The Many Uses of Patience

One who demonstrates patience demonstrates much about his or her character. Such a virtue indicates one who is self-controlled, contented, and oriented towards others. More than simply being a virtue, patience as a characteristic is able to carry a number of uses in the Christian life.
Patience is often extolled as one of the most excellent of all virtues, often regarded merely as a noble trait that all people should manifest. However, patience is often little achieved because motivation and capacity are generated by personal discipline. Yet, repeated experience demonstrates to us that human endeavor alone is not enough to sustain a continuous existence of patience in a person’s life. Instead, it requires more than a self-gratification but demands a view of  patience’s grander impact.
When patience encapsulates who we are, the effects on us and on others can be quite phenomenal. Consider the following four potential results of patience:
  • It Can Preserve You: A lack of patience can easily generate turmoil, frustration, and anxiety in the midst of trying times. When something does not go as expected or wanted, the search for a way out begins or a response of anger quickly escalates the situation. The result is an inner soul that is turmoil. While patience causes reflection upon circumstances and a reliance upon God.
  • It Can Preserve a Relationship: When patience is not present, simple differences and conflicts have the propensity to escalate. The quick change of temperament can damage a relationship that has taken years to build, whether with an unbeliever or not. Patience has the propensity to reflect godly character, preserving a testimony that is above reproach and keeping a relationship intact.
  • It Can Preserve a Family: The effect of patience within the family is very much the same as any relationship. However, there exists some unique challenges for a family because of the closeness to one another. A lack of patience can encourage anti-Scriptural behavior such as provocations of anger.
  • It Can Preserve a Soul: Finally, a lack of patience has the potential to not only damage an individual’s testimony but also to damage the testimony of God before unbelievers. Therefore, prudence would tell us that patience in all situations can point others to God and draw them to Him
Thus, patience is a personal trait that finds its motivation in the preservation of others.
How is it that patience can have such a grand impact our the course of life. First, it maintains temperament, causing people to be even in their reactions and responses in order to act in a God-honoring way. Second, it maintains integrity. A lack of patience can quickly erode situations can cause others to question a person’s integrity. Related to that is that patience maintains character. Exemplifying patience exemplifies a person’s character, one that is in check and in control. Finally, patience maintains a testimony. This is the case because it keeps everything else in check that we just mentioned (temperament, integrity, and character).
“Patience is a virtue” maybe a true phrase, but it fails to capture the depths of its importance. In fact, the characteristic of patience has far-reaching consequences and results. So powerful is this character that it can cause others to react positively or negatively. Therefore, it has the propensity to preserve people, but all of this of course, necessitates the supernatural act of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, rather than merely proclaiming patience as a virtue, we should consider the profundity of what it can do, being motivated by our relationship with God to be practitioners of patience on a routine basis.
Each week Tim Challies has been reading through a portion of The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson and then writing a response article based on those readings. I have been following along, sharing my own thoughts as well. You can read Tim Challies’ thoughts at challies.com.  This week concludes sections 13-16 and you can read my previous posts by clicking the following links:
Come back next week as I continue on in the book.
Photo “My God, So Pure and Undefiled” courtesy of user Coram Deo and Flickr.