The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

Photo by Amanda C. Leidy Photography

*NOTE: Hey Mountain Goats! This is one part of a whole series about the Fruits of the Spirit. If you haven’t read the introduction post yet, you can do so here!

“See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. You also be patient.”

James 5:7-8

I was often told growing up that I was a very patient person. For years I believed this to be true, until college that is. In coming to understand the concept of patience for myself, I’ve come to realize just how impatient I really am.

It is tempting (daily) to be frustrated by the trivial experiences of life. Traffic is moving too slow, we’ve gotten every. Single. Red light on the way to work, we didn’t sleep well the night before, our coworkers were late, we forgot an assignment in school, that one person never responded to our text, etc. etc. etc. The list could go on for ages, right? 

We live in a world of instant gratification. From transportation to cell phones, text messages, drive-thrus, internet, emails, Amazon, even Netflix, we don’t have to wait for anything for any extended period of time. And we’ve done this intentionally, no one wants to wait for anything. 

Now, technology has many benefits of it’s own. I use the internet as a resource for so much personal study, as well as Netflix, Pinterest, etc. It isn’t inherently bad. 

But we’ve become so reliant on instantaneous everything that we don’t even know HOW to wait for things anymore. We wait until the last minute to do anything because we know we’ll receive it quickly. 

But what would the world look like if for just one day, we all chose to shut out all those things that normally drive us insane? What if we waited, uncomplaining, for every light to turn green. What if we let ourselves drive under the speed limit for just a couple of miles (speeding only really saves about ninety seconds anyways). What if we forgave our coworkers for being late, understanding that their situation isn’t any easier than our own.

That’s patience. That’s what patience looks like from the outside. When you truly start biblically diving into the practice that is patience, quiet waiting, enduring, understanding, being still and appreciating time, suddenly you’ll be able to see yourself becoming more like Christ.

What is Patience, Really?

“When the Bible speaks of patience…it speaks of it as a virtue that goes far beyond the mere ability to await some future gain…The patience that is in view here focuses more on interpersonal relationships with other people.”

-R.C. Sproul

A Christian who is patient is long-suffering, forbearing in the midst of personal injury, a reflection of the character of God. 

David Mathis defines patience as “the virtue of the soul that helps us persevere in doing good.” 

Patience is absolutely necessary for the virtues of the New Testament (faith, hope, and love) to exist. We have to have the ability and relationship with waiting and with quiet to be able to be fully faithful, a reflection of hope, and a testament to love.

I keep using the word “quiet” when talking about patience. It’s something I hadn’t really considered until I realized that the two words are so often used together. You can’t have patience without quiet, and often quiet is a sign of patient waiting. 

Patience is endurance, perseverance, stillness, and quiet. It is a reflection of God’s attitude toward us. 

What Does True Patience Look Like?

Like I said before, I used to think I was patient. But then I noticed all of the things I complain about. Everything that makes me irritable, or makes it hard for me to be polite. Everything that makes me reflect the world instead of reflecting God.

  • Do all things without grumbling or disputing
    Phil 2:14
  • For God alone my soul waits in silence…
    Ps 62:1
  • In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength
    Is 30:15
  • “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
    Lam 3:26
  • “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold the Judge is standing at the door…But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
    James 5:9-12

These verses, as well as hundreds of others, illustrate for us what true patience looks like.

It is a state of God-saturated waiting. It isn’t simply internalizing all of the angry thoughts, but really listening to the voice of God in every situation. It is holding back our reactions, and instead responding to the situation with careful, balanced steps.

How Do We Become Patient People?

I know it sounds impossible. There is no one answer to becoming patient. There’s no fix-all solution to impatience, or to being quiet and calm in a stressful situation. 

You can’t just flip a switch to make yourself respond instead of react. 

It takes practice. Practice taking an extra three seconds to respond to someone, and process what they say before you speak. Practice taking a deep breath when people cut you off in traffic. Practice closing your eyes anytime you’re frustrated with yourself for not being where you want to be yet. 

Humble yourself. 

We aren’t any better than anyone else. My destination isn’t any more important than that mom who cut me off in traffic because she’s trying to potty-train her toddler. 

Respond, don’t react. Wait three seconds. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. 

Most importantly, though, rely on God

We truly can’t do anything on our own, in our own strength, or without God’s help. Pray for strength, pray for quiet, and pray for the ability to wait. 

Another aspect of becoming patient, from the inside out, is recognizing God. Recognizing His active presence in our lives can give us the perspective on everyday moments that Paul had when he said that he counts all as “rubbish” in comparison to the glory of God. 

The trivial everyday matters that would send us into impatient rants and grumbling are simply not as important when put up against the pure holiness of God. So, if we keep God at the forefront of our minds, what can stand in the way our our state of quiet patience?

A Prayer for all us Mountain Goats

My prayer for you is this: That you, and me, would learn to practice patience every day. That we would be careful with our words, with our responses, and with our actions. I pray that God would saturate the front of our minds so thoroughly that we don’t even have time to react instead of respond. I pray that we would be careful to acknowledge the importance of waiting, and giving ourselves time to remember God.

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

Don’t forget to check out the Recommendations page for links to other Christian organizations and Bible study tools!

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