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Patience is a Virtue

I have heard the phrase ‘patience is a virtue’ my whole life, but let’s review what that phrase means. The definition of virtue means a behavior showing high moral standards. I think there is a reason why “patience is a virtue” is a popular phrase even more than a lot of other qualities or fruits of the Holy Spirit.

The one we hear about is patience.

I think it’s easy to find ways to love people even in difficult times, but patience is one of those things that has a reputation, doesn’t it? A lot of of us have jokingly said “don’t pray for patience, because as soon as you do you’re going to need it”.

Patience is a behavior that is reflective of our beliefs.

The truth of who God is and how we relate to Him, is demonstrated in our patience more so than some of the other fruits of the Holy Spirit. In my personal life, waiting makes me want to strangle a person. It is not my best fruit.

There are other fruits that I have cultivated more faithfully, or that I come by naturally. I typically lean towards joy and loving others anyway. Faithfulness is something that I resonate with more naturally. Now, it doesn’t mean I don’t need to cultivate them, but I understand them more. When it comes to patience; I feel like I try to find a way to weasel out of the situation and avoid needing patience. I don’t want to wait for anything very long.

In our culture of instant gratification, we are less willing to wait or put in the long-term effort and consistency for a grand end result. We become really desirous of instant gratification in our practical and spiritual lives. I know I get frustrated and in order to avoid waiting for something I get really creative and I want to share those with you. If some of these are things that you do which one do you choose most often? If you have other ideas I would love to know how you avoid using patience. 

One way that I typically will try to avoid having to wait for things is by taking a risk. I know what I want to do, and it’s not working so I am just going to take a leap and do XYZ. I will also delegate tasks. I might put some of my responsibilities on other people. When I see something not happening, if I can come up with a way for something to be done by other people taking action, I will put that pressure on them. I have made the mistake in years past in church work when I saw an area that needed to grow. If I saw a Bible study that needed to happen or help in children’s ministry or a renovation that needs to happen, I would start dealing with my impatience by pressuring others to respond. I would sometimes speak up at meetings and sort of start snapping my fingers in the background to get things done. Do you have anyone in your life that you do this? I don’t think I am alone in this, right?

We like to take the pressure off of ourselves and onto other people. 

Another way that I avoid waiting is that I throw out a fleece for God. Now, if you aren’t familiar with that term it comes from the book of Judges where Gideon has been commanded by God to go and fight a battle. It is scary because he is up against a large army and God has a very small army for Gideon to fight with. Gideon has a little doubt about that and he lays out a fleece on the ground outside and requests that if God is really calling for him to fight this battle that God will make the fleece wet and the ground dry. Then after God does that, Gideon still isn’t sure and asks God to do it the opposite way. This confirmed that Gideon was supposed to fight the battle. Sometimes, I don’t like waiting for God. I want to be sure that I am waiting for Him and know that I am not off track somewhere, so I’ll come up with some little gimmick in an attempt to confirm through some coincidental happening that I am doing what God wants. I don’t think that asking God to show Himself is wrong, I think that’s fine but if I know in my heart if I am using it to squirm out of needing to be patient, then that is an improper use of that technique. 

Then of course there are the common ways of waiting where we try to avoid the pressure, stress, anxiety if things don’t happen in our timing. I know all of us have been in financial situations where we aren’t sure how it is going to work out. My husband and I have recently been in some of those situations and even today sometimes say “I do not know how God provides for this.” When we don’t see the way that something is going to happen it can be stressful and when we get to the place of waiting for God to show up then we move into other coping mechanisms. I will stress eat to cope or I will go shopping and buy stuff. I cannot tell you the number of times over years of parenting that I have genuinely needed shoes for my children and we didn’t have the money.  I would get frustrated and impatient, go out and buy the shoes, charge it to the credit card, and then just about the time they have worn the shoes enough that I would feel guilty returning them we would have a pair of shoes given to us. I don’t know what it is about shoes but they have been the way that God has revealed my impatience to me. It really is not my best fruit. 

Sometimes I sleep. I just take a nap so that I don’t have to think about it. Or, I will use games and social media on my phone to cope. You probably have something similar that you go to in order to numb out having to wait and use patience. 

Recently my husband and I were praying about a financial need. I mentioned to my husband that I wish I could read in a book somewhere that God has heard us, He cares about us and there is a reason that we are having to wait for this need to be met. If we had a little letter or something telling us the reason for waiting, I feel like I could wait for a long time. (I think it funny that there is a book written directly to us as believers and I honestly did not put that together) I came across verses in Romans 2 about patience. Verses 4,6,7 and 11 are the part that stood out. (which by the way, was what spoke to me directly out of scripture. I am jumping because these are the parts that spoke to me most, not because I want to hide part of the scripture.)

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?  Romans 2:4 

The phrase “ God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” stuck out at me and I checked some of the cross-references around that verse and it is really talking about how God shows patience to us and it is a form of kindness and mercy. He is waiting for us to see the need for Him in our lives. 

He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; Romans 2: 6-7 

To me, this is a promise from God that he sees that believers are trying to do well and seek the things of the Lord and he gives eternal life. It is reflective of His goodness and love towards us. He is not up in heaven, as I have seen a comic waiting to push the smite button any opportunity that He gets. We are doing good things and want to bring God glory. We are seeking good things in life and have standards that are honoring His word. He sees that and is going to take care of us. 

For God shows no partiality. Romans 2:11

I think it is interesting that this is a time that He reminds people that are self-seeking and don’t obey the truth and obey unrighteousness. He points out that He doesn’t play favorites. He is talking about in the bible that it doesn’t matter your cultural background or social status, God desires that we all come to Him and He will give abundant life to those who obey Him, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and repent of their sins. It is encouraging that He doesn’t play favorites. In the context of His patience, I found myself encouraged today about God’s patience and how I am able to wait because of 3 key things about Him.

Those 3 things are: 

  • I can wait patiently for God because my trust is not based on circumstances, but instead on His ability and power.

A lot of times when my circumstances aren’t working out, take our financial need, for instance, it is easy to start wondering if you should keep going in the same direction.

We get clear what the right thing to do is, and then regardless of our circumstances we keep doing the right thing. We don’t adjust what is true about God around how we experience life and our everyday circumstances. It is the other way around. We get clear on what is true about God. He has our best interest in mind, we can trust Him, He is powerful, He loves us beyond measure.

We then compel our experiences and circumstances to line up with His truth. It isn’t a popular thought these days. There is a lot of talk out there that our experiences should define what we believe and I am telling you that is a quick road to Hell. We all experience different things and it can be interpreted differently depending on our feelings, but God doesn’t change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can trust him and whether we see how it works out or not, whether He chooses to bless us financially or not, we can trust Him. Our decision to trust God is based on His ability, what He is capable of, and His power. It is not based on the possibilities that we can see. I encourage you to get back to patiently waiting for God because of your trust in His ability and power. 

  • I can wait patiently for God because He has provided before. 

I have stories in my own life of how He has provided, and I bet if you sat down and thought about it you do too! We can use those circumstances of how He is capable of providing again. For instance, when we have been homeschooling at one point I had all of my children trying to learn something in school.

In that season of life, with 7 kids I found it extremely overwhelming and difficult. The start of the school year was close and I was praying about homeschooling. I felt like I was supposed to homeschool, but I didn’t see how to make it happen. I looked at the curriculum and we needed financial help if we were going to hire a tutor. I just didn’t see how it would work out.

I went to my husband and told him that I thought we might need to put the kids in school. At the time he was adamant that we were not going to put them in school. I remember having that long conversation with Brandon and it wasn’t easy. We were at odds with each other and didn’t see eye to eye, but we ended the conversation with a prayer. We prayed that if God was calling us to stay in homeschooling that we needed him to provide. Talk about a squirm. We were supposed to start school on Monday and it was Friday. I didn’t see a way out, I had been praying about this all summer with no result and here I was again waiting.

I testify to you today that I walked into another building and there was a girl that just graduated from Bible school. She came up to me and said “Mary, I feel like the Lord has put on my heart to help you with school this year. I am wondering if I helped with your homeschool in exchange for room and board in your house?” I promise I am not making this up or exaggerating. If anything, I am downplaying how this happened.

She ended up moving into the garage bedroom that we had and living with us for that year. She taught my kindergartener and 1st grader their letters, how to read and write. That freed me up to be able to do the subjects for my other children. The very next year I had to wait for God to provide instead of being rash and dropping them in public school. If I had done that the testimony would have been lost. The next year she was moving on and I needed a new solution.

Along came this program called Classical Conversations that I felt like the Lord put on my heart was the answer. It was going to cost over $4,000, they didn’t take credit cards and it had to be paid all up front. All of a sudden we needed $4,000 because we felt like God was calling us to put our kids in this program. We began praying for it and the deadline got closer. The week before we were supposed to pay that bill I received an unexpected inheritance check from my mom who decided to divide her portion of the inheritance from her mother’s property and give it to her kids. It was within $100 of the same price of what we needed to pay for school. We were able to pay the other $100. If I hadn’t continued to trust Him and realize that He has ways to provide for us that we have no idea about, then that testimony would’ve been lost.

I challenge you to go back and recall the times He has provided for you in the past and use them as evidence of what is possible. It is so easy to get caught up in the thought of not knowing how your need will be met and forget the ways your past needs have been met. 

One of the verses that popped out at me when I was praying for our finances not too long ago is Psalms 50. This is one of my favorite Psalms and I encourage you to read it if you are in a place of struggle or waiting. 

For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. Psalms 50:10

And call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. Psalms 50:15

My testimony is that He has delivered me before if I have patiently waited for His answer and I honor Him by being able to tell you about it. I can encourage you to look for places that He has shown up for you before. I can remind you that we serve a big God and He has provided and can do it again.

  • I can wait patiently because I know He hears and if I am still waiting it is on purpose. 

The last verse is Psalm 50: 23 says “Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, and to the blameless, I will show my salvation.”

He gives us a promise, we can believe and trust Him. In the waiting, the sacrifice we can give Him is thanksgiving. As I am sharing this article with you today my thanksgiving that is a sacrifice is that I am so thankful for the ways He has shown up before. I don’t have the answers to them, but I do know that I can be thankful for the ways that He has shown up in the past. God provides for us and meets our needs. You have the opportunity to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, it isn’t easy but it is evidence that we are willing to patiently wait to wait for what God has in store for us.

My prayer for you is that you will be digging into waiting patiently for the Lord and using this opportunity to be an example for your kids of that being patient looks like. Patience is a virtue and fruit of the Spirit that requires cultivating and practice. It’s like building muscle, it is going to be uncomfortable. Apply this to your life. God is so faithful and willing to meet our needs.  

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