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Why Is It so Hard to Be Patient?

They say that the best way to test someone’s patience is to hook them up with extremely slow internet connection. I, personally, cannot put up with slow-walkers – the kind that force you to miss the lights or train because they very tactfully decide to obscure the whole footpath in front of you. I have largely encountered two kinds of slow-walkers on my commute to school. There’s the pretentious uni student wearing flashy headphones or the businessman who seems to think all the traffic on the North Shore revolves around their mobile phone conversation. If I ever have the nerve to walk comically faster than them in order to get past, I sometimes even make a point of it if I’m feeling particularly petty that morning.

The point is, as frustrating as these slow-walkers may be, my impatience as a result of my self-centredness is highlighted all the more. I obviously don’t own the pathway; I don’t even know these people. However, when we let impatience get the better of us because a desire, goal or promise cannot be instantly fulfilled, it can lead us to make some pretty irrational and hurtful decisions that certainly do not reflect God’s gracious and merciful character. Our consumerist society feeds off our impatience and gratification. We want the next movie, phone, car of the series before the current one is even a month old. We’re impatient with the world and impatient with each other. Sinful impatience is born by being frustrated by the lack of control we have over something while doubting that God has any either.

 Why should we be patient?

Because we call ourselves followers of Christ should, therefore, seek to imitate Him. Jesus is undoubtedly the most patient person who ever walked the Earth, from his birth right up to his ascension. To begin with, think about Jesus’ endless patience with the troop of Pharisees who relentlessly conspired to completely debase and humiliate Him. They did not listen, nor did they desire to understand, yet Jesus never retaliated but only responded with humility, grace and dare I say it, wit (think of His response to the Pharisees when they question his authority Mark 11: 27-33). Jesus was utterly patient with his own disciples too, as he dealt with Peter’s arrogance (Matthew 16; 21-26), the effrontery of James and John (Mark 10: 35- 44), and Thomas’s doubt (John 20: 24-29), not to mention the disciples’ collective misunderstanding of his teaching in general. It was these same disciples who didn’t want the crowds to bother Jesus with their children (Mark 10: 13-20) or asked him to send away the outcast Canaanite woman who begged for mercy (Matthew 15: 22-30), yet Jesus unconditionally welcomes them all. In Mark 6:30-44 where Jesus had just spent the day teaching and healing people without having had any time to eat, he and the disciples seek a quiet place to rest. However, upon their arrival at this solitary place, Jesus observes a massive crowd waiting for him and has compassion on them and begins to teach instead. Now if that isn’t an extraordinary act of patience, then I don’t know what is.

Furthermore, if God the Son is patient, then by definition so is God the Father. You don’t have to even try to find an event in The Bible where God has an exerted an inconceivable amount of patience and mercy in order to avoid wiping a sinful people off the face of the earth out of his righteous anger. Imagine if God responded to Jonah’s complaints by destroying Nineveh, instead of patiently waiting for the Ninevites to repent? Around the time Jonah was alive (c. 790 – c. 740BC), approximately 120, 000 people lived in Nineveh, which was similar to the sizes of Babylon and Thebes at the time. To put this into perspective, according to the ever-faithful National Geographic, at its height Nineveh was the largest city in the world. That’s a lot of people to save.

Throughout the entirety of The Old Testament, again and again, God shows an undeniable amount of patience with the rebellious nation of Israel. All that we can do is kneel in awe of His goodness and glory. After all the grief humans have caused God since the Fall, it’s incredible that He has allowed the Earth to continue spinning – all out of His great mercy.

How do we model patience?

This is a tough one; partly because it involves changing your mindset and realising that –

  1. a) God’s timing is always perfect and good
  2. b) God has created every human being in His own image and therefore that kid you ignore at school and the colleague you avoid in the office deserves your care, even your time, and definitely your patience.

You can’t learn to be patient overnight, – it’s a slow and gradual process. If we’re too focused on ourselves (or even full of ourselves) and not on pointing others to Christ, being patient is going to be challenging. However, because God is God, there is always some beautiful and intricate purpose behind every circumstance we’re dealing with, even when we can’t see it. God wants us to build our trust in Him, where patience may not necessarily mean learning to put up with something, but actually being forced to wait for something. The best ways to remind ourselves to trust in Him is to meditate on His word and to give our requests to Him in prayer. God might say yes, or maybe no and sometimes wait. Regardless of what happens, God’s timing is perfect and His plans are for our own good.

Here are a few pearls:

Isaiah 40:31 – “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”.

Just because you don’t receive an answer immediately, it certainly does not mean that God is not listening, or He doesn’t care. Don’t fall into that trap. Think of people in The Bible who waited on The Lord in every moment, such as Abraham, Job, and Daniel – God always takes care of His children.

Here’s a bad analogy but bear with me.

Imagine you’re stuck behind a whole line of slow-walkers (or the general public) on an escalator that leads to the platform for the train that will take you home. It may seem during that time you have missed your train or even several. Once you finally arrive on the platform, you may have to patiently wait a little longer – 1 min, 2 mins, 23 minutes for the next train to come (if it’s Sydney’s trains). However, you can be sure that the train company is going to send you a train your way to take you home (if it’s not Sydney trains). When the train finally arrives, it may be fuller than you expected and perhaps it stops at every station instead of the express that you had hoped for. However, as long as you stay on that train until your stop and let the driver do the driving, you can be sure that you’ll make it home.

James 1:19 – “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 – The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools”.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone abided by these two verses?? Twitter will tell you that. Leading by example with small changes in the way we behave with one another will point others to live as Christ did. There’s a reason why patience is a fruit of The Spirit! (Galatians 5:22-33) People will notice your patience and they will thankful and appreciative, even if they don’t say it to your face.

Finally, some encouragement on being patient during times of trial and temptation –

James 5: 7-9 “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.  Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” 

1 Timothy 1: 12-17 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

In all that we do, let’s glorify God by being patient with our siblings after a long day at school, being patient with our parents when it seems like they don’t understand, being patient for Liverpool to win the Champions League, being patient for the school term to end and the list goes on. Above everything else, with humility, gentleness, and patience, let’s not become weary in doing good of until the day of Jesus’ glorious return. For that, friends, is certainly worth waiting for.

Jasmine, Year 12