I’ve heard a lot of people say this. I recently even heard Jeff Probst admit that he wasn’t a very patient person on his show. (This, by the way, is what I love about the show.) Inevitably when someone realizes they lack patience, they next phrase is “I need to be more patient.”
However I would argue that this isn’t really what you need. More patience isn’t something you can order off the cosmic menu and have show up at your door. Neither is being more gentle or being more joyful. I’ve found from personal experience you can’t will yourself out of depression, nor can you will yourself to be more patient.
One thing that is helpful is getting to the root of the issue. I bet that if you dig deep enough you will find that the behavior you are trying to prevent begins with not acknowledging your heart. Your impatience with your husband comes out because you lack compassion for whatever he is dealing with. Your impatience with coworkers who have bad ideas comes from the pride in your heart that your ideas are the best or your unwillingness to be honest with them about how you feel about their ideas. My impatience with my kids comes because I think that guarding my reputation and being on time is more important than their hearts. Often I find an idol or an even uglier sin that needs to be confessed and brought into light. And when you do, confess it. It’s just that simple. Confess it to God and then if needed, confess to the people affected by your actions. Yes, true repentance is painful, but it’s that pain that ultimately helps change my behavior.
The second thing is to realize that you can’t be more patient. Do you know where patience comes from? In Galatians 5:22, patience is listed as a fruit of the Spirit. Fruits grow because they are attached to a tree that gives them what they need to grow. God grants sun and rain to grow the fruit. The fruit doesn’t decide in which season it will grow or how big it will get or how sweet it will be. The best thing the fruit can do to promote its growth is to remain attached to the tree.
How do you stay attached to the tree that produces the fruits of the Spirit? By believing that Jesus died on the cross to cover all your sin, including my impatience and whatever ugly thing is driving it. Paul also encourages us to “keep in step” with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). To me this also sounds a lot like the “abiding” Jesus encourages us to do in John 15. It sounds a lot like how a fruit grows in a tree.
So instead of needing more patience, we really need more Jesus. He is the source of all of those things. Truthfully I have no ability to be more patient on my own apart from him. If you see me being patience with my kids, giving my husband grace or being joyful on a bad day, it’s because of the Spirit at work in my life. And on the days my abiding is less than stellar, you know what I need to do more? Confess it. And it all leads to more humility, more grace,, more patience because I realized that Jesus was humiliated on my behalf and has given infinite grace and patience to me on my worst days. How could I withhold that from anyone else?
What would it look like to “abide more” today?