Patience is so hard for us to exercise. We always want something, and we want it
instantly. We’re never satisfied if we get what we want, but wait too long for it. The cake in the
oven tastes bad because we waited too long (even though it was cooked for the right amount of
What is patience in a Christian life? How do we get patience? Why is it so hard to have
patience?? These are questions we continually ask ourselves, each other, and God, but we never
seem to get an answer to them.
What the Bible Says About Patience
To understand why it’s hard for us to exercise patience, we need to understand what patience is.
Patience has multiple definitions including (but not limited to):
- The quality of bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain without complaint,
loss of temper, irritation or the like.
- An ability to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.
- Quiet, steady perseverance
- Good natured tolerance of delay or incompetence
Now, we often will say, “patience is a virtue” but have we ever stopped to think about what
makes patience a virtue? Let’s look at a simple example. If we are waiting for a friend and we
spend our time occupied watching TV and don’t complain while we wait for them, we don’t say
that we are being patient.
The concept of not complaining doesn’t immediately make it a virtue, unless discomfort is involved. So patience becomes a virtue when there is discomfort, which then brings in self-control, humility, gentleness, and other fruit of the spirit, just as Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Why is Patience So Hard?
But here’s the problem: we find it so hard to truly act in accordance with Ephesians 4:2; it’s just
so easy to lose patience with someone or something. However, our impatience can lead to 2
- We begin to grumble, gripe, and complain about the unfairness of our situation. This can lead to a fracture in our relationship with God because we don’t completely trust Him.
A prime example would be the Israelites and their continuous grumbling. Every single time, the Israelites have complained about something. Food, shelter, water, pretty much anything and everything you can think of, the Israelites have complained about it. And they must’ve definitely been uncomfortable in the wilderness, but they chose not to exercise patience in the face of this discomfort.
- Our grumbling and complaining reaches to a point where we become so impatient that we take matters into our own hands which can lead to disastrous effects, especially when our deeds aren’t in accordance with God’s plan for us.
Let’s take a look at Samson and his story in Judges 16. In the ESV, Judges 16:16 says this: “And
when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to
death.” Samson was irritated by Delilah’s constant nagging. Instead of praying and trusting that
God would get him through this, he decided to act on his own terms to get Delilah to stop
Going back to our Israelite example, at one point Israelites were irritated by the amount of time it
took Moses to come down from Mount Sinai. Their grumbling and complained reached a point where they decided it was a viable option to build the golden calf, which was absolutely not what
God wanted them to do.
How to Be Patient Like Jesus
So, this leads to the role patience plays in our spiritual lives.
Patience is difficult because as humans, we always are thinking of ourselves and our physical
needs. We get frustrated when they aren’t put first and that can lead to impatience. Our levels of
patience are also different for all of us depending on our trials, those we interact with, etc, but the
need to strengthen our patience “levels” is universal.
A wonderful example for us to follow would be Jesus. He showed so much patience throughout
his earthly life with whomever he was dealing with (Pharisees, chief priests, the lame, the blind,
and so many others).
Philippians 4:6 gives us another way for us to strengthen our patience “levels.” In the ESV, it
reads, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Praying for Patience
When someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does He give them
the opportunity to be patient?
Some of us ask God to help us be patient but get surprised whenGod puts us in situations to help us be patient. God may very well have given you what you prayed for, just not in the exact way you wanted it. He always knows best and has a bigger plan and picture for our lives.
In addition, when we pray, there’s often times when we might get impatient with God. We might wonder, why isn’t He answering our questions? Why isn’t He giving us what we want, right then? That impatience means that we don’t trust God completely. We doubt his abilities and his love for us to give us every good thing. We give into our need for control. Fully trusting God means that we surrender everything to him and thus have “infinite patience”; we will wait on the Lord.
However, while we’ve mentioned that we shouldn’t become impatient, what about in our distress? Does our crying out to the Lord mean we’re being impatient? When is it viable for us to “complain” to the Lord?
Here are some verses where a complaint was made to God:
- Psalm 10:1 – Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
- Psalm 88:15-18 – From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne
your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have
destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed
me. You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.
While these are complaints, the severity of them merits a cry to God and in fact, it would seem
that the psalmist has complete faith in God over his trials, recognizing God’s power in the midst
of pain, and inherently knowing that God has the ability to deliver him. The psalmist trusts God.
What is Patience in a Christian Life?
We need to always remember that God is in control in our lives. Patience in a Christian’s life is
exercised when we trust that God is working everything out for our good and leave our life in his
hands (Romans 8:28 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for