Proverbs 14:29

Patience: The Elusive Virtue

 Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. Proverbs 14:29

Irwin Edman, American philosopher and poet, called patience “the most practical of the virtues.”[1] Many of us would also call it the most elusive of the virtues. In the last seven days, I’ve been impatient with a distracted clerk, the sluggish response of my computer, the difficulty of connecting with someone on the phone, and my own inability to be patient.

Many verses in Proverbs highlight the value of patience. A patient person is more admirable than a warrior (16:32). Patience can persuade when words or swords cannot (25:15). Its companions are wisdom, gentleness, and self-control; folly and conflict flee when patience is present (15:18, 19:11).

The Hebrew word for patience is arek, often translated “slow to anger” or “longsuffering.”[2] When God described Himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai, arek was one of the characteristics He listed (Exodus 34:6). God’s patience shows up early in the Bible—first with Adam and Eve, then with Cain, on to Moses and David, the disciples, and right through to me and you. Now that’s long suffering.

We may think our struggle with patience is primarily related to our inability to respond well to annoying colleagues, stubborn children, or frustrating circumstances. But the problem is deeper than that. Rev. Joe Stowell, author and speaker, observed, “Patience is not learning to wait for others; it is learning to wait on God and cooperating with His work in our lives.”[3]

Impatience, therefore, is a faith issue. We don’t trust God. We don’t see His hand in everything and everyone we encounter each day. God is so patient with me. Why is it so difficult for me to acknowledge that He has every part of my day under control?

Every day God is working toward my eternal good and His glory. If I respond to Him with gratitude and trust, His patience will flow through me to others. God is not finished with them anymore than He is finished with me.

Looking for a way to show loved ones (and maybe a few strangers) how much you value them? Give a practical gift: patience. It’s a gift God gives us every day. Let’s model His generosity.

DIG DEEPER:

Read Psalm 138:6-8. How can reflecting on these promises help us be more patient?

Read 1 Samuel 24:1-22. What enabled David to be so longsuffering with King Saul? What can we learn from David’s example?

Read Ephesians 4:1-3. According to this passage, what attitudes and actions demonstrate that we are living a life “worthy of our calling”? How would you explain the relationship between these attitudes and actions?

Denise K. Loock

[1] http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/patience

[2] “Hebrew Lexicon :: H750 (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 8 Feb, 2015. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H750&t=KJV

[3] Joseph M. Stowell, Strength for the Journey: Day by Day with Jesus, (Chicago: Moody, 2002), p. 287.

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