once in a while. Brain lapses happen to all of us.

I’m learning to cut people some slack; overlook imperfections; and make allowances for bad days, other people’s mistakes and just plain weirdness. It is, after all, what I’d want done for me. I’m not too old to follow the golden rule.

Giving people the freedom to be human is a gift we can give every day. Peace comes from allowing each person to be the individual he or she was created to be.

I often have to remind myself of how patient God is with me. It’s then that I realise I’ll never have to be more patient with anyone else than God has already been with me!

Paul, the self-proclaimed chief of all sinners, understood this. He said that God showed him mercy “so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16).

Patience is developed by every choice I make. I can consciously choose to wait joyfully when the checkout line is not moving, or I can become tense, angry and frustrated. It’s up to me.

Respond, not react

Self-control waits. Impatience reacts. I want to be a responder, not a reactor. There’s a big difference between the two. Take a medication, for example. If the doctor says you had a reaction to it, that’s bad. If he says your body is responding to the medication, that’s good. Impatience reacts; patience responds.

Patience is a rare quality in today’s world. It’s a virtue that’s becoming endangered. For the Christian, patience is a fruit of the Spirit that we should be cultivating in our lives no matter what season we’re in.

Living in such an impatient world, I’m determined to enjoy where I am on the way to where I’m going, even if, like today, it means following a vehicle doing 40 kilometres an hour in a 60 km/h zone.

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