Anyone else out there struggle with patience? Many of us know that patience is listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 as being among the fruit of the Spirit...so I know that's something I ought to be, but oh boy, do I sure struggle with being patient. I want people to act how I want them to act, I want things to happen on my time-line and according to my plan...and when they don't, I really struggle.
A simple definition of patience might be "waiting without complaint". But in her book "The Fitting Room: Putting on the Character of Christ" (which I just finished reading not too long ago), Kelly Minter says this about patience: "It's not about the endurance needed in hardships or trying circumstances (although these are great spiritual qualities to have), but is rather about forbearing with the hurts and burdens and weaknesses of the people around us".
Two years ago my husband and I felt God calling us to help "plant" a new church. It meant moving (along with 5 other families) to a new part of our community (a struggling one...with lots of poverty and sin--so many bars and strip clubs) to help spread the gospel (the Good News of Jesus) and basically just "love on people" (show them God's love through us) and to be a blessing to this hurting community. So...we moved. And I had this wonderful "idea" in my head and heart about how things would happen. It looked basically like this: We would serve and love these people and share the gospel with them, and they would have an "A-ha" moment and realize that they needed a relationship with God to truly be happy and they would make a decision to follow Him...and everything would work out just great. Is that what happened? Not so much! Yes, we are definitely reaching out and loving and serving in our community...but are tons of people coming to have a relationship with God...no. Is my patience being tested? Yes!
It all seems so easy to me (like, "why don't they just get it already?)...till I remember myself years ago. I was one of these people. I was hurting...making seriously bad choices and in the midst of deep sin...and I wanted nothing to do with God. Yet God was still pursuing me by putting people who loved Him in my life (though I didn't really listen to their advice or even really wish to be like them). One of these sweet women invited me to her daughter's wedding...and that's when my life changed. I met my husband-to-be there, moved to Idaho and got married...and God placed us two doors down from a pastor who was "planting" a church. God put this man (and his wife) in our lives to bring us to Him. They pursued us with true friendship and love..the kind of love that only comes from Him...yet it still took my husband and I three years before we made any commitment to follow Him... at age 35.
So...I remember how patient God was with me (for 35 years) (and of course, how patient He still is!)...and all of a sudden, two years of my waiting doesn't seem like such a long time. I can still be His "vessel" and pursue others with love and service, but I need to be patient and remember that things happen in God's time, not mine. And more than anything, I need to give God praise for the relentless patience He has shown me. For I feel so much like the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15-16, when he says: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life".