Patience. I chose this picture because the cup in the cold window reminds me so much of me and my own need for more patience. I love a big cup of herbal tea, but I leave some good head space when I pour my cup so that when it has brewed I can add some cold water to cool it down and get to enjoying it.
I’ve been asking God what He wants to teach me, and here it is: Four. Little. Words.
“It’s not about you.”
When I was young my mom used to do this thing when I wanted something and she was stressed. She would say, “Linda, the world doesn’t revolve around you.” I hated that. So much so that it was on my list of “Things I will never say to my children.” (And I haven’t.) It made me feel selfish and despicable inside, even when there wasn’t anything wrong with what I was asking.
When I sensed the Lord whispering this to me, “It’s not about you,” in response to my searching, it really brought up that dreadful feeling I used to get as a child.
“Lord, I know that.” I responded. “I know it’s not about me.”
Right? I waited.
I felt as though I was being held under a microscope, and the discomfort of being wrung out so that my mess was on display.
And then a new understanding overtook me while my mind was suddenly flooded with thoughts of the times I tend to be impatient. (Psalm 139:23,24) I know it’s not all about me, but my reaction to my circumstances prove that my heart and my head are not always in sync.
Beloved, you and I are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
We were made by God, not for ourselves, but for Him.
Luke 1:74-75 “that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”
We are here for His Purpose.
Put another way, 2 Corinthians 5:15 “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
We are His agents, on His Mission, with His Perspective.
The gospel is meant for you and for me, but it does not stop with us. We are to be about His business of reconciliation. Our mission is to serve people by loving them and leading them to Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
This reconciliation is possible because of the cross.
Jesus loved us, served us, reconciled us, indwells us, and works through us!
2 Corinthians 5:20-21 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The King James version, when listing the Fruit of the Spirit, does not say “patience.” It says “longsuffering.” That sounds pleasant, doesn’t it? The Greek word means patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, slowness in avenging wrongs . . . .
I am reminded that I, like Paul, am running a race that I want to finish well, (2 Timothy 4:7). God is so gracious to give us gifts to help us in this race. The fruit of the Spirit go hand in hand. They are dependent upon one another and work together.
Love helps me extend patience toward other people who I find challenging along the way. Seeing people the way Jesus does, and remembering that “it’s not about me” lets me love them the way He loves me. This is forbearance. This is steadfastness. Sometimes, as Elizabeth George put it, it is “waiting for the judge.”
I feel the need to point out that sometimes the one we need to love and forgive is ourselves. When we get stuck, we surely are making “it” about us and we aren’t able to move on to the good works God has planned for us to do. Also,
“To the extent that we resist reconciliation and forgiveness, we (the church) lessen the visibility of God’s grace to the community.” ~Jake Anderson
We need to see ourselves the way Jesus sees us if we want others to be able to embrace God’s grace for them. If you’re holding a grudge against yourself, repent. Forgive yourself because God does, and move on. Go forth!
Joy helps me have patience to keep running when I am experiencing less than ideal circumstances. On days when it feels like I’m being rained out of the race, it’s not about me. Giving thanks brings me back to God’s perspective. This is endurance. This is also forbearance. This is longsuffering.
Peace helps me experience patience during seasons when I wonder, “How can what’s happening to me right now really be part of God’s plan for me to carry out His purpose?” When life doesn’t make sense. When my heart breaks. It’s not about me. I can trust God. I am reminded of the lyrics to the song, “Trust in You,” by Lauren Daigle:
“When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!”
This is constancy; This is steadfastness! This is abiding.
Patience isn’t always what you feel. Sometimes it’s what you do. It can be obedience. Obedience is not always what you want to do. It’s just that–obedience . . . you choose it, and God changes your heart along the way.
So, when you take time to consider, when is it that you are not patient?
- When I am under physical stress: hungry (low blood sugar), sick, tired, or in pain.
- When I am in emotional distress: some kind of emotional pain, when I am offended (can you say PRIDE?) or when someone/something has pushed my buttons.
- When I am experiencing spiritual or mental stress. I feel that these two are closely intertwined: experiencing a need for spiritual renewal (not spending enough time with God), experiencing worry (a sin), and when I am caught off guard (sidelined by something difficult without having time to prepare myself).
I realize that these are situations which tend to initiate a turning inward to focus on myself. What are some practical ways I can help myself to walk in patience?
- Prayer. This is the most important place to start. Daily, I need to ask God to change my heart, give me a “longer fuse,” and give me the attitudes He wants me to have. And then I need to ask him to give me wisdom and open my eyes to the practical ways I can be more patient.
- Taking care of myself! Intentionally getting enough sleep, planning ahead for meals, eating right, and drinking water through the day will help me avoid the physical stress that can make patience more challenging for me, and help me be more present for my family.
- On the emotional front, spending time with God every day keeps me healthier. Giving Him my hurts instead of dwelling on them, obeying scripture that tells me to pray for my enemies, and remembering to dwell on all things lovely (Phil. 4:8) are all part of my heart care.
- Removing opportunities to sin. Ah. This is challenging! I need to constantly evaluate myself. One example is that if I notice that I suffer with impatience when the whole family is going out, people are running late, gloves are missing, etc… I can help myself avoid this scenario by having everyone pack “to-go bags” the evening before. I can lay out gloves in pairs and put the “little people’s” shoes in order. I need to develop more systems to help myself avoid stress and chaos. It will be better for the whole family. I sometimes get sidetracked by the urgent, feeling discouraged when it feels like my children are slow to learn the practical skills I am responsible to teach them (like cleaning up after themselves!) When I stop to remember that the greater responsibility is for my attitudes and actions to point them to Jesus, the every day messes fall into their proper places.
- Following Jesus’ example. Jesus kept the main thing the main thing. He came to do the will of His Father. He was God, yet he had a flourishing prayer life. He said he did only what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19). He didn’t veer from the plan. He wasn’t side tracked by his enemies who abused him or by his disciples who sometimes loved ignorantly. For the joy set before him, he was steadfast. Our joy is in Him. If we remember this we can keep the main thing the main thing. We can remember that our purpose is to bring Him glory by carrying the gospel beyond ourselves “because of the tender mercy of our God . . . to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,” (Luke 1:78, 79), and we can do it with patience.
This devotional was written to use in conjunction with A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit by Elizabeth George. The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.