It takes more than mental assent to familiar verses and self-effort to become patient. It is a virtue, spiritual character that is developed within and flows out towards others. Patience is waiting on a good God, knowing that his timing is perfect and his purposes for ourselves, the church, and the world will be fulfilled.
Waiting is hard. Whether it is sitting at a traffic light or standing in a checkout line, we have no choice but to wait and watch the seconds tick slowly by, often with gritted teeth. We wait because we are dependent on things outside of ourselves – the timing of the lights and the number of cars, cashiers, and customers. These little irritations are minor compared to the many circumstances that test our patience, but all these situations have one thing in common. They are outside our control.
For example, who has not wondered why spiritual growth takes so long? Not just for ourselves but for those we love. If only the Christian walk was like a straight line. For every x number of days or weeks that go by, we would see y amount of improvement. Therefore, we could predict our progress and the progress of our brothers and sisters from conversion to when we all go be with the Lord. And wouldn’t God want us to proceed as directly and smoothly as possible? It would certainly help our forbearance with one another. Yet the Christian life rarely follows a formula, and sanctification is not geometry.
And who has not tried to get a handle on the events that surround us especially during this pandemic? Who has not wondered when this global calamity will finally be behind us? If we had some idea of the timing, we could plan accordingly. Then we could anticipate when family and church life returns to “normal.” Yet for every scientific model and conspiracy theory, too many factors are beyond our limited knowledge and power. Any semblance of control is long gone.