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What does the Bible say about patience?

My dad used to tell me, "Patience is a virtue," and in my 15-year old, I-don't-care state of mind, I never really thought about what that meant (other than that the appropriate response was to roll my eyes). What he meant was that having patience shows a higher standard of morals than losing my temper and getting frustrated about having to wait. As a non-Christian teenager, I'm not sure if "proving I have high morals" would have been a convincing enough argument. But now that I'm a believer, I definitely see the value of reigning in my anger.

Our patience gets tested every day. When we have to wait in line for lunch, wait to be called on in class, wait to get that news we've been wanting to hear. Whenever we get the sense that our precious minutes are being wasted, our patience gets pushed and stretched. We might even feel justified in our impatience when our personal rights get violated or when we're treated unfairly, like what happens when somebody taunts or bullies you.

In the face of irritations, trials, and annoyances, we often feel like it's okay to get impatient or mad. But as followers of Christ, we were called to act differently from the world (Romans 12:2), and being patient when patience is not "deserved" is a part of that difference.

The Bible calls patience a "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22), which means that patience adorns our bodies like a beautiful apple on a tree that is fed by living water. Because of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to use patience (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Our patience shows the unbelieving world that we have faith in God's timing, God's plan, and His love for us, because we believe He knows best.

Is having patience like giving up the fight?

Not at all! In fact, most of the words that are translated as "patience" are active, vigorous words in the original language. Let's look at Psalm 37:7: "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!" The Hebrew word for "patiently" is chuwl which literally means "to twist, whirl, dance, writhe." In this verse, to "wait patiently" means dancing wildly (probably mentally!) as you wait for God to avenge the injustices done by evildoers. Sounds a bit like a little kid taunting his tormentors with, "Just wait until my dad hears about this! You're gonna be in truuuuuuble!"

How long will it take for me to become
more patient?

Growing fruit on a tree doesn't happen overnight, and that goes for fruits of the Spirit too. But through God's goodness and power, we have the ability to develop patience over time (Colossians 1:11).

James 1:3-4 tells us that we will learn to perfect patience through the various trials we face in our lives. Yes, when you have to put up with that super slow person in front of you or a younger sibling who takes five hours to tie his shoes, taking a breath and being patient will help you grow this holy fruit in your heart. When a bully is being a pain as usual or making fun of your hair or your clothes, be patient because you can be sure that God will avenge you when the time is right (Psalm 37:7; James 5:7-8). "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him" (Lamentations 3:25).

How can I be patient when I'm hurting?

Even though we can develop our patience through trials, it's definitely not an easy thing to do. Nobody really enjoys being hurt or suffering—especially for what may seem like pointless reasons. In the Bible, James uses the prophets as an example of having patience in the face of suffering. He talks about Job and how his faith in God's compassion and mercy remained strong even after he had lost everything (James 5:10-11). Abraham, too, waited patiently until he was an old man and eventually "received what was promised," a son (Hebrews 6:15).

Our best example of patience through trials is in the life of Jesus. He put up with a LOT of pain, suffering, bullying, and general torment. (See the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.) But in the end, as He hung painfully crucified, an innocent man, Jesus still showed patient endurance and was rewarded: "Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

God willing, none of us will ever have to suffer in the way Jesus or Job did. And hopefully none of us will have to wait until we are 90 or 100 years old to have children like Sarah and Abraham (Genesis 21:5). But in this life, we will still face troubles (John 16:33), and patience will help us get through those. Patience will make us stronger every time we choose to put it into practice.

How can I be more patient?

Take a breath! And maybe close your eyes for a few seconds and count back from ten. It can be tough to focus on patience when we're hopped up on anger or a sense of wasted time, so giving yourself a couple seconds to remove your brain from the frustrations can help a lot. Every situation is going to be different, so don't let yourself get frustrated if you're having a hard time. The point is to keep trying. Here are some steps to take when you start to feel the anger of impatience coming on:

  1. GIVE THANKS. This might seem like a weird first step since our first, natural reaction is to ask God, Why me?! But the Bible tells us to rejoice in God's will for our lives (Philippians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:6). That means that we trust His timing—even when His timing means we have to wait.
  2. LOOK FOR GOD'S PURPOSE. If we have confidence in God's timing, then that means we can be assured that He has a purpose for making us wait and be patient. Maybe He's giving us an opportunity to talk to someone nearby, expressing His love to a stranger. Maybe He simply wants to strengthen your patience, which will grow that spiritual fruit and bring Him glory through your actions.
  3. REMIND YOURSELF: God wants the best for you! Romans 8:28 tells us that "all things God work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." All those "things" include all the annoyances and frustrations that try to suck away your patience.

And remember to breathe!

You are new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), which means that you are no longer a slave to the "natural reactions" of every other human being on the face of the planet. You DO have the ability to CHOOSE patience. Don't let anybody or anything convince you otherwise.


"To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." —Romans 2:7

TL;DR

Because of the Holy Spirit, we can choose patience (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Our patience shows the unbelieving world that we have faith in God's timing, God's plan, and His love for us, because we believe He knows best. When you feel impatient, stop and take a breath, count to ten, and ask God to remove your anxiety and frustrations. Romans 8:28 tells us that "all things God work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." There's no need to worry about time!

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org and loves to write novellas with local young writers at her workshops. She also contributes at GotQuestions.org, Blogos.org, and GQkidz.org. When Catiana is not writing or hanging out with teens, she loves spending time with her two kids, five socially awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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