There is common saying “patience is a virtue” and indeed it is. We see being patient as being tolerant of each other, or not getting angry when someone says something we don’t like. But the Bible has a lot to say about the patience of God, who loves us in spite of ourselves.
Helping us to understand patience in the Bible, the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 9:22:
“What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?”
God shows His divine patience
Man sinned against God, a deliberate act of pride and disobedience, an affront to God’s Holiness and perfect love, yet God did not strike Adam and Eve down for such an egregious offense.
Throughout all of human history, God has given us the freedom to exercise the free-will that He gave us. We think of free will as our own decision to do as we like, but free will was God’s by design to allow us to think, reason and come to Him.
A man once told me about his pets. He said the dog comes when he calls him because he is trained to do so and is obedient. Then he calls his cat and the cat ignores him. Finally, he told me that when the cat comes to him he takes particular pleasure in the action, because he knows it was entirely the cat’s idea.
God is patient with us, because He desires a relationship with us when we choose to turn toward Him .
We are always testing God’s patience
We test God’s patience, and we test each other. It’s nothing new. The prophet Isaiah said:
“Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? (Isaiah 7:13)”
It’s interesting that he talks about the house of David, because out of David’s line comes the Messiah Jesus.
Man’s sin over the centuries challenged the patience of God, yet in His love for us, He held back His wrath, electing instead to allow His own Son to take our place. God’s grace is enhanced by His patience.
Be patient with yourself
Patience also means giving yourself a break. We have all been patient with another person at one time or an other, but are we patient with ourselves? In Christ we are a new creation, a work in progress. But we live in an age when people want what they want and they want it… right now! No delayed gratification, immediate results.
Patience is learning how to wait on God. Children learn the skill of waiting for gratification, the wisdom to know that if you wait, better things might happen.
Forbearance is also a gift from the Holy Spirit
Patience and forbearance are very similar. Patience may be more like putting up with something, while forbearance is delaying or refraining from enforcing the law, collecting a debt or seeing that an obligation is met.
They are not entirely interchangeable, but they work nicely together. Patience is easier to understand because it is more commonly used.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 states:
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”
Our pride and arrogance cause us to lose sight of God’s plan for our lives, the most essential part of that being His desire to bring us to Him, but on His terms, not ours.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 2:4:
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
We tend to reject the very thing that will give us eternal happiness and security, instead of being patient and allowing God to follow His divine plan for us with His timing.