Years ago, I thought I had a patience problem. I needed more of it. So, I worked to be more patient. Unfortunately, trying to be more patient didn’t work all that well.
I then decided I instead had an anger problem. If I simply prevented anger, patience would increase. You know, walk away before anger gets out of control. Avoid trying situations that erode patience and promote frustration and anger. That didn’t work either.
My efforts toward increased patience and decreased anger weren’t a complete loss, though. I sometimes managed patience if I wasn’t hungry, tired or thirsty and if everything else was basically going my way and if it wasn’t too big of a deal and if the other person was obviously just being difficult, and if…
Honestly, consistency consistently eluded me with regard to patience.
At some point, I finally realized my struggles with patience stemmed from control issues — I wanted to control people and situations… yes, all of them. I lost my patience and replaced it with anger and frustration when that didn’t happen, which was most of the time.
We most often associate patience with putting up with another person, but it goes well beyond that. Patience also means waiting and not forcing a situation to happen according to your preferences. Having patience means staying emotionally steady when a person doesn’t do what you expect or a situation doesn’t happen as you expect.
Patience involves making a decision to not force a situation, to instead wait and let it happen — or not — as it will. Having patience and not insisting on your will requires faith as a way to not simply get through something but to instead know the Lord will direct your actions (Proverbs 16:9).
Patience involves a refusal to insist on your own way. It means letting others make mistakes because that’s the only way they’ll realize they’re mistakes and because you want the same to happen when you make mistakes. It means forgiving when a person doesn’t know they should be sorry or knows and simply isn’t sorry.
Patience toward people and circumstances often requires knowing what your emotions want and choosing to head in the opposite direction. It means employing flexibility to the utmost of your limits.
Don’t Force The Situation
Somewhere along the way, I learned to tell myself “Don’t force it” when patience evaded my grasp and anger and frustration took its place. This motto enforces patience and reminds me to wait even when my feelings want to push and pull and control.
“Don’t force it” provides a practice that receives reinforcement through remembering all the times I did the opposite and found myself overwhelmed and overloaded in getting what I wanted only to discover it was not what I needed or that it distanced me from those I loved.
“Don’t force it” is a determination that keeps me from getting ahead of God and discovering I left His presence behind for the benefits of His promises (Exodus 33). It’s a reminder to let Him be God and to follow His leading.
Focus Determines Reality
Patience says you trust God to work in another’s heart and mind to their benefit and His glory (Romans 15:5). It says you trust Him to present opportunities as you actively wait in what you already know to do.
It means placing an inner stillness over your desire to control and to instead focus on His presence. It’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit we make room for as we deny the flesh (Galatians 5:22).
Patience exists as an attribute, a requirement really, of truly loving others (1 Corinthians 13:4). It’s a habit that flourishes in simplicity of living (James 5:7). It’s an aspect of the Lord’s character we must pursue as we focus on who He is, not just what He does.
Victory In The Struggle
Patience now exists with consistency in my life, now that I know the root cause isn’t a lack of patience or an abundance of anger but a control issue. Sure, patience needed to increase and anger needed to decrease (and sometimes they both still do), but I now realize neither of those could happen until my need to control others and situations diminished.
Until my focus turned away from my own efforts and instead fixed on the One who holds all control, my reality remained in the muck and mire of out-of-control emotions.
Knowing He has ultimate control over all aspects of life brings me peace. Knowing He gives wisdom and guidance in every moment of life produces staying confidence. And knowing His Spirit plants and cultivates patience within me allows me to focus on the victory within the struggle.
DISCUSSION: How have you struggled with patience? How have you found victory over it?