I’ve been a pastor for a long time, and I’ve met a lot of people. But, I’ve never met anyone who says they’re good at being patient.
All it takes is a quick look…anywhere…to see our culture of impatience in action. A quick look, because we’re all so impatient! We hear the words “instant gratification” tossed around all the time — and it’s true!
- We get frustrated when our mobile browsers don’t load quickly enough.
- We hate long lines at the drive-through window.
- We cringe when something can’t be handled with a quick Google search.
I mean, in the U.S., we have a restaurant called, ‘Taco Bell Express.’ Like a regular Taco Bell isn’t fast enough?!
Now, I’m all for upgrades in technology and systems that make it possible for us to get at life more efficiently. I have studied and implemented a lot of those systems to help me work smarter and be more productive. But, as humans we are naturally impatient — like I said, no one’s born naturally good at patience. It’s something we have to practice.
And it’s especially important because…
Without patience, we have no love.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, “Love is patient.” You’ve probably heard this saying many times, right? It’s read at tons of Christian weddings. And, at those weddings where you don’t hear it read, it’s probably because the bride and groom have heard it at too many weddings!
Personally, I prefer the more classic translation, “Love suffers long,” because it’s more telling.
Now let’s be honest… “longsuffering” is a seriously uncomfortable idea! When I hear that “love is patient,” ok…I understand that I should be willing to wait a while on someone else’s behalf. But, when I realize that God was saying patience can also mean me suffering for a long time, it hits my heart in a different way.
There is a big difference between waiting and suffering.
Is there anybody for whom you’d be willing to suffer? My most natural response is…it’s a pretty short list of people, beginning with the ones who have the last name ‘Fusco’! LOL!!
But, Jesus himself said to us, “This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).
When Jesus laid down His life for us, suffering for us, He demonstrated the truest love in the universe.
Did we deserve it? Absolutely not!
True love is not given because the recipient deserves it. Love is given because the one who loves is willing to love.
Love continues to flow because the one who is doing the loving is willing to be patient. There are those who love patiently (or suffer long) because they realize their loved one is far from perfect.
Love gives a person room to be in process.
In this way, love is willing to suffer because true love knows that people are growing. In fact, love is willing to accept someone as they are, because it knows full well that no one will reach perfection this side of heaven.
Of course, loving someone doesn’t mean you agree with everything they do. God doesn’t agree with everything we do, yet He never withholds His love from us, even when we mess up, or don’t understand everything perfectly.
We’re called to show this same patient love for others. That’s why love is so messy.
Do we love each other this way?
The love of God displays this kind of patience.
Think about it for a minute…how difficult are you with God? How often does our own will get in the way of our relationships? Don’t we love ourselves more than we love God and others?
Yet God’s love continues to flow to us and through us.
So this week, let’s make a plan to suffer long in love. Let’s give room for people to be who they are, believing that God is at work in them. Let’s be patient in love.
And, when you do not have any love to give, receive love from Jesus who suffered long because of His love for you. Then, with gratitude in your heart, pass that love on to the people around you.
Question to think about:
Where are you struggling with patience in your life?
Prayer for today:
Lord, help us to increase our capacity for longsuffering alongside others.
Give us the willingness to suffer long and be kind. Amen.