As we look to Christ and grow in the wisdom of Christlikeness, so too the Lord will grow us in Christlike patience, helping us hold fast to his promises even in the midst of severe trials. Jesus, using the same phrase God uses for patient Job, encourages all within his church to “not fear what you are about to suffer… Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life… hold fast what you have until I come.”
There was once an ancient man who so pursued the Lord, seeking always to glorify God no matter what came his way, no matter how crooked his lot, that even God himself could proclaim of him that “He still holds fast his integrity” (Job 2:3). Of course, Job’s ability to “hold fast” to his integrity would be challenged through extreme suffering, nonetheless holding fast – that is, patiently persevering – is a virtue the Lord delighted to see in his servant.
Patience, from the Greek ὑπομονή (hupomone) carries the idea of remaining or enduring under, often translated as steadfastness. But it is a steadfastness in and through suffering, hence our English word patience, with its Latin root pati, meaning to suffer. An older English word, forbearance, helps get at the idea – the patient man courageously forbearing underneath the weight of suffering. Which leads to an obvious question, why would anyone want to wait patiently under suffering? Shouldn’t a sense of self-preservation move us to avoid suffering, much less, wait patiently under it?
Listen to the wisdom of James, speaking to those Christians undergoing their own suffering in the first century church: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:2-5).
For James, trials of suffering for a believer ought to be seen through the lens of God’s sovereign and fatherly goodness. All that befalls the believer, befalls the believer because of God’s good wisdom. And therefore, there is sanctifying meaning in the suffering. In other words, to bypass the suffering would be necessarily bypassing the intended fruit and sanctification God designed to bring about through the trial. Which is why James says that when one undergoes a trial, he ought not to first pray, “Lord, remove this trial from me,” but rather, “Lord, give me wisdom in this trial so as to help me count it all joy.” Heavenly wisdom, therefore, is the gift God gives suffering Christians to walk patiently and steadfastly in their suffering. You could say that godly wisdom is the life-blood of godly patience, or as Augustine writes, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.”