A few years ago, a comic strip showed a minister on his knees, praying for patience. After his "amen," feeling no surge of patience, he looked up to heaven, demanding, "Well?!"
We miss the point, in any study of patience, if we forget that patience is presented to us first of all as an aspect of God’s dealings with us. Many texts such as Exodus 34:6 and Numbers 14:18 tell us that patience is primarily an aspect of God’s own being and nature. God is very patient with us who constantly try his patience. His attitude is often called "long-suffering," an accurate term for his readiness to wait for us to repent and to change.
This is why our impatience towards one another and towards God is so ugly a vice. And to be impatient is a vice. Too many of us are easily testy and impatient, and we act as though this is a sign of higher standards on our part. Impatient people are a trial to be around because their demands take priority over courtesy and respect.
God is spoken of as "the God of patience and consolation," and it is Paul’s prayer that we be "like-minded one toward another according to Jesus Christ" (Rom. 15:5). In Revelation 13:10, John speaks of "the patience and the faith of the saints," and many texts make clear that patience is a mark of faith. Too many people seem to think that their impatience means a superior faith! R. Gregor Smith rightly spoke of patience as "a lively outgoing power of faith, an active energy rather than a passive resignation."
Too many impatient people act as though their impatience is a mark of superior virtue as they put up with miserable sinners! Such people act as if their discourtesy and rudeness are marks of a higher moral status, and they seem to feel martyred at putting up with the rest of us! The impatient are not peaceful people. They create storms with their demands. And they are shocked when someone calls attention to their bad conduct.
Peace, together with patience, should be our normal behavior. Because God has been and is supremely patient with us, we must be patient towards one another.
The impatient may not always be wrong on issues, but they are almost always wrong in their attitudes. All one needs to do is to examine one’s relationship to the Lord to realize that our own sins and shortcomings are very real. Our criticisms are rarely effectual, and too often unasked critiques only hurt, irritate, or anger. Prayer can be more effectual in making changes. Of course, the change then is not our doing, nor a plus to our credit, so impatient and hard words come more readily to us!
We live in an impatient age, one whose demand too long has been "Utopia Now!" Usually, the only thing that comes that quickly is hell on earth. Apparently too many people want hell now because they certainly work to create it! How about you?