I was having a talk with some friends from church recently, and the subject of patience came up. The subject came up along with the old line “I’ve been praying for patience.” I’ve done that plenty of times myself.
I started to change my perspective on patience recently though. I was studying the Proverbs. I started reading one chapter each day, the chapter that corresponds to the calendar date (for instance, today would be Proverbs 20 because it’s September 20th). I stopped recently though, and have to get back to it.
I’m sure anybody who has studied Proverbs has also heard some of the Proverbs taught legalistically. For instance, Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I have heard of people being counseled by pastors or other church members that when one of their children runs astray, it’s their fault for not training up the child.
I’m taking a new perspective on the Proverbs. I realized recently that the Proverbs are like Steven Covey’s 7 Habits, these are the habits of wise people. It’s more like “If you are wise, you will do these things” than “If you do these things, you’ll be wise”. I’m sure you can look at it both ways. I’m currently looking at them the first way.
Anyway, back to patience. What is patience? Is it some quality that can be prayed for, or is it a behavior that can be learned and trained? Can you practice patience as a discipline? I brought that up, but I can’t say it was received as well as I’d hoped.
I’m trying lately to BE patient. I’ve noticed that over the years, my prayers for patience have not gone as well as I’d hoped. God hasn’t just reached down and *MADE* me patient. I’m sure He could, but He doesn’t seem to work that way.
I was talking to a friend recently about the concept of somebody we knew sitting around waiting for God to change them. We both believe that God can, but in most cases will not. We discussed what the reason for this could be. I suggested that in I Thessalonians 3, Paul told the church in Thessalonica that that the report of their faith in the midst of their trails provided comfort to him and his companions in their trials in Athens. I suggested to my friend that our faith in our trials is to be an encouragement to each other. When one of us hits a trial, and asks another who went through a similar trial how he (or she) got through it, their account does provide us hope and comfort that we will make it through the trial ourselves.
If I were to hit a trial, and go to another believer, and ask “how did you survive your trial”, and that believer were to tell me “I don’t know. I just asked God to make it better and He did”, that would provide me with no hope. It would provide you with no hope. It might make for a good middle of the night “make millions of dollars with no experience and no actual work” infomercials, but it would not provide hope.
I’ve decided to spend less time praying for patience and more time developing patience as a discipline. As Morgan Freeman said in Evan Almighty “When you ask God for patience, do you think He would make you patient, or put you in a situation where you have to be patient?” (That’s a paraphrase; I haven’t seen the movie in a while).