Patience is one of those traits everyone wishes they had more of but doesn’t want to put in the work to develop. Learning patience is difficult, tiring and uncomfortable. However, for a Christian, patience is a virtue woven throughout their character and contributes to their growth in faith and endurance.
In those moments when we demonstrate impatience, we showcase a lack of character and allow our emotions to make reactive decisions. This often results in misunderstandings, hurt feelings and mistakes.
The command to demonstrate patience comes up again and again in Scripture and is related to other Christian attributes like self-control, gentleness and humility. Ephesians 4:2 tells us to “Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” On paper learning to be a patient person is a no-brainer. So why are we so resistant to pursuing it when push comes to shove?
Comfort versus discomfort
One of the reasons we wrestle with patience is because we expect our lives to be comfortable and convenient. Our western lifestyle promotes ease and instant everything. Who doesn’t love on-demand streaming, same-day delivery or AI home assistants to answer pressing questions in an instant?
The unfortunate consequence of our technology-enhanced lifestyles is we become entitled and lose our minds the second we experience the most minor of disappointments or delays.
When we experience discomfort and disappointment our character has a chance to develop traits like patience. If we allow creature comforts to override our lives, we risk slowing or stalling our character development.
Where does patience come from?
Patience is the fourth trait listed in Galatians 5—a gift from the Holy Spirit, produced in us when we allow Him to work in and through us.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23
Other terms for patience are “long-suffering” or “long-tempered.” It’s the ability to keep our cool under pressure and not give an emotional reaction to an unexpected or unwanted situation. God-given patience is a mark of deep character, developed by learning how to endure stress without complaining.
How to develop patience
Just like the other Fruits of the Spirit, patience isn’t developed by a sheer force of willpower or wishing for it. Patience is more like a journey to godliness, rather than a destination. The Apostle Peter talks about patience as a step on our way to a deeper faith (2 Peter 1:3-8). Frustrating? Well, yes. We want patience right now! But this is further proof that we all need more patience, no matter how much we already have.
While there are no life hacks to becoming a patient person there are a few habits I’ve found helpful in developing patience.
- Practice deferred gratification
- Slow down and savour the small moments
- Implement lifestyle changes to make room for your priorities
- Plan in advance and make time for what matters
- Follow God’s plan for your life rather than make it up as you go
I’ve found patience is related to living with intention. By deciding ahead of time the kind of person I want to be, I’m better equipped to lean into that when I’m faced with an unexpected situation.
The best example of patience to follow
As far as case studies go, Jesus is the best model of patience for us to follow. He demonstrated the virtue throughout His life. Here are a few examples.
- The time He was in the desert fasting for 40 days and endured intensifying temptations (Matthew 4:4-11)
- When people tried to trap Him into doing/saying something incriminating because they were jealous of Him (Matthew 19:3-6, John 8:1-11)
- Being accused of unfair/untrue things by His peers and competitors (Matthew 9:3-4, Matthew 12:2, Matthew 12:24, Matthew 16:22-23)
- When His disciples repeatedly lacked faith (Matthew 8:26, Matthew 16:8-12, John 14:8-9, John 20:25)
- Throughout His trials, which He knew would lead to His death (Matthew 26:67, Matthew 27:14)
- When He was tortured and crucified (Matthew 27:27-44, Hebrews 12:2-3)
Looking to Jesus as our example, it’s easy to see how true patience comes through trials and a reliance on the Holy Spirit’s help to endure them. There are no short cuts.
Our natural instinct is to avoid the bad and seek the good, so developing patience by seeking uncomfortable and difficult situations seems counter-intuitive. But what if, instead, we look at discomfort as our patience training, much like a runner trains for a marathon by running. The discomfort prepares you for the real test, which will hit when you least expect it.
What else does the Bible say about patience?
We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.2 Corinthians 6:6
Here are additional references about patience for further study.
- James 5:7-11
- Romans 5:1-5
- Galatians 5:19-24
- 2 Corinthians 6:3-6
- Ephesians 4:1-2
- Colossians 3:12
- 1 Thessalonians 5:13-14
- 1 Corinthians 13:4
- Romans 15:4-6
- 2 Peter 1:6
- Isaiah 53:7
- Ecclesiastes 7:8
- Revelation 2:2-3
- Matthew 27:14
- John 8:6-7
- James 1:3-4
It’s through the Holy Spirit’s gift of patience we can understand Paul’s words in Romans 5:3-4, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Joy in trials? Makes no sense. Unless you can see outside of your immediate situation and trust God’s hand on the bigger story, the one you’re blessed to have a small part in.
The deeper our relationship with God grows, the more this stops seeming crazy and starts giving our lives purpose. We can align ourselves with a vision bigger than we could ever imagine and become active participants in the greatest story ever told.