Wait for it…

Can I be completely honest with you for a second? I’ve really been dreading this post. It’s been good to have a break from writing during the holidays, but I think that became a convenient excuse for not doing this particular one.

As far as topics go, patience is a tough one for me. I don’t feel qualified to write about it. In some ways I’m a patient person. But that’s about as comforting as saying, In some ways I’m…

an honest card player.

a good friend.

a model employee.

But the fact that I qualify it means that there are ways I’m a dishonest card player, a bad friend, and a poor employee. Patience is a virtue, and it’s one I’m still working on.

Work in progress

Every morning I roll out of bed, put on my mesh shorts, and I go to the closet to get my tennis shoes. Then I place them on the floor in the closet when I’m done. However, most mornings my shoes are covered with coats. I grumble as I extricate them from the closet.

Why are coats on the floor?

Why can’t people hang their stuff up?

Do I pile my stuff on top of theirs?

Of course pulling my shoes from under a coat takes about 2 seconds, literally. Why does it bother me so much that I have to pull a coat off them?

Or when I’m in traffic—I get behind a school bus or a slowpoke driver. It might delay me getting to work by 2 minutes. Am I really booked so tight that the minor delay ruins my mood by the time I get to work? Why is that?

I have an issue

The issue at hand is patience. Interruptions are such a bother because they get in the way of my progress. They delay me in reaching my destination. But if patience is such an issue for me, how can I expect to teach it to my kid or to blog about it in hopes of instructing my readers?

Welcome to my dilemma.

If John Crist is to be believed, Christian bloggers are way more spiritual that most people and should be held in only slightly less spiritual esteem than pastors. See his hysterical bit on praying before meals here.

Who has it figured out?

All joking aside, it’s difficult to pretend like I have some of these subjects figured out. I know I come across as confident (especially if you meet me in person), but I’m actually pretty insecure. So for this topic I only ask that you take what research I’ve done and think through the topic of patience for yourself.

While we’re at it, the application of any of the lessons from the Bible should be tempered with our own personal experiences. I hope when you read this or any blog or when you listen to any sermon you don’t just accept what’s said as fact. The process of learning about spiritual matters requires that we allow Truth to till the soil of our hearts.

That reminds me

There’s a story Jesus told like this. He was teaching his followers about the Kingdom. To get them to grasp what he was saying, he drew an analogy to farming. He said the Kingdom of God is like a wildly excited farmer throwing seeds everywhere. Seeds land in the ditch, in the forest, in the rocks, in the road, and in the tilled soil of the field.

Of course we’ve never seen farmers scatter seed this haphazardly, so the disciples naturally had questions about what it meant. So Jesus explained it to them in Luke 8:

“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.

I did you a favor and bolded that last word, which is ὑπομονή (hypomoné) in Greek. It rounds out the whole passage by saying that for the seed scattered on good soil, we still need the patience of the farmer to reap the harvest.

So how do we get patience?

Which brings us back to patience. Where does it come from? How do we get some or get more? If you’re new to the Christian faith, I’ll let you in on one of the jokes we tell one another. We Christians aren’t typically a funny bunch, choosing to excel instead in sobriety and seriousness. But one of the knee-slappers we tell, which relies on the audience’s grasp of irony, is this: never pray for patience.

I’m sure you see the irony of praying for patience. What if God delays in answering your prayer? I told you it was a side-splitter.

Since praying for patience feels like a losing proposition, I thought there has to be something I’m missing. How does God give it to his people? How do God’s people get it? Surely there’s a proverb that says something like

He who plants a seed of hope reaps a harvest of patience.

Or maybe

Patience is a dish best served late.

But alas, there’s nothing quite so clear. But I did find some interesting things. Here’s what the Bible does say about where patience comes from.

Lesson 1—Patience requires good soil

Notice in the Parable of the Sower that Jesus told, that the only seed the farmer had to wait on was the seed in good soil. The others didn’t require patience at all.

When the seed of God’s Kingdom is sown into places where it won’t grow—a path, the rocks, or the ditch—there isn’t any expectancy. There’s nothing worth waiting for. The seed is dead on arrival, choked out or killed by its surroundings.

The only seed with any hope of growing is that which lands in good soil. And guess what? Good soil doesn’t happen by accident. Good soil needs tilled. It has to be fertile and weeded. In order to get any fruit in your life, the soil of your heart has to be tilled and ready for God to plant something. Good soil is a prerequisite for patience.

Lesson 2—Patience grows from suffering

If there is any evidence that the Gospel is true, the suffering of the Jesus followers throughout the ages makes a strong case. From the beginning, Jesus’s people have suffered at the hands of world authorities and public opinion. And Paul is among the greatest of those having suffered.

In Romans 5 Paul writes

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance

I did you another favor and bolded that last word, ὑπομονὴν (hypomonén). Does it look familiar? It’s the same word used by Jesus to describe how the farmer waits for his crop. Apparently, Paul thinks that suffering is fertile soil for patience to grow in.

Suffering is fertile soil for patience to grow in. @twelve2nds Click To Tweet

Before you pray for patience

So, think about that before you pray for patience. What you’re asking is for the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to endure and wait. You’re asking God for the chance to prove your mettle. But it feel backwards, doesn’t it? We ask God for patience. He responds by allowing us to suffer. We exert patience by waiting for God to deliver us.

To get it, we have to have it to begin with.

To get patience we have to have it to begin with. @twelve2nds Click To Tweet

Thanks, Chip. Supremely helpful advice.

Stick with me here.

I want muscles

When I was growing up I wanted muscles. My dad was country strong. My favorite picture of him is when I was about a year old, and he’s holding me in his arms in the bathroom. He had just finished shaving, and he put a little shaving cream on my face too. He had his shirt off, and he was totally jacked, like swoll. And he was 40. I’m 36 and aspiring to that level of buffness.

As I grew I would tell him that I wanted muscles. But saying that I wanted muscles is ridiculous. I had muscles already. Who’s ever seen a skeleton with skin on it? What I meant was, I wanted my muscles to be big like my dad’s.

Work those muscles

So it is with patience. We all have patience, but it’s a muscle we need to exercise. As a dad I’m acutely aware of this in my kids. They want what they want now. The waiting is torture. But it’s my responsibility to teach them how to wait: waiting for that good thing to happen in its own time, waiting to feel better when we hurt, and waiting for God to answer our prayers.

Patience isn’t a gift God gives us. It’s a muscle God strengthens that’s already in us. In fact, we shouldn’t even bother asking God for patience, because it’s God who is already asking it of us.

Lesson 3—God asks us for patience

Three times in Revelation, God makes it clear that patience is something he asks of us, not the other way around.

In 3:10

Because you have kept my word of patient endurance

In 13:10

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

And finally in 14:12

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus.

I took the liberty of bolding the words here ὑπομονῆς (hypomoné) just to make sure it’s clear. Enduring anything in this life is what God asks of us.

Don’t get me wrong. Asking for God’s help isn’t wrong at all. In fact I wrote a few months ago about how the best prayers are prayers of desperation. You can check it out here. The difference between asking God for patience and asking God for help is that you already have patience. It just needs the exercise required for building any muscle.

God’s promises worth waiting for

The good news is that there’s a lot to gain from having patience. Here are ten promises that God makes to us when we are patient. You will:

  1. Preserve your soul—Luke 21:19
  2. Bear fruit—Luke 8:15
  3. Inherit eternal life—Romans 2:7
  4. Find hope—Romans 15:4
  5. Receive consolation in suffering—2 Corinthians 1:6
  6. Gain what was promised—Hebrews 10:36
  7. Become mature, complete, and lacking in nothing—James 1:4
  8. Be called blessed—James 5:11
  9. Become godly—2 Peter 1:6
  10. Be kept from the hour of trial—Revelation 3:10

I will also add that patience is the first requirement of love as Paul lists it in 1 Corinthians 13. Patience is clearly a virtue.

As a father, a husband, an employee, a brother, an uncle, etc. I am called to greater likeness of Jesus. How do I get there, and how do I take those I love along with me? How do I grow more patient? How do I exercise that muscle? How do I till the soil of my heart? How do I…

Here’s the answer.

Wait for it…

38 thoughts on “Wait for it…

  1. This was so good. I am learning patience during a season of suffering on all levels. I am finding the simplest tasks are the hardest and putting my thoughts together is a challenge. It’s interesting how when we suffer within our comfort zone, it doesn’t really feel like suffering. But when we are hard pressed from all sides, suffering is so much more intense. Yes, we know God is there, but like Job, there is not comfort in these really hard places. We just get to be uncomfortable and wait in hope. Here is where true patience is developed. Thank you so much for this incredible post. God’s promises make it worth suffering in patience.

    1. Hey, Dawn. Thanks so much for reading. You’re right. Job really didn’t get a lot of comfort. In fact, in his discomfort he overstepped a little bit and had to repent. I want to suffer in a holy way. It’s hard for sure.

  2. God is just so humorous sometimes.

    I prayed to him for patience (and now get the irony, haha!) and asked for Him to guide me to words about patience this morning. I’m flipping through the Bible haphazardly, obviously impatient about finding words about patience, and then asked Him for forgiveness for getting distracted by the “bing” of a received email. So as I always do, I clicked to read your blog post and BAM- a post about patience.

    I love how you show patience and endurance together. I think we think of patience as continual small feats (patience in the waiting room, patience in traffic, etc.) but it really is about endurance. Thank goodness, because those small fears are just continual practice.

    Thank you again for writing about a difficult subject that we all need work on!

    PS- the irony that I had a lot of trouble on my end posting this comment is almost too much to bear 😂

    1. Haha!! Oh Jessie, I’m with you. I’m so glad God is kind and patient with me. I’m such a work in progress. You’re right. Patience comes down to endurance. It’s kind of like courage isn’t the absence of fear but moving forward in spite of it. Patience isn’t the absence of anxiety but enduring in spite of it.

  3. Hey Chip,

    Good word. I never realized it before…the thought that God asks US for patience. And patient endurance at that. Maybe you’ve heard the prayer before. “God, give me patience and give it to me RIGHT NOW.” Haha!

    Yet, it’s often how we approach waiting and suffering…in a hurry to get though “whatever” and over it…fast. So, yes, I want to exercise my patience muscles too. 🙂 Happy New Year!

    1. I’ve even said that prayer before, Karen! And God is still taking his time to answer it.
      Thanks for reading. I’m glad we’re on the same page with this.

  4. I appreciate this post and the energy it must have taken to create and share it, Chip. In this world where everyone wants ‘instant everything’ it is difficult to be open to the idea of waiting for anything, especially if it means waiting on God, whose ways are so different than ours and who is beyond our control. (Let’s face it, we LIKE control.) As as young mother I remember specifically asking God to PLEASE give me patience! I wanted to be a good wife and mom and knew that I needed his help to be those things. Now at age 60 I can testify that what you’re saying is true. It is something God has given me, yes, but it was through MUCH waiting and being forced to use my ‘trust’ muscles on oh, so many occasions. The beauty of it has been that not only has he given me patience, he has revealed more and more of himself to me in the process, bringing me into relationship with him on a level deeper than I ever dreamed. Thanks Chip, and thanks for posting the wonderful picture of you with your dad. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate you reading and commenting. You’re spot on. We love control and we love instant gratification. That’s the root of so many sins. I’m so glad you have developed patience. What a blessing that is to the people around you. I’m sure your family learns a lot from your example 🙂

  5. Nice! I’ve had a slightly different take on the “don’t ask God for patience.” I take that to mean because then He’ll send you trials & frustrations so that you can practice being patient. 🙂

    I like how my pastor recently defined it, “Patience is the ability to endure suffering without blowing up or lashing out.”

    Patience is definitely something I need to work on. I think you’re right – it’s much like a muscle. I believe it is one of the spiritual disciplines – it’s something we receive by the Holy Spirit, but we are also called to strive towards and practice.

    For me, the first best step is to decide to be more patient… and for as long as that’s on my mind, I usually am. So thanks for bringing it up & hoping for a more patient year for all of us!

    1. This is an interesting topic. On one hand, I do believe God sends us trials. He’s our loving Father after all. But I also think he uses true suffering as well. I don’t want to ascribe the evil in my life to God, but I do want to give him room to use it. I appreciate you reading and chiming in. It’s a tough topic for sure!

  6. Oh, can I totally relate to this post, Chip! Sheesh – were you like reading my mail or what? Ha ha ha… but in all seriousness, just ask my husband, patience is not my “strong suit.” And yes, I have prayed for patience, and how did God answer that prayer? Through suffering! (Why did I pray that prayer again?) Suffering is often mocked by the unbeliever as a reason not to believe in a loving God, but that is because they don’t understand His love! He is not into our “comfort” this side of heaven. This life is a life full of “soul-making,” and God is more interested in that process than our comfort. It is in this life when our character is molded, and so, suffering comes as a tool in the Potter’s hand to shape our souls. Ouch. Knowing God is good, helps me in times when things get tough. I am becoming more patient, albeit slowly, but nonetheless, God is a Good Potter and my vessel is in the process. It’s all about the process, isn’t it? I believe so.

    1. Sorry for the on point post, Lisa 🙂 Yep, God answers our prayers for patience. And what a deep truth, God is not into our comfort this side of heaven. That is a hard lesson to learn. I told my kids one time that I care less about whether they’re happy and more about whether they’re godly. I don’t think they got it 🙂

  7. Love this, Chip! “…we shouldn’t even bother asking God for patience, because it’s God who is
    already asking it of us.” That one made me “huh” outloud…an ah-ha moment if you will. But it also makes sense to ask Him for help to endure. For His strength to get us through the sufferings (however mild to severe) we are certain to have to endure.

    I also appreciate the list of promises for our patience.

    Oh, and I enjoyed the John Crist clip too – he’s a hoot! If I had a babysitter, hubs and I would have definitely gone to see his concert a few month ago when it came through nearby. Oh well, maybe next time.

    1. Yes, absolutely, Nicole. God wants to help us. He wants to be involved in our lives. He wants us to lay our burdens down at his feet. He just doesn’t want us to be weak.
      I’m glad you liked that clip. It made me silent laugh and then gasp for air. It’s so funny!

  8. Ugh…I’m not patient. This was a great post! Being patient when suffering is just so hard. Pondering your post!

  9. Ya- patience is something that does not come easy to me either, so I am with ya! Thanks for the list of things we gain (with the verses) when we exercise our patience. I will be studying those!

  10. I struggle with patience. Sometimes I get irritated so quickly! I feel like I’m working on this constantly. I’ve grown so much in this area over the years, but I have a long way to go. Thanks for this post — and the reminder.

    1. You’re not alone, Jessica. I think I get the most impatient with the people I love the most. Man I’m the worst! Thankfully God is in the business of growing me.

  11. Chip, so much of this post hit home. A little too accurate and powerful! Clearly this is an area where I need to grow. In some ways I can be patient, but when it comes to suffering, I have a long way to go. I am learning how much suffering truly does purify your faith. The Refiner’s fire is hot, but purest gold is left behind. Let’s face it, to become like Christ will be painful, it has to be. But it will also be beautiful. Thank you for this encouragement to keep growing!

    1. You know what image comes to mind from your comment? It’s the scene in Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Eustace has his scales pulled off by Aslan. It stung him badly, and his skin was raw, but he was free. I think the process of becoming Christ-like is like this. Good illustration!

      1. Wow. That’s a perfect literary scene to capture the combined pain and beauty of the refining process of suffering. I have a dear friend in Haiti who is younger than me but has suffered immensely. Her spiritual wisdom and faith is like a treasure chest. I crumple a little at the thought of what she has endured, yet I want to reflect Christ as she does. Lord, help me yield myself. Thanks again for walking down this path through your post.

        1. You’re welcome, Melissa. It’s been a trial in my life, growing in patience. I’ve suffered quite a bit and from an early age. I can’t say I’m wise, but I hope it can be said of me like your friend. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  12. Chip, I appreciate your article. In our fast past world, with almost instant access to information and quick solutions, it can be challenging to remain patience. To wait. And to accept God’s timing, no matter how long it takes. Yet, as you write, when we can grow in patience we can recieve God’s promises and bear the fruit of love.

    1. Thanks, Anne. You’re right. It’s hard to remain patient when our world conditions us to want instant answers. I was trying to describe the Dewey decimal system to my kids one time, and they asked me why I didn’t just go to the computer and search for the book. Ugh…

  13. I loved your humor spread throughout your post. It is funny how we are afraid to pray for patience because God might give us some soon. We do also tend to get a little arrogant with our time because we think what we are doing is so much more important than others. We need to practice and watch Jesus so we can get the patience we need. Thanks Chip.

    1. Thanks for noticing the jokes! I’m trying to be funnier, but I’m having trouble waiting on God to answer that prayer too.
      Your point about arrogance is so good. I never thought about that, but you’re right. Impatience is pride in my own direction, my own desired outcome.

  14. The best things that have happened to me in life all required patience. And I’ve noted that sometimes, just when I tell God I’m willing to wait longer, the waiting ends, He teaches us what we need, and He moves us to the next lesson. God bless! Happy New Year!

    1. Good perspective, Nancy. I think my experience is the same. When I’ve been content waiting on God to show up, he ends the waiting. The problem is getting to that point. Thanks for the comment!

  15. Hi Chip. I remember when I was young (high schoolish), I used to think I was pretty patient. I later learned my patience just hadn’t been tested enough. When “suffering” came, my patience flew the coop. I’m glad you say now that my patience is a teeny bit better…not worse! I guess not exercising this muscle can cause a lot of anxiety. Maybe that explains why some grow old and crabby. Thank you for breaking this down for us. Very helpful.

    1. You’re welcome, Stephen. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m sure you’re a wiser and more patient man then you were in high school. You are following the Lord Jesus, so one of the by products of a life lived with him is that we grow and change. I was a jerk in high school, but I’ve mellowed a lot! Some who allow bitterness to creep in during their old age just become crabby. You’re spot on.

  16. Chip, I love your post for two reasons. First it is thorough. I love the points which are spot on. Patience is hard to develop as it does require not only waiting but often desperation and suffering. The second reason I love your post is because you made me laugh, not once, but multiple times. Thanks for the joy you added to my day! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Marcie! I appreciate that. I try to be funny because otherwise my writing comes across weigh too heavy. Thanks for noticing and thanks for reading too. I’m grateful.

  17. “The process of learning about spiritual matters requires that we allow Truth to till the soil of our hearts.” Amen. The subject of patience isn’t one we necessary want to hear about, but one we need to hear about. The Holy Spirit used the dictionary definition of patience to get my attention one day. May we all continue to allow Him to work His beautiful fruit in our lives.

    1. That’s so cool about the Spirit speaking to you, Kelly. And you’re right, it’s hard to hear these things. Frankly, it was hard to write them, but they’re lessons I’m learning right now. Thanks for reading and commenting! I appreciate it.

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