“Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past. Rather, it is a spirit that bears things – with resignations, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope.”
Corazon Aquino (Political leader and president
(1986-92) of the Philippines, b.1933)
Patience is a rare and dying virtue. We need patience for almost everything we do: A farmer needs to patiently wait for his harvest, an expecting mother for her yet-to-be-born baby, a baker for his dough to rise, and father waiting past midnight for his teenage daughter to return home. And if you have ever been stuck in traffic, you knowyou need patience!
This need could not be more real than what had happened to me a few weeks ago in Manila. I was supposed to meet my SBC classmate at 10am in Ortigas, Manila. He arrived at 1130am. We then spent more than 5 hours in traffic jams throughout that day because parts of Metro Manila were flooded after a heavy downpour.
It’s interesting to observe the behaviour of drivers around us. Some, like my classmate, were strictly following the traffic rules – wait for your turn even if there were others cutting lanes and trying to sneak in from behind. Admittedly, I was annoyed by his stoic and strictly by-the-book behaviour because he preferred not to confront nor be ruffled. Others, like me (even though I was not the driver), cried foul when our lane was cut in by someone else.
Five hours is a long time to burn and suffer under the tyranny of an ineffective system. But how we respond is really an indication of the stuff we are made of. Do we get angry? Frustrated? Do we wait patiently in traffic or honk to express our displeasure? Is our first response to complain or confront? Do we resort to unscrupulous ways to get ahead?
The true test of patience comes when our wills and our rights are violated. How will you respond when another car cuts you off in traffic? Or when someone jumps the line and has the audacity to pretend he is right? What will you do when you are treated unfairly or when your faith is derided? Here is a caveat. Being patient is not being a doormat – to let others step all over you!
There is a NT Greek word that encapsulates this. ὑπομονή (Hupomone) is generally translated as “patience” or “endurance”. The idea is of the staying power that keeps a man going to the end. Interestingly, the Bible tells us that patience grows as we experience more trials (Rom. 5:3; James 1:3). The Bible praises patience as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) which should be produced for all followers of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Time is an important ingredient to produce patience just as the best fruits are harvested just at the right time. Patience reveals our faith and trust in God’s timing, omnipotence, and love. This is especially true when we are persecuted for our allegiance to God, as in the case of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Paul, Peter, John, and ultimately Jesus Christ.
The next time you are stuck in traffic, betrayed by a friend, or your painstaking labour gets run-downed or when you are mocked for your testimony in Christ, how will you respond? My natural response is impatience which leads to stress, anger, and frustration.
But we have a choice. When things don’t go our way, praise God that, as Christians, we are no longer in bondage to a “natural response” because we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Scripture says, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Romans 2:7).
By the way, my horror story of wasting time didn’t end that day. While waiting at the airport to return home after a long week in Manila, I was delayed for another three hours!
Patience…. a virtue we all need to have!
Grace and peace