Four years of college and they’ve got me working the switchboard. Waste of time.
That was younger me at my first job in a high-tech firm’s marketing department. When they said I’d work with technology, I didn’t realize that meant operating the phones from the receptionist desk.
Surprise, surprise, when I shared such injustice with my parents, they thought it was hilarious. They rained on my self-pity parade, advising me to be thankful, humble, and patient while I worked my way up.
That early lesson on patience has served me well through harder seasons like chronic illness, career challenges, and marriage difficulties. I’ve learned that patience is not a “quick” fruit of the Spirit but that it does yield a great harvest. Like an olive tree that takes seven years to yield first fruit and 65 to 80 years to produce stable crops, the fruit of patience shows up only after we’ve persevered over time. That’s a challenge in our gotta-have-it-right-now society. In this week’s devotional, then, let’s look at three areas where the Holy Spirit can cultivate patience.
1. Patience with people. Paul used the Greek term makrothumia when he penned “The fruit of the Spirit is…patience.” Elsewhere, the same word is translated forbearance, long-suffering, or perseverance, and often, it is used in the context of relationships. In Romans, Paul used makrothumia to rebuke those who fault God for not executing swifter judgement:
Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing the God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4
God waits for us to seek Him for forgiveness. He bears with us while we mature, not disowning us when we fail. Then, He calls us to be like Him, “completely humble and gentle [with others]; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Think about who needs your patience this week. Allow the Holy Spirit to grow some fruit as you change impatient responses to gentle ones. Allow Him to work through you with love and kindness.
2. Patience on the journey. Abraham is the prototype for anyone who finds that the road from point A to point B passes through C, D, and E first. God promised him a family that would one day bless the whole earth. However, none of that happened on the “right-now” timetable we crave. Abraham grew so old he could have been a great-great-grandpa had he been able to have a child at all. Yet, he kept drawing close to God. Hebrews 6:15 commends him for makrothumia, saying, “And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” Isaac was born and along with him, the line that would lead to Jesus.
Such tenacious patience grows through years of seeking God until we become assured that He keeps His promises. Like that olive tree that becomes more productive after several decades, our lives will produce a flourishing crop of patience as we walk with Christ through the years. Who are our “great-grandparents in the faith” who demonstrate a lifetime of trusting God? Let’s take a timeout and ask them how waiting on God to fulfill His promises changed them. For fun, check out https://laterbloomer.com/ for the stories of people who found the courage and patience to chase new dreams in middle-age and beyond.
3. Patience in suffering. As I finish this post, my neck is knotted and my hands ache. Fifteen years ago, chronic pain barged in like an awful house guest. Meds and lifestyle changes help, but I still have weeks when I can’t write, exercise, or even go to church. However, my health quirks are nothing compared to what some my friends endure. Sadly, their pain also includes the thoughtless ways others interact with them.
When others dismiss your suffering with a platitude about trusting God more, sales pitches on health products, or disbelief that you’ve had a setback, they communicate that the suffering version of you is not worth getting to know and love deeply. They’ve also communicated their own impatience with God’s timetable for healing. That hurts. In all honesty, though, even with a chronic condition I’ve sometimes failed to be supportive of those who suffer differently than me. Evidently, humans don’t comfort others well, and we all need to go back and work on point number one above.
So, while God does want us to bear each other’s burdens, He also knows people fail each other and He directs our eyes toward Him as we weather suffering. Romans 12:12 encourages us to “be joyful in hope, patient [or persevering] in affliction, persistent in prayer.” That’s a tall order, but I’ve come to believe if I am to develop patience in affliction, it will be because I’ve grabbed hold of joy through hope in Jesus by persisting in prayer.
Let’s keep asking Him to sustain and heal us. Let’s ask Him to give us endurance for another day. His shoulders are broad enough to carry our doubts, fears, and worries—even when our friends aren’t able to do the same—and I believe He will bring good from the patience that develops in the midst of pain. We’ll be like those olive trees that keep on producing for hundreds of years, steady, stable, and immovable in our faith because we’ve weathered more than a few storms.