Patience is not indifference, inaction, and nor is it impossible… it is a powerful force within us.
It is a stable concrete structure that supports your inner life from collapsing when people mock you for your dreams, don’t appreciate you for your efforts and want to bury you alive.
Patience is a fruit… no, not in a fruity, crazy kind of way… though in some situations patience will ask you to do crazy things (such as to wait, a much forgotten practice in today’s world). It is a ‘result of the indwelling of the Spirit of God’, a natural outcome of our life with Him.
I read somewhere that patience needs to have an aspect of discomfort to be truly classified as patience. We shy away from discomfort. We fight it, devise all sorts of techniques to avoid it; we do not like discomfort for our bodies, minds and hearts.
I do not want to spend too much time discussing what kind of fruit this fruit of the spirit is referring to in Galatians 5:22, but one thing does need to be said… it is not many different fruits, but one fruit, of which patience is an integral part. In other words it is not as though patience is a separate fruit to love or kindness, for example, growing on a separate tree in a separate garden. It is one fruit attached to one stem, fed by one life giving source. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.” (Gal 5:22-23)
Oh and yes, this fruit does not grow in a greenhouse, protected from the weeds and pestilence. Its ever present companions, ‘the works of the flesh’ are “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies.” (Gal 5:19-21)
Isn’t the story of Joseph a proof of that? The force within you I mean? And that an ever present threat of the works of the flesh, ours and others, can stop us in our tracks?
Was not Joseph a dreamer, kind and good? Were not his brothers envious and greedy? Did not his ability to dream make it miserable for others who were dream-less? The story of Joseph is a story of much misery, mistreatment, misunderstanding, being forgotten… but also of being promoted, recognized, and rewarded. But how tiring and soul draining can these ups and downs of life be? Without patience, Joseph would have lost his ability to dream.
Joseph had dreams, not one but two or maybe more, before he got sold into slavery by his very own family. From what we know of his story he did not lose the ability to dream throughout his life. Moreover this very thing that got him into trouble, his ability to dream, also got him out of trouble
His patience was tested in the ups and downs of life. The repeated misfortunes and long periods of waiting stretched him to the point of breaking but patience was an elastic in his spiritual veins.
What we see in his brothers are the works of the human nature. What we see in Potiphar’s wife’s heart is also the works of the sinful nature, the sexual immorality. But what we see in Joseph is the fruit of the spirit, available to all of us. Patience – the force within us – enabling us to wait our turn, to overcome periods of long silences and to respond well to people who act with sinful human intent towards us.
Patience is the force within you. “Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is ‘timing’ it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.” Fulton J. Sheen
Joanna has a passion for mentoring female leaders to become mentors for a new generation. She is a founding director of One Rock, a board member of Renovare UK, a lecturer with Westminster Theological College, and is studying for a doctorate with Asbury Theological Seminary. She has written a biographies on Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael.