Struggling With Patience

PatienceYears 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.

Understanding Patience

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.

Psalm 37

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?

Diligent, Peaceable & Occupied

The posts “Pursuing a Quiet Life” and “Balanced Goal Setting” give perspective on living out Paul’s directive for early Christians regarding focus and ambition.

“Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters… to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent upon anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12)

The Aramaic Bible in Plain English translation deepens our application of this advice as we consider our own forward growth.

“And that you would be diligent, peaceable and occupied with your business, working with your hands just as we commanded you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:12)

This version gives three descriptors to consider as we pursue a quiet life. (Note that in “Pursuing a Quiet Life” we looked at how “quiet” reflects an inner attitude rather than an outer physical state.) The Aramaic version of this verse also helps dial in a bit on the inner attitude that drives Paul’s directive.

First, a few definitions:

  • Diligent — constant in effort
  • Peaceable — inclined to avoid strife; not argumentative or hostile
  • Occupied — filled up; engaged mind, attention and energy

If we combine these definitions, we come up with a comprehensive view of the attitude we’re seeking when we think of a “quiet life” in the sense that Paul is encouraging it.

Make a constant effort to avoid arguing and hostility and to engage your mind, attention and energy in the work you’ve been given to do.

What does this constant effort look like in a practical way? In other words, how can we live quiet lives by being diligent, peaceable and occupied?

  1. Do your part to get along with others. You can only control and change yourself. (Romans 12:18)
  2. Focus on the work God gives YOU. When you do, you’ll have a lot less time to criticize others. You’ll also be much more productive this way. (Romans 12)
  3. Let grace carry you through your mistakes. When you make mistakes, learn from them, forgive yourself, and move forward in the grace of God. (1 Peter 1:13)
  4. Verbalize thankfulness in your victories. Realize that God does work good for those who love him, so give him the credit for working good in your life. (Romans 8:28)
  5. Pursue a quiet life in increasing measure. Refuse to let the chaos of the world infiltrate your attitude. Instead, secure your spirit in the peace that passes all understanding but that can also draw others to Christ. (Philippians 4:7)

When our energies focus in these ways, we’ll find our lives increasingly productive and effective. In addition, we’ll discover that the work we’ve been given — loving others and living to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1-11) — happens through the living of quiet lives in our own unique ways.

DISCUSSION: What other ways can we increase our efforts to live diligent, peaceable and occupied lives?

Pursuing Unity

Be at peaceWhile studying unity, see “Struggling for Unity” for details on that effort, I could not escape the role of individual responsibility for the creation, growth and continual existence of unity. I did not necessarily like (in my flesh) what I found either because it requires significant change on my part both in action and in mindset.

Paul addressed unity a lot within the early church, and the issue remains a constant struggle still today for most (all?) churches. While there are numerous Scriptures throughout the Old and New Testaments touting the importance and even the absolute necessity of unity, one portion in particular strikes me as a sort of mantra for unity. Ephesians 3 provides the motivation for unity (because we’re called, saved & equipped with God’s power), and Ephesians 4 gets into the details of what unity in the body looks like. I encourage you to read all of both chapters now, but at the very least meditate on these key phrases from Ephesians 4 while considering your individual role in creating and maintaining unity.

“Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowances for each others faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace.”

“One body… one Spirit… on glorious future… one Lord… one faith… one baptism… one God and Father…”

“… hold to the truth in love…”

“Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

“…throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life…”

“So put away all falsehood and ‘tell your neighbor the truth’ because we belong to each other.”

“…be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

With those verses in mind, consider the following statements as you contemplate your own role in the unity of the body. These statements simply reflect my personal agenda for positively impacting the unity of my family and my church.

For the sake of building unity in the groups of which I am a part, I commit to…

  1. Preferring others by not insisting and arguing for my own way, wants & desires.
  2. Allowing others to make mistakes without receiving criticism from me and to instead offer encouragement and sometimes instruction.
  3. Refusing to assume because I know that assumptions (always? often? usually?) lead to foolish behavior.
  4. Avoid operating on misinformation while at the same time realizing that some things are simply none of my business.
  5. Treating others with respect even when I don’t agree with them.
  6. Focusing on facts over feelings.
  7. Realizing there is often more than one right way to accomplish a goal.
  8. Accepting people where they are and encouraging them to always be growing.
  9. Making sure I’m always growing spiritually since no one is responsible for my growth but me.
  10. Refusing to give up on unity by continually praying for and working toward peace with others regardless of their efforts.

Consider taking time to write your own plan for building, promoting and protecting unity. Ephesians 3 and 4 were used as guides for my own statements, but really the entire book of Ephesians provides tremendous help toward playing an active role in making sure unity thrives in your relationships. Other Scripture driving home the point include 1 Peter 3:8-9, Psalm 34 and Psalm 133. I encourage you to make unity a priority in your life and to “do all that you can to live in peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

DISCUSSION: What are you doing regularly to build and protect unity?

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How to Build Trust

TrustWith lives securely based on trust in God, we can move forward in imperfect relationships. We work toward holiness together, knowing we’ll make mistakes but also seeing progress made toward complete perfection. And that moving forward requires we build trust even within imperfect relationships.

Truths About Trust

In order to build trust, we must first understand some truths about trust that may be difficult to admit and accept. We’ve talked about these truths already in previous posts (listed at the bottom of this post), but let’s revisit them for a moment here.

  1. Only God is completely trustworthy. He never changes, and we can be completely confident in Him at all times.
  2. Expectations and past experiences shape trust. How much we trust others depends on their overall trustworthiness. How much we trust them also depends on our lifetime of experiences with trust as well as on our expectations about trust.
  3. You’re the only person whose trust you control. Determine to be trustworthy. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Purpose to live peacefully with others as much as it is up to you to do so. Build trust by making sure your words and actions always match up.

Understanding how trust works allows us to build trust in relationships. Learning to trust is a process, and we must continually work to maintain that trust. And often, we must choose to build trust even in the absence of trustworthiness because people need the opportunity to be trusted in order to become trustworthy.

Working to Build Trust

Consider practicing the following as you work to build trustrust puzzlet in your relationships:

  1. Verbalize it. Talk about trust. For example, I tell my kids that how much I trust them is up to them. They determine the level of trust I have for them based on their overall choices. Discuss broken trust when it happens, learn from it and move toward reestablishing it. Never forget the tremendous role communication plays in building trust.
  2. Accept it. Since human relationships involve imperfection, we either have to accept broken trust or refuse to be a part of any relationships. Accepting it doesn’t mean accepting the behavior. It mean committing to dealing with it when it happens, hopefully without severing the relationship.
  3. Wait for it. Trust takes time to establish. It also takes a lot of ups and downs. Determine to build trust over the long haul, and refuse to give up even when trust is broken.

After being hurt yet again by broken trust, we naturally want to retreat and live a life not trusting others in an effort to avoid being hurt again. Yet, when we focus on the One who is completely trustworthy, we can enter relationships, be hurt by broken trust in them, and continue moving forward.

Derailed by Broken Trust?

Because we’re safe in the hands of the One who is trustworthy, we know He won’t let anything ultimately hurt us. He’s got us for eternity, and nothing can take that away. This motivates me to bravely enter relationships knowing I’ll be hurt. It leads me to ask others to trust me even though I’ll likely let them down at some point.

Since no one can take away that which is most important – salvation & a relationship with Christ – living within the boundaries of imperfect relationships doesn’t frighten me anymore. I can feel the pain of broken trust and choose to move forward, to build trust again, and to work toward peace and unity and because it pleases God.

DISCUSSION: How does your relationship with Christ encourage you to keep working toward trusting in relationships?

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Other posts on trust:

Where Should You Place Your Trust?

TrustAnalyzing Trust

Where do you place your trust? Friends? Family? Spouse? Parents? Teachers? Doctors? Pastors? Authors? Children? Finances? Abilities? Talents? News? Television?

To some degree, every object of trust breaks trust at some point. We all know the sting of broken trust. If we’re completely honest, we all must admit to being the source of that sting at times too.

Where you place your trust and the level of trust you extend to another depends greatly on your view of their overall trustworthiness, dependability and reliability. How much you trust also depends upon your overall ability to trust in general. In other words, trust exists specific to the trustworthiness of the person or thing being trusted, but it also exists based on your overall life experience with trust as well as on your individual expectations for trust.

For example, I trust my husband more than any other person because our shared experiences over the past 29 years prove his overall trustworthiness. Doesn’t mean he’s never let me down, but it does mean his life speaks to a solid character deserving of trust.

On the other hand, broken trust with other people surprised me enough times over the years to the point of lowering my expectation for trustworthiness in general. People I thought I knew were not who I thought they were. Apparent character turned out not to be false. And, spoken values ended up as dust in the whirlwind of busyness and overload.

So, while my overall trust of my husband still stands strong and gives hope that trustworthiness still exists in people, my overall trust of people in general exists weaker today than it did five years ago.

Choosing Obedience Over Feelings

Today, I stand questioning the trustworthiness of people in general. Befuddled by what seems to be an epidemic gap between the private self and the public self in way too many individuals, I expect the appearance of character to no longer match reality and am pleasantly surprised when it does.

My reaction to these feelings involves wanting to live an introverted life, a natural bent for me anyway. But even more than what seems natural, I find myself drawn away from connecting and gravitating toward keeping people at a safe distance emotionally.

Yet, a pull deep within me keeps me from completely withdrawing. It keeps the desire for connection alive even at the risk of hurt caused by broken trust. That inclination involves the Holy Spirit’s work within me creating a desire to please God and do His will regardless of my feelings.

Scripture says to love others. It says to to connect and encourage and admonish and give advice and get advice. So, withdrawing goes against God’s desires. I admit to often being at odds with Scripture’s directives regarding connection. My desire to lessen the sting of broken trust rides high in my awareness, and I often given in to it.

The sting of broken trust leads me to pull against what Scripture says about loving others.

Since what I’m feeling does not match with what I know of God’s Word, I must analyze the disconnect and better align my thoughts and feelings with God’s Word.

With that realization, let’s consider what God says about trust.

What God Says About Trust

Scripture clearly tells us where NOT TO place your trust:

  • Weapons (Psalm 44:6) — This gets at the idea of our ability to defend ourselves.
  • Wealth (Psalm 49:6, 7) — A means for sharing blessing not an object of trust.
  • Leaders (Psalm 146:3) — Leaders often make mistakes and fail to meet our expectations.
  • Man (Jeremiah 17:5) — Placing people as the source of trust brings curse, not blessing.
  • Works (Jeremiah 48:7) — Trusting in skills and abilities leads to captivity; works are never enough.
  • Righteousness (Ezekiel 33:13) — We simply don’t possess the ability to obtain righteousness, to do enough to be completely trustworthy, on our own.

Scripture helped me understand the hurt caused by broken trust came because I expected complete trustworthiness from people and things unable to deliver it.

Scripture also clearly tells us where TO place your trust:

  • God’s Name (Psalm 33:21) — His name reflects His attributes and His character. God always holds true to His character.
  • God’s Word (Psalm 119:42) — Scripture provides the answers needed for every struggle of life.
  • Christ (Matthew 12:17-21) — The hope of all the world rests securely on the perfectly trustworthy shoulders of Jesus.

We are to trust in His Word, in who He says He is and with hope in the death-conquering power of Christ. My trust should belong nowhere else. And as is the abundant nature of God, He also gives benefits of trusting Him.

Place Your Trust in God

Trust blessings

When reading this list of benefits of trusting in God alone, I wonder try to trust or have confidence in anyone or anything else.

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Breaking Out of the Lather, Rinse, Repeat Routine

shampooThe “No Poo” Method

Not too long ago, I decided to revamp my hair care routine. I was struggling to get my hair to style how I wanted it or even in any way I thought acceptable. It was oily and what I considered unruly, and I felt constantly self-conscious of it.

Then I read a magazine focused on natural methods for everything from house cleaning to personal care. One article talked about using baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead of shampoo. It’s called the “no poo” method. After additional research, I decided to give it a go. Based on my research, I also added olive and lavender oils to the routine as well and decided to only wash my hair every other day.

vinegarMy hair care routine just was not working well. I kept trying different salon products with no positive progress. So, I decided to break out of that lather, rinse, repeat routine and try something radically different. So far, so good.

The Definition of Insanity

My recent hair routine revamp represents what I think we all need to do from time to time in one area or another. We get stuck and feel in a rut, but we fail to change anything, and we just keep doing what everyone else does.

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” (Albert Einstein)

The idea of repetition involves making something a habit, making it automatic. Professional athletes practice the fundamentals over and over again. Writers write day in and day out. And at least to some extent, this repetition should produce positive results.

But Einstein’s point becomes clear when we realize habits are failing to produce those positive results. In fact, they may even frustrate and depress us because of the lack of progress. At times, insanity seems imminent.

This happened with my hair care routine. It’s happened in my exercise routine. My kids often develop pointless habits that need adjusted. These practices of doing the same thing over and over again with no progress not surprisingly produced the same, frustrating, lack-of-progress results over and over again.

Break Out of the Routine

While habits often produce beneficial results, they also often create a rut of frustration and boredom. When this happens, either we choose to break out of the routine or to continue on the road to insanity.

Choosing to break out of the routine includes the following elements (not necessarily steps in this order as many can happen simultaneously):

  1. Assess the current state of affairs. What is not working? What can you change?
  2. Research possible solutions and changes. Get the knowledge you need to make wise changes. Refuse to be ignorant.
  3. Seek wise counsel. Get advice from someone who is where you want to be. Pray a lot.
  4. Acquire the tools. What do you need in order to make changes? Supplies? Instructions? Knowledge?
  5. Obtain accountability. Let someone know what you’re doing, and ask them for honest critique of the changes you’re making. Be willing to hear what they are saying and make adjustments based on their advice.
  6. Find encouragement. Read about people who made similar changes with success. Get around people who encourage you to change & grow. Refuse to let negative in, and that often means shutting out the influence of culture through avenues like television & magazines.
  7. Reassess regularly. Go back to #1 every so often and re-assess what’s working and what’s not.
  8. Try different approaches. Be willing to make mistakes to figure out what works. Mistakes are great teachers!
  9. Nix changes that don’t work. Some approaches just won’t work for you. Keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t.sf_runRace_01
  10. Refuse to give up. You are not trapped. There is a way through, over, under around, whatever. Stay persistent! Quitting is the only sure way to make no progress.

Not only are these elements ones I used to break out of the “lather, rinse, repeat” routine, they are ones I have used to make changes in many areas of life. Sometimes, the changes happen rather quickly like they did with my haircare routine. Sometimes, they happen slowly over time like they did for me with defeating depression.

Never giving up really is the key. Simply refuse to quit running the race (Hebrews 12:1).

DISCUSSION: What elements would you add to the list?