Yesterday I had the opportunity to encourage a fellow believer to be patient in a certain situation he was facing. I finished the conversation by telling him I would be be praying for him in that area, and he responded by saying, “Me too.” Later, as I reflected on the conversation, I was struck by my friend's final comment, and wondered if he had meant he would be praying for patience in his own life, along with me - or if he would be praying for patience in my life. It wasn't clear, but I decided that he must have been saying he would pray for patience in his own life because I hadn't indicated I was in need of more patience. But today, as I sat in an unexpected traffic jam, watching the clock tick away, knowing I was going to be late for an appointment, I reversed my decision and hoped that he was indeed praying for my patience, because it turns out I needed it after all.
Patience is one of those attributes that we can't learn by reading about it. It’s a quality that can only be acquired through persistence, endurance, and practice - which is why I think so many of us struggle with it. But the Bible tells us it's something we need to strive for. In Galatians 5 the Apostle Paul tells us to, “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives . . . producing this kind of fruit in your lives: love, joy, peace, patience…". If we really think about it, our level of patience has a direct correlation to our faith in God’s timing, omnipotence, and love.
Here’s what I mean: when we're impatient, what we're actually saying to God is that we're not happy with how He's directing our lives - even down to the smallest thing like sitting in traffic. It's like my friend who used to say that he was unbelievably patient, as long as everything was going his way.
So if we're struggling with patience, I think the first thing we need to do is look at our level of selfishness. Are we pushing through the day with our own agenda - trying to make things happen on our timing, and the way we want everything to work? If so, we're going to end up frustrated with either things, or people, or situations that God will put in our way to slow us down and get our attention. And He wants our attention so that we can learn and do what He has planned for us during that day.
So let's slow down, refocus on God, and ask Him what He wants to do with our day - and ultimately, with our lives. Once we get the focus off of us and back on Him, our impatience will fade away as we submit ourselves to His good and perfect plan for our lives.