There are people, situations and life challenges that test our patience. There’s that one person who is often opposed or disagreeable. There is the neighbor who seems to often have problems with what you do or what your family is doing. Then there are challenges at work or in life that we constantly have to deal with.
Patience is kind of like gasoline. We fill up our car’s gas tank to full. Then we can drive until the tank nears empty. Then we need to refuel. We all have a certain sized tank of patience within us. Sometimes it’s full. But when the trying person or child or neighbor or situation shows up, it drains some of our patience. If our patience gets completely used up, we usually snap or snarl or openly express our frustration.
So, how do we deal with this? We may certainly need to deal with the person or situation that drains our patience. We may need to have a frank talk with our neighbor about reasonable neighbor expectations. We may need to set clear boundaries for that disagreeable person or child and explain consequences if the boundaries get cross. We may need to address the patience draining situation at work or school.
But we also may need to expand our tank size of patience. How do we do that? Well it may start with understanding that the patience can also mean longsuffering. Patience is the willingness and ability to suffer long with someone. Parents have to do with this with their kids as they grow and make life’s inevitable missteps. Employers have to do this with new employees as they learn. Life requires ongoing longsuffering with others if we are going to be in relationship.
However, another way to increase our patience capacity is to reflect on how much patience God has shown us. In Psalm 78, the Psalmist reviews the Israelites relationship with God while they wandered through the wilderness. This was a low point in relations between God and the people. They constantly rebelled against Him, complained and even wanted to go back to slavery under the Egyptians.
Yet God showed great patience. Psalm 78:38 – Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time, he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.” We see this in our own lives and God’s patient longsuffering with us. Ultimately, we see it with Jesus on the cross. He suffered infinitely rather than give us the punishment our sins deserved. Sometimes, we need to meditate on this reality to expand our own patience tank.
“Lord God, thank you for your incredible patience with us. Thank you for bearing with our doubts, grumbling, wandering and rebellion. We recognize your patience does have a limit. Yet your ‘tank’ is so much deeper than our tank. So let the vastness of Your patience grow in us more patience with others around us, our circumstances and Your timing in our lives.”