Do You Need Patience?
Charles Naylor, 1920
Have you not often heard people say, "My greatest need is more patience"? Possibly you feel just that way yourself. There is probably no lack that so quickly and persistently manifests itself, as lack of patience — which cannot exist without revealing itself, for in order to possess patience one must employ it in his every-day life. Many people who do not understand its real nature nor how to come into possession of it, realize their need of it.
Much of the teaching on the subject of patience proves to be ineffectual, because the teacher himself does not understand his subject. Sometimes it is taught that all impatience comes from sin in the heart, and that if one manifests a lack of patience he is not holy. Such teaching can come only from a misapprehension of the facts. Holiness is a wonderful thing, and it does wonderful things for us. It purifies, softens, and refines our whole nature — but it does not perfect our natural faculties, and patience is one of these natural faculties, or qualities.
There is an impatience, however, which has its root in selfishness and sinful pride — and which is itself sinful. There is also a natural impatience. How much we have of this, depends largely upon our general make-up. A lack of discrimination between these two kinds of impatience, often causes souls great distress. Before we teach on the subject, we ought to be sure we have the distinction clearly drawn in our own minds.
Patience is a matter of temperament, of grace, and of cultivation.
Some people are patient by nature. They can take almost anything patiently. Sometimes this is from natural calmness of disposition — and sometimes it is the result of lack of spirit. But in any case, such a person will be more naturally patient when saved, than will others who are of a different temperament. Salvation does not destroy our natural temperaments.
Grace goes far towards supplying us with patience, but grace alone will not always be sufficient — therefore patience must also be a thing of cultivation. We are told to "add patience." This means that not all our patience comes by grace, but that some of it comes by cultivation.
In our sinful lives, we cultivate impatience by acting out our feelings of impatience. The more we put our feelings into action — the more impatient we become. When we are saved, we begin to cultivate patience — and the more we cultivate it, the more patient we become in our nature.
Patience is largely a matter of the proper use of the will. The Bible does not say, "Feel patient," for our feelings are largely involuntary; but it says, "Be patient," that is, 'act patiently' — for our actions can be controlled by our will.
There are those who, when waiting for a train, cannot sit still. Such an individual walks up and down the platform and looks at his watch again and again. He sits down and rises again, and turns this way and that way. Another sits quietly and is unperturbed. It matters not to him if he does have to wait a while. It is no task for him to be patient. He is of a patient temperament. The other is quite the opposite. Because of this, however, we cannot say that one is more holy than the other. Both are feeling naturally. The difference is in their natures, in their temperaments — and not in their hearts.
The fact that we are exhorted again and again to be patient, signifies that the cultivation of patience is a matter of our wills. No matter how pure our hearts are, we have tests of patience. A pure heart is not an automatic heart, working out things independently of the will. When we have a pure heart, our will is fully set to do right, and through our will we regulate our actions so that they are right. Our feelings are 'influenced' by the will — but are not 'controlled' by it. We cannot help feeling sad or joyous — when there is an occasion that influences our feelings. In the same way, we cannot but feel impatient sometimes; that is, things will try our patience, and we find that our feelings respond, in some degree at least, to those circumstances. The degree of response will depend upon our temperament, and the amount of grace we have, and how much we have cultivated patience.
Do not forget that we are not told to feel patient, but to "be patient" — though we should be careful to control our feelings so far as is possible by the force of will. When an impatient feeling comes, we do one of two things — we either yield to it and act it out — or we resist it and act patiently. The latter is what we should always do. When we are full of joy and everything is going smoothly — it is easy to believe that we have plenty of patience. But in time of stress, of trial, when we are weak or suffering in body, when we are weary or feel discouraged — then it is that we most readily feel impatient. It is not that we have less patience at such times — but that impatience more easily manifests itself. We should at all times resist every feeling of impatience — yet we should not condemn ourselves for feeling what we cannot help feeling. We should not think that we are not holy, simply because we are not so patient as we desire to be.
It is natural for a saved person to long for greater patience to endure and suffer. We should do all in our power to grow in patience. "But how shall I add patience?" you may ask. There are two things to do.
First, pray. Secondly, cultivate patience. Make it a practice day by day never to yield to an impatient feeling. Let this attitude be manifested by word and act. Reflect upon the patience of Jesus and study to understand the Scriptural ideal. When your patience is tried, deliberately take hold of yourself by your will-power and make yourself act and speak as you know you should. By following this rule, you will become more and more patient. This is the only possible way of adding patience.
We become in character — the reflection of our acts. Good acts repeated, become good habits. Good habits followed out, make good character. Not that good habits will save or take the place of grace, but they are equally necessary in the formation of Christian character. "Let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing."