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

Advertisements

“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

What Does Your Soul Love? book review

Whenever I discover a new resource for helping us “find our true selves in the people God created us to be,” I like to make sure I share it with you. One of the most recent I’ve come across is What Does Your Soul Love? Eight Questions That Reveal God’s Work In You by Gem and Alan Fadling.

This is a book about discovering who you are by learning about how God is working inside you. I requested an ARC (advance review copy) through NetGalley because I thought it might be interesting. I wasn’t expecting it to make me think so much or encourage spiritual transformation and personal growth at such a deep level.

The authors ask readers a series of eight questions designed to cultivate “deeper awareness and soul focus.”

  1. What do you really want?
  2. What is getting in your way?
  3. Where are you hiding?
  4. What is most real to you?
  5. How are you suffering?
  6. What are you afraid of?
  7. What are you clinging to?
  8. What does your soul love?

With each chapter, they discuss a core aspect of who we are deep down inside. Desire, resistance, vulnerability, truth, pain, fear, control, joy – how we experience and relate to these things has a huge impact on who we are as people. As the chapters unfold, the Fadlings discuss each topic in depth and invite us to think about change in these areas as something that happens inwardly as a result of God’s work in us rather than as outward changes we need to try and make ourselves.

Reading this book has already inspired two posts on this blog: “Am I Living A Flesh Life Or A Spirit Life?” and “There’s Only One Sovereign, And It Isn’t Me.” I really like books that make me think about something so deeply that I’m inspired to write about it. I’ve already talked about some of my favorite quotes from this book in those posts, so I won’t go over them again. There are a few others I want to share with you, though:

“We don’t change so that we’ll be loved more by God. We are measurelessly loved by God, so we are free and enabled to change in all the ways we long for.”

“The first step toward peace is to accept what is. Notice I didn’t say condone what is; I said, accept what is. We must become people who acknowledge what is actually going on.”

“Obedience and confidence go together. When I go my own way, I go alone. When I walk with God, I go forward in good company.” — all quotes by Gem and Alan Fadling from What Does Your Soul Love?

That’s just a tiny sample of the nuggets of wisdom in this book. I really liked most of the content and it prompted me to think deeply about the personal growth work I’ve been doing lately. The book also includes exercises and reflection questions at the end of each chapter, which were hit-and-miss for me personally. Some were extremely helpful while others fell-flat.

I also didn’t resonate with many (though not all) of the authors’ personal examples and found myself skimming over them a few times. However, that was more of a personal preference than an issue with the book. Overall, I found the questions, content, and perspective on growth offered in What Does Your Soul Love? challenging in all the best ways. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in spiritual growth and development.


What Does Your Soul Love? comes out on September 17th. Click here to pre-order a copy of this book. Please note that this is an affiliate link, which means that at no additional cost to you I’ll receive a small commission if you clock on the link and place an order.

My thanks to InterVarsity Press, Gem and Alan Fadling, and NetGalley for an ARC of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Personality Type Myth-Busting: Is The Myers-Briggs® Test Only Useful For Entertainment?

Critics of the Myers-Briggs® test have a whole host of complaints to bring against it. The test isn’t valid because you can get different results if you retake it, it uses false/limited binaries, it doesn’t predict work performance — the list goes on and one. And at the end of these sorts of articles, the writers say, “The Myers-Briggs is useful for one thing: entertainment. … like a BuzzFeed quiz.”

Some of the criticisms are true, at least at face value (e.g. you can get different results from retaking the test). But others betray a fundamental misunderstanding of Myers-Briggs® theory (e.g. the idea that it relies on limited binaries/dichotomies). And still others arise from expecting Myers-Briggs® types to tell us something they were never designed to measure (e.g. whether or not you’ll do well in a certain job).

Clearly, I think personality types are useful for more than just entertainment or I wouldn’t be writing about them as much as I do. But do I have a good reason for thinking this? Is the Myers-Briggs® test and theory useful? The answer depends what you’re using it for. Read more

Am I Living A Flesh Life Or A Spirit Life?

Do you desire the same things God desires? That’s one of the questions asked in a new book I’m reading called What Does Your Soul Love? It’s written by Alan and Gem Fadling, and it’ll be available for purchase September 17th. I’m about halfway through right now and it’s given me quite a bit to think about. One thing I really like is the way they explain how our resistance to living a godly way of life is connected to Paul’s discussion of flesh versus spirit.

Our desires lie at the root of why we act the way we do. But even when we line-up the things we say we want with the things God wants, we might still find ourselves in the same position Paul was in his letter to Rome. He said he delights “in God’s law after the inward person,” but still finds “the good which I desire, I don’t do; but the evil which I don’t desire, that I practice” (Rom. 7:14-25). When we try to follow God, we encounter resistance from within ourselves as well as from without.

The resistance from outside is usually easier to identify and counter, at least to a certain extent. But what about the resistance inside? What can we do about that?

What Is “The Flesh”?

Just a couple weeks ago, I shared a 2-part post about Galatians. It’s on my mind again now since that letter seems particularly relevant to today’s discussion. If we’re going to talk about how our flesh resists living in the spirit, the last two chapters of Galatians are crucial. But first, let’s clear up a potential misunderstanding.

“The flesh here is not the physical body, but a way of life we’ve grown used to living in a world that does not recognize the reality of God and his kingdom. It is a dynamic within whereby we grab for what we need, not trusting (or knowing of) God’s generosity to provide. It is an ‘I can do it myself’ approach to living that presumes the absence of the loving God” — Alan and Gem Fadling

I’d also add that “flesh” includes an attitude of “I can decide right and wrong for myself” that presumes to know better than God or to think that He doesn’t really care. When we look at Paul’s description of the flesh, it includes following desires and taking actions that God has said are wrong. To keep doing those things when we should be walking in the spirit is to disregard our Creator and Savior’s wishes (Gal. 5:16-21). Read more

Crash Course In Galatians (Part Two)

A couple days ago, I shared Part One of a two-part post about Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. In this letter, he combats a destructive heresy spread by Jewish legalists in the early church. If you haven’t read that post yet, you’ll want to start there before you continue reading.

I like writing these “Crash Course In …” posts because it’s so important to look at context when figuring out what passages of scripture really mean. With Galatians, it’s easy to misinterpret if you don’t look at the whole of Paul’s purpose for the argument he makes in this letter. It also helps to look at some of Paul’s other letters, like we did last week by comparing Romans to Galatians.

Truly Fulfilling The Law

Now that he’s laid the ground work for his argument, Paul starts to clarify what it means to walk by faith as people who are no longer under the law. It’s kind of a weird balance to wrap our minds around. Much of Galatians 5 parallels Romans 12-13 in showing how walking in the Spirit means we’re fulfilling the true meaning of the law. However, Paul also makes it quite clear that we should not seek “to be justified by the Law” (Gal. 5:1-6). To say that we could earn  salvation by our own works introduces a harmful doctrine that spreads like leaven and corrupts the truth (5:7-12).

For you, brothers, were called for freedom. Only don’t use your freedom for gain to the flesh, but through love be servants to one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” … But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire. (Gal. 5:13-14, 16-17)

Being free from the law doesn’t mean we’re free to break it (i.e. does not grant us license to sin). Rather, we’re released from the curse of being under the law. Now the law is written inside our hearts. Being filled with God’s Spirit and transformed to be like Him will turn us into a person who naturally does the things we’re told to in God’s law. The law’s not our schoolmaster anymore, though. We’re taught directly by God through His spirit inside us. Read more