Authored by Dan Roselle
I’ve always been a bit impatient. As a child I wanted to accomplish things more quickly than it usually took. I was ambitious and driven, though, so I usually did reach whatever goal I set out to accomplish. For example, in school I made good grades. I had a goal to finish all my homework before leaving school, and generally reached that goal. In high school I got involved in the high school government and eventually became the president of the student body. But the difficulty was when things took longer than expected; if I couldn’t get quick results, I would easily become frustrated and impatient.
I remember having weekly piano classes with one of our neighbors. Reading the notes and playing the same pieces over and over was grueling. My older brother seemed to pick it up easily, but I didn’t have the patience to stick to it long enough to become really good. The same thing happened when I took up drumming. I would cringe when I would have to go through the practice drills with the drumsticks and the practice pad. It seemed too routine for me. My high school teacher kept drilling into us the need to practice, practice, practice … argh! I didn’t have the patience for it.
I learned to play guitar when I was 20, and that came easily for me. But some years later, when I was working with teens, many of them started playing the guitar, and when they would surpass my skill level and leave me in the dust … well, I just couldn’t compete. I didn’t have the patience to continue learning and practicing, so I’m still at the same level I was at about 20 years ago.
I’ve often wondered about patience, as it wasn’t just something I lacked when faced with difficult projects, but also when interacting with certain types of people. I remember when I was a young, single guy that I prayed for more patience and soon learned about one of the interesting ways God likes to answer those types of prayers.
There was a fellow I worked with who just got on my nerves. I so much wanted him to move from my mission location so I wouldn’t have to be around him. At one point, I was transferred to another location, and what do you know, two days later this same guy was also transferred to the same location! To top it off, we were assigned to work on the same project. I asked God, “Why are You doing this to me? You know I can’t stand this guy. And now You’ve put me in a situation where I have to work closely with him on a daily basis. What’s going on?”
And somehow I just knew in my heart that I’d be around that guy until I learned my lesson. Jesus showed me that I needed to learn to love and understand this fellow, and have patience with his quirks, as well as not to be so arrogant myself. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was the one who had to change. I made a concerted effort to have patience and be positive and loving toward him when he did things that bothered me. Some time later, when we were digging a ditch together, he said something that normally would have irked me, but for the first time I didn’t think badly about him. I surprised myself! I remember that I responded with a kind comment, and it was then that I realized I had gotten over my problem with him. And you know what? The next day I was transferred again to a new location. It was a good feeling to have completed that lesson on patience.
You’ll probably find that more often than not, when you ask God for some positive trait or virtue, rather than dropping the gift in your lap, He’ll place you in a situation where you’re challenged to grow in those areas. Having patience for ourselves and for others is something we all have to learn, because, as humans, we are naturally impatient. Jesus was an incredible example of this, because He, having human likeness, understood our weakness with impatience, and yet He showed us how one can manifest patience in tough situations and toward tough personalities.
For example, in the Bible we read about the disciples arguing among themselves about “who was the greatest.”
Once when Jesus and His disciples had arrived at a house in Capernaum, Jesus asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”1 The Bible says, “But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.”2 I imagine they were a bit embarrassed to tell Jesus what they had been discussing! The Bible says, “Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you—he is the greatest.’”3
The mother of James and John also got in on the act. Jesus had just told His disciples that He was going to be betrayed, put to death, and would rise again, when James and John’s mother came up to Jesus and asked, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”4 And again Jesus patiently explained, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”5
Even at the Last Supper, after Jesus had said with a heavy heart that one of His disciples would betray Him, the disciples got into another argument about which of them was the greatest. I think if I were Jesus I would have been very frustrated with these status-concerned disciples! I might have said something like “If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times!” But not Jesus. He loved those disciples completely and deeply, and their denseness at times and inability to get the point never frustrated Him. He just calmly replied, “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”6
Jesus’ patience with people is also evident through the stories and parables that He told the crowds who would gather to listen to Him. If He was in a hurry to get His job on earth done, He might have said things more bluntly and quickly. But Jesus knew that those who were seeking the truth, those who came to listen to Him with open hearts, needed to hear things in a different format. He told stories to help get His point across in the most palatable way. And even after telling these parables, when people still couldn’t understand what He was talking about, Jesus took the time to explain things to them.
Paul wrote in Galatians 5:22 that patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit, right next to love, joy, and peace. And then in 1 Corinthians 13:4 he wrote: “Love is patient. Love is kind.”7 Having patience is a manifestation of love. It is a byproduct of having an active and personal relationship with God. It’s certainly hard to have patience when learning something new. And it’s hard to be patient with people we don’t naturally get along with. But we can grow in patience. Just like fruit grows on a tree, first it’s a bud that eventually blossoms and then turns into an unripe version of its soon-to-be ripe self. So the fruit of patience can grow within our spirits. We might feel like our patience is still in the bud stage, but that’s okay. God can nurture that little bud and help it to grow.
Patience is something everyone has to learn, and seeing that you’ll probably need to learn it somewhere down the line, why not start now? Learning patience doesn’t have to be torture or something you have to endure. Look at it as a quality, a spiritual quality that will enhance your life for the better. You’ll be a better person for it. If you were offered a gift that would make you a genuinely better person, a more understanding friend, a more pleasant companion, and in the future a better husband or wife, a better father or mother, wouldn’t you take it? Well, that is what patience is, a gift that will improve your life.
Ask Jesus for patience and then watch Him work in your life, and you will see, as it says in James 1:4, that if you let patience have its way in your life, you will be complete, lacking nothing. That’s quite a promise. Be patient.
1 Mark 9:33 NIV.
2 Mark 9:34 NIV.
3 Luke 9:47–48 NIV.
4 Matthew 20:21 NIV.
5 Matthew 20:26–28 NIV.
6 Luke 22:26–27 NIV.
7 New International Version.
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by Simon W. Copyright © 2012 by The Family International