Cultivating Patience For Spiritual and Personal Growth

Patience isn’t something many of us want to take seriously. We joke about how impatient we are. We fume when stuck behind a driver going even a few miles per hour below the speed limit. We abandon time-consuming projects for something faster and more interesting. We gobble up as much instant gratification as we possibly can.

Impatience is easy. Patience takes work. And, as with many things, the option that requires some hard work is by far the most rewarding. Cultivating patience can improve our health and our relationships. It’s also an important tool for personal and spiritual growth, which is the context today’s post is going to focus on.

Defining Patience

If you research the word “patience,” you’ll find that it comes from the Latin word patientia, which literally refers to the “quality of suffering.” In modern usage, we define it as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Related words include forbearance, tolerance, self-restraint, resignation, stoicism, fortitude, and endurance.

I’m no linguist, but one of the languages I have studied a little is Biblical Greek and in doing so I discovered something about patience that I find fascinating. In the Greek New Testament, there are two words for patience. “Hupomone (5281) is exercised toward things and circumstances, while makrothumia is exercised toward people” (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete WordStudy Dictionary, entry 3116). Both are key to experiencing growth and cultivating a more patient lifestyle. Read more

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“Are We There Yet?” — Dealing With Impatience In Spiritual and Personal Growth

Our journeys often seem very long. Whether you’re a little one in the back seat of the car thinking we should have made it to the pool by now, or a young person waiting for the end of high school, or an adult hoping for a breakthrough in your career, we can all get impatient. “Are we there yet?” we ask, because it feels like by now we should be.

We ask this question for all sorts of things. Journeys by foot, by car, by plane. Journeys of faith and personal growth. Relationship journeys, career journeys, learning journeys. We get impatient and we want to see how things will turn out.

Are we there yet?

Why aren’t we there yet?

When will we get there?

But are these really the right questions, especially for journeys of spiritual and personal growth? Maybe instead of impatiently pushing through the in-between times or abandoning one goal for another, we should focus on seeing what we can learn from the journey.

Impatience and The Cost of Growth

In his excellent article “The 7 Laws of Impatience,” Jim Stone, PhD, states that “Impatience is triggered when we have a goal, and realize it’s going to cost us more than we thought to reach it.” Here are some examples:

  • You’re trying to get a new type of job, and you realize you need additional schooling to qualify for the position(s) you want. You realize that achieving this goal will cost more than you expected in terms of time and money.
  • You’re working on a creative project, but get distracted by some other project. Achieving your first goal is going to cost putting the other goal on the back-burner.
  • You start a personal growth journey toward a goal such as reducing anxiety, improving your social skills, or to stop procrastinating. As you work on this goal, you realize this issue goes deeper than you expected, is going to take longer to work through, and/or might require counseling. Now achieving that goal will cost more in terms of time, vulnerability, and emotional resources.

When something like this happens, we get impatient. To quote Dr. Stone again, “Impatience motivates us to reduce the costs of reaching our goal, or to switch goals.” In some situations that can be a good thing, such as when we’re working on a project that’s going nowhere and it would be more efficient to switch goals. But in other cases it’s not helpful. Read more

How To Find Peace With What God Expects: Learning From Moses’ Five Questions

Have you ever heard someone say that if you’re doing what God wants you to do you’ll know because you’ll have peace with it? This is one of those Christian-ish sayings that sounds good at first, but doesn’t always hold up to more rigorous scrutiny.

Take Moses for example. When God called him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt Moses did not feel peace with this mission. In fact, he tried to talk God out of picking him five times in this conversation. I find it interesting that God wasn’t angry with the fact that Moses didn’t have a peace with his calling at first. The Lord only got angry when Moses begged Him to send someone else.

God doesn’t need us to feel like we can handle what He asks us to do (He’ll help us out with that). He just needs us to be willing to trust where He’s leading and walk forward with Him. That’s part of what His responses to Moses’ five questions can teach us.

First Question

Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11, WEB)

It’s a reasonable question, one we would expect from the man later described as “very humble, more than all the men who were on the surface of the earth” (Num. 12:3, WEB). In fact, if Moses was the sort of person who thought he was perfectly qualified and able to do this God probably wouldn’t have chosen Him. Our Lord has a practice of choosing “the lowly things of the world … that no flesh should glory before God” (1 Cor. 1:28, 29, WEB).

He said, “Certainly I will be with you. This will be the token to you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Ex. 3:12, WEB)

God’s answer to the human question, “Who am I?” is “I will be with you.” It’s not about who we are when we’re called to do something for God. It’s about who He is and His power to work in and through humble, teachable people. Read more

The Value of Being Slow To Anger

The Old Testament often describes God as “slow to anger.” A more literal translation of the Hebrew is actually “long-nosed,” which makes no sense in English. But it’s a picture of a person who takes a long time to reach the point where they’re so angry that their nostrils flare and the air whooshes through their nose like a bull about to charge.

The phrases “slow to anger” and“long-suffering,” are both translated from two Hebrew words — “long” and “breath/passion/heat/anger.” The Greek equivalent is typically translated “patience” or “long-suffering.” It’s not about never getting angry, but about having control over when that happens and not flying off into a rage.

Anger is not inherently sinful. God gets angry, and Paul also tells us we can be angry without sinning (Eph. 4:26). But God doesn’t get angry quickly or without good cause, and we shouldn’t either. So how can we become “slower to anger” and “longer suffering”?

Quick Anger Fuels Strife

I think the dividing line between anger that is and is not sinful can be found in the effect that it has. Jesus throwing those who were exploiting believers out of the temple? Righteous anger. Me getting so upset at someone that I say something nasty which leads to conflict? Sinful anger.

God hates arrogance, wicked schemes, and discord. So if your anger is causing these (or anything else He hates), then it is leading to sin. There are several Proverbs addressing this. Here are a few: Read more

Learning To Appreciate God’s Patience and Cultivate Godly Patience In Our Own Lives

What do you think of when you think of patience? Google dictionary defines it as, “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Synonyms include forbearance, self-restraint, and the KJV’s preferred translation of longsuffering.

In the Bible, patience and/or longsuffering in both the Old and New Testament is translated from a combination of two words. In Greek, it’s makros (G3117, “long”) and thumos (G2372, “breath/anger/passion”). In Hebrew, it’s arek (H750, “long”) and aph (H639, “breath/anger/passion”). In both languages, patience is about waiting a long time before displaying your passionate emotions or getting all worked up about something. There’s a strong element of self-restraint implied in these phrases. You have the power to get angry, passionate, heated, etc. about something but you choose not to do so quickly or without good cause.

Patient self-restraint is a character trait of our heavenly Father, which means it’s a trait we should cultivate as well. It’s no wonder, then, that makrothumia (G3115) is one aspect of the fruit of the spirit. I’ve been studying the fruit of the spirit because I’m working on a Bible study resource I’ll be sharing here on this blog soon, and I found it fascinating that both the Greek and Hebrew concept of patience parallel each other so well.

Our God Is Slow To Anger

Back in Exodus, God revealed key attributes of His character when He proclaimed His name before Moses. We talked about this in the loving kindness posts, and it’s relevant here as well. Read more