It's time for another look at the fruit of the Spirit! This week we're looking at patience, but feel free to go back and get caught up if you're just joining in. You can read the introduction to this series, then read about love, joy and peace.
Once again, here is our verse for this series: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22,23).
Okay, so this translation says forbearance, but other versions use longsuffering or, as I first learned it, patience. I find the nuances of those words to be interesting. Though they are synonyms, they don't quite mean exactly the same thing. Google dictionary defines forbearance as "patient self-control; restraint and tolerance" while longsuffering is "having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people" and patience is "the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset." One puts the emphasis on controlling ourselves, another on the source of the trouble we are being patient about and the third on the reaction we are not exhibiting because we are being patient instead!
Really, the translators used these different words in different translations because the original word, makrothumia, carries the connotations of all three english words. So, then, Paul wrote the word makrothumia meaning that the fruit of the Spirit is 'controlling ourselves in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people, while exhibiting the capacity to accept those troubles without getting angry or upset'. Wow! That's a lot for one word to convey, isn't it?
Would you say you have makrothumia? Or are you like me and find there is abundant room for improvement? One thing I have definitely noticed is that my patience evaporates when I am tired.
I can remember when Zachary was a newborn and I lived in that sleep-deprived haze that is the first weeks and months with a new baby. Aiden was about two at the time, just learning to talk, and I must have used the phrase, "Mommy has no patience right now" a few too many times because one day he announced to his toys that "Ma ha no pa-ence now!" Yep, that was me. Still is some days.
My first thought as I prepared to write about patience for today (other than Aiden warning his toys), was that God never gets tired. Psalm 121:3,4 says, "He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." God doesn't need sleep, which means He never gets tired and He never has those moments when His patience evaporates because He didn't get enough sleep the night before. Isn't that a wonderful thought? No matter how irritating or exasperating or frustrating we may be, God is never too tired to be patient with us.
Moment by moment, irritation by irritation, we have a choice to make. Will we react out of our own limited supply of patience, or will we choose to let God's unlimited patience flow through us?
I know three things for certain. 1. We will not always get it right. 2. We will never run out of opportunities to try again.
And the best one of all...God will be patient with us when we get it wrong.