After a dream-like wedding and honeymoon, the young couple settled in to their little apartment and their new life together. Both were quite certain of a bright future full of joy and laughter, diving into this first chapter with great expectations.
Shortly after returning home, the wife noticed her husband’s dirty socks were lying next to the bed. Cheerfully, the new bride picked up the socks and placed them in the hamper, happy to serve her new husband in some small way. His socks in their room meant they were finally together after all this time. Picking up those socks was a perfect opportunity to serve him in some small way.
The next several weeks revealed that this was more than a one-time incident; this guy never threw his socks in the hamper. She seemed to find his socks all over the place. She continued to pick up the socks, but weeds of resentment were sprouting in her heart.
When kids came onto the scene, she no longer had the energy to keep picking up those socks. It was hard enough teaching the kids to pick up after themselves in addition to cleaning up random spills. How could she expect her children to put their things away if daddy never took care of putting his socks away? She walked over to her husband. “Honey, can you put your socks in the hamper when you take them off? It would help me out a lot.”
“Sure thing.” he replied.
The next day, as she prepared to start laundry, she discovered his socks lying next to the hamper. She slowly shut her eyes as her hands clenched into fists.
“How hard is it to put your socks in the hamper!” she shouted.
“What?” he called from the other room.
She huffed angrily, shook her head, and carried the offending socks into the living room.
“I asked you to put your socks in the hamper. Can you get it right next time?”
Two days later, she found one sock in the hamper and the other lying next to the hamper. As she seethed in frustration, his other bad habits paraded viciously through her mind.
He grew irritated with her nagging, and she with his seeming indifference. It seemed like they argued about everything these days. Was it just the socks or something else?
They used to be so perfect together. Why was it growing harder to be patient?
What seemed like patience in the beginning was merely tolerance. Having to endure repeated “offenses”—even something as insignificant as dirty socks—wore down that tolerance. She read his behavior as a lack of love. He felt her nagging was a sign of disrespect. Both felt hurt, and both responded in anger.
It’s easy to talk about love when there is no conflict. It’s easy to stand in a brightly lit hall, surrounded by a hundred smiling faces and listen to the preacher tell you how “love is patient and kind,” but as offenses mount, love, patience, and kindness are no longer easy to swallow.
The following passage in 1 Corinthians 13 is quoted so often that we almost tend to gloss over it. Focus on the words I have underlined:
“Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV (emphasis mine)
This section highlights the many facets of love, but notice how it begins: “Love is patient.” Everything that follows supports the first description.
If love is patient, it follows that effective patience requires love.
Patience Requires Love
Jesus commanded his disciples to “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
How did Jesus love us?
Jesus loved us by leaving heaven, giving up glory, suffering excruciating pain, and laying down his life for us.
- Do we lay down our lives for others or do we insist on our own way?
- Do I suffer small injustices with an attitude of forgiveness or do I demand recompense?
- Do I give up my time for others?
Loving like Jesus demands sacrifice. Loving like Jesus is only possible when we die to self and live for others. To be lovingly patient and not merely tolerant, I must put to death my resentment, pride, and anger.
To love is to exercise patience, to be patient is to demonstrate love. The two are inseparably linked.
Patience Requires Humility
“[Love] is not arrogant.”
Arrogance, or thinking oneself better than others, will destroy our patience in a heartbeat. For example, if I think myself or my needs are of greater importance than another, I will feel angry if they cut in front of me in line or take the last bottle of water in an emergency. I might avoid praying for someone else’s need because it seems “lesser” compared to my own. How we view ourselves directly affects how we demonstrate patience and love for others.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
~ Philippians 2.3-8, ESV, emphasis mine.
Jesus, the Son of Almighty God, humbled himself and served. How can I, in good conscience, consider myself too important to imitate my Lord? To be patient (and loving), I need to think less of myself and more of others. Whatever superiority I think I have must be eradicated or it will always interfere with the quality of my patience and love for others.
Patience Requires Endurance
“Love bears all things… endures all things.”
People do many things to us that feel intolerable. A strong-willed child, for instance, will push, test, and defy us until we finally explode. An in-law might say or do things that hurt you to so much that you simply block their number on your phone or pretend to be out of town when they come knocking. A friend might flake on you so frequently, you simply stop asking them to do anything.
There are, of course, worse things—Abuse, lies, backstabbing, outbursts of anger, betrayal, cruelty, and the like.
Jesus did not die on the cross while people sang his praises; He died even for the men hammering nails into his hands and feet. He exercised patient endurance for me, for you, and for the guys who had abandoned him to his death.
How can I do any less for my flaky friend or the thoughtless guy who cut me off in traffic? How can I do any less for my children or my spouse?
I need to imitate the loving patience of my Lord no matter how often I am put through the ringer. When I am impatient, how much of it stems from my own sinful attitudes such as pride, selfishness, or lack of love?
God seeks to develop the fruit of patience in our lives. He longs for us trust His timing, endure suffering patiently, and to imitate his patience as we interact with His other children. Instead of blaming someone else for our impatience, we need to consider our own errors and correct them. We will only truly be patient when we love like Christ, exercise humility, and endure with the strength God supplies.
In Christ, we can develop a patient heart.
This is the final installment of the series on Patience. I hope this has helped you in some way. Please share any thoughts or comments below. It is always encouraging to hear from you!
Thank you again for your prayers for my family as my son recovers from surgery. He improves little by little each day. (And yes, this has been a test of patience for all of us!)
If you missed the previous posts in this series, click the links below to read:
- The Trouble With Praying for Patience
- The Need for Rest
- When God’s Timing Doesn’t Make Sense (Patience in waiting on the Lord)
- Patience, Even When Suffering Doesn’t Make Sense (Patience in suffering)