at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Fruit of the Spirit - PATIENCE

Our bible study group has decided to take some time to look at the so-called “fruit of the spirit” as listed in the book of Galatians – and to study each one of these fruits, evaluating the prevalence of each in our own lives.  I hope to be able to share parts of my study and reflections here, as we go through each of the topics.

This week, we are looking at what it means to practice patience in one's life. 


Patience is a virtue.  Or so they say.  What does that mean?  It means that patience is recognized as a desirable quality and that it is an indicator of good moral character.  How much more so, then, in the life of the Christian?  The book of Proverbs explains some of the reasons why patience is thus regarded:

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. –Proverbs 14:29
Patience and gentle talk can convince a ruler and overcome any problem. –Proverbs 25:15
A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. –Proverbs 19:11

The patient man is a wise man.  Patience allows you the time to think through situations so that you can offer a better response. 

Let’s take a deeper look at what it means to be patient.  The word translated as “patience” in Galatians 5:22 is the Greek word makrothymia, which is used to mean:

1) patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance
2) patience, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs

Some English versions of the Bible translate this word as “longsuffering” – which is not a very common word in modern vernacular.  However, I think it provides some insights into what is meant here by “patience.”  It is true that we are called to practice patience on the short-term, in our daily interactions with people and situations; but more than this, we are called to remain patient through life’s longer trials.

In our day to day interactions we are sure to have our patience tried.  In our society, it doesn’t seem to take much: a traffic jam, a long line at the grocery store, noisy neighbors.  It can be easy to let the little things get to you and you soon find yourself irritated, in a bad mood, complaining or saying something impolite.  Contrast that with Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  Patience involves bearing life’s inconveniences, loving others enough to not be snippy or rude, and to forgive their offenses.  As Matthew Henry points out in his commentary on this passage, patience begins with humility and leads to unity:

Long-suffering implies a patient bearing of injuries, without seeking revenge. Forbearing one another in love signifies bearing their infirmities out of a principle of love, and so as not to cease to love them on the account of these. The best Christians have need to bear one with another, and to make the best one of another, to provoke one another's graces and not their passions. We find much in ourselves which it is hard to forgive ourselves; and therefore we must not think it much if we find that in others which we think hard to forgive them, and yet we must forgive them as we forgive ourselves. Now without these things unity cannot be preserved. The first step towards unity is humility; without this there will be no meekness, no patience, or forbearance; and without these no unity.” – Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary

This kind of testing of one’s patience reminded me of a little experiment I did once.  I was reading through the book The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg.  He has a chapter that talks about slowing down your life and getting rid of that constant busyness.  He challenges his readers to put themselves in situations where they are forced to slow down (e.g. drive in the slow lane; pick the longest check out lane at the store, etc.).  In thinking about slowing down my life, practicing patience, and finding joy in each moment, I decided to try this one night.  I was driving home going down a road that had a 45mph speed limit.  The car in front of me was barely going 35.  I decided I would not pass this car, but would slow down and stay behind it and practice the virtue of patience.  It did not take long before I got quite annoyed.  I got up close to the car, and was tempted to give up and go around it when I noticed the license plate.  It read: JOYOUS.  I laughed out loud – joy and patience were the very lessons I was trying to learn, and was failing at!  Sometimes I’m convinced God has a good sense of humor.

I think it’s important to work on patience in the small things throughout our daily lives so that we can then extend that to be “long-suffering” throughout extensive, harder challenges in our lives.  Paul tells us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12).”

Just a few chapters before this, Paul indicates that our ability to be patient through times of suffering comes from the hope we have as Christians:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” –Romans 8:18-25

James also talks about patience until the Lord’s coming.  It is our hope in Jesus and our hope in the resurrection that keeps us going:

“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” –James 5:7-11

I love Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage---he starts a few verses back, but I think he does an excellent job summarizing the breadth of what is meant by patience and long-suffering, and I believe that this is what we are to strive for as a “fruit of the Spirit”:

"…bear your afflictions without murmuring, your injuries without revenge; and, though God should not in any signal manner appear for you immediately, wait for him…Let your patience be lengthened out to long suffering;" so the word here used, makrothymesate, signifies. When we have done our work, we have need of patience to stay for our reward. This Christian patience is not a mere yielding to necessity, as the moral patience taught by some philosophers was, but it is a humble acquiescence in the wisdom and will of God, with an eye to a future glorious recompense: Be patient to the coming of the Lord. And because this is a lesson Christians must learn, though ever so hard or difficult…it is repeated in v. 8, Be you also patient.”  – Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!