BECAUSE of the increasing pressures of “the last days,” Jehovah’s people need patience more than ever before. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) We are surrounded by a world in which people are often lovers of themselves, not open to any agreement, and without self-control. Those who display such characteristics are frequently anything but patient. Hence, each Christian should ask himself: ‘Has the world’s impatience rubbed off on me? What does it mean to be truly patient? And how can I make this outstanding Christian quality a permanent part of my personality?’
WHAT PATIENCE MEANS
In the Biblical sense of the word, patience is more than simply putting up with a trying situation. A person with godly patience endures with a purpose. He sees beyond his own needs and considers the welfare of the one causing a disagreeable situation. For this reason, when a patient person is wronged or provoked, he refuses to give up hope for improvement in the disturbed relationship. Little wonder, then, that the Bible lists being “patient” as the first of many fine qualities that stem from love.a (1 Cor. 13:4) God’s Word also includes “patience” as an aspect of “the fruitage of the spirit.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) What, though, does cultivating this godly quality require of us?
HOW TO DEVELOP PATIENCE
To cultivate the quality of patience, we must pray for the help of Jehovah’s spirit, which he gives to those who trust in him and rely on him. (Luke 11:13) As powerful as God’s spirit is, however, we need to do our part and work in harmony with our prayers. (Ps. 86:10, 11) This means that we must do our best to exercise patience each day in order for this quality to take root in our heart. Yet, even then, we may need to do more to make patience a permanent aspect of our personality. What else can help us?
We can develop patience by examining and imitating Jesus’ perfect example. In harmony with that example, the apostle Paul under inspiration described “the new personality,” which includes “patience,” and then he urged us to “let the peace of the Christ rule in [our] hearts.” (Col. 3:10, 12, 15) We can let such peace “rule” in our hearts by imitating Jesus’ unbreakable faith that in His due time, God will correct matters that concern us. When we follow Jesus’ example, we will not be provoked into losing our patience, no matter what may be happening around us.—John 14:27; 16:33.
Although we are eager to see God’s promised new world, we learn to be more patient when we meditate on Jehovah’s patience with us. The Scriptures assure us: “Jehovah is not slow concerning his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) As we contemplate Jehovah’s patience with us, are we not moved to be more patient with others? (Rom. 2:4) With that in mind, what are some circumstances that call for patience?
SITUATIONS THAT CALL FOR PATIENCE
Many everyday situations may test our patience. For example, if you feel that you have something important to say, you may need to exercise patience in order to avoid interrupting others. (Jas. 1:19) You might also need to show patience when associating with fellow believers whose habits irritate you. Instead of overreacting to such things, you are wise to consider how Jehovah and Jesus react to our weaknesses. They do not focus a critical eye on our minor failings. Rather, they see our good qualities and patiently observe our efforts to improve.—1 Tim. 1:16; 1 Pet. 3:12.
Another situation that may test our patience is when someone suggests that we said or did something wrong. All too often, we may be quick to take offense and justify ourselves. However, God’s Word recommends a different response. It states: “Better to be patient than to be haughty in spirit. Do not be quick to take offense, for the taking of offense lodges in the bosom of fools.” (Eccl. 7:8, 9) Hence, even if an accusation is completely untrue, we should patiently weigh our response. Jesus followed that principle when others unjustly ridiculed him.—Matt. 11:19.
Parents especially need to show patience when they find it necessary to address any wrong attitudes, desires, or leanings that may develop in their children. Consider the case of Mattias, who serves as a member of the Scandinavia Bethel family. As a teenager, Mattias endured endless taunting at school because of his beliefs. At first, his parents were unaware of this. Nevertheless, they had to deal with the effect that this opposition had on their son, who began to question whether he had the truth. “The situation required a lot of patience,” recalls Mattias’ father, Gillis. Mattias would ask: “Who is God? What if the Bible is not God’s Word? How do we know that it is actually God who wants this or that from us?” He would also say to his father: “Why am I to be judged if I don’t feel and believe as you do?”
“Sometimes,” explains Gillis, “our son’s questions were expressed in anger, not against his mother or me, but against the truth, which he felt made life so difficult for him.” How did Gillis handle this situation? “My son and I would sit and talk for hours at a time. Mostly I listened and asked occasional questions to get the full picture of his feelings and views. Sometimes I gave him an explanation to think about for a day or so before we resumed our discussion. At other times, I would say that I needed a few days to think about a viewpoint he had expressed. By means of these regular conversations, Mattias slowly progressed in his understanding and acceptance of such teachings as the ransom, God’s sovereignty, and Jehovah’s love. It took time, and it was often difficult, but slowly, love for Jehovah grew in his heart. My wife and I are so happy that our patient efforts to help our son through his teenage years paid off and reached his heart.”
Gillis and his wife trusted in Jehovah’s support as they patiently worked with their son. Looking back, Gillis says: “I often told Mattias that our deep love for him moved his mother and me to pray even more intensely that Jehovah would help him to understand.” How thankful those parents are that they exercised the vital quality of patience!
In addition to providing spiritual help, true Christians must cultivate loving patience when providing care for chronically ill family members or friends. Consider the example of Ellen,b who also lives in Scandinavia.
About eight years ago, Ellen’s husband was afflicted with two strokes that damaged the functions of his brain. As a result, he is no longer able to feel compassion, happiness, or sorrow. The situation is very demanding for Ellen. She says: “It has taken a lot of patience and many prayers.” She adds: “My favorite scripture that brings me comfort is Philippians 4:13, which says: ‘For all things I have the strength through the one who gives me power.’” Thanks to that power, Ellen endures patiently with full confidence in Jehovah’s support.—Ps. 62:5, 6.
IMITATE JEHOVAH’S PATIENCE
Of course, when it comes to exercising patience, Jehovah is the most outstanding example for us to follow. (2 Pet. 3:15) There are many accounts in God’s Word of times when Jehovah displayed great patience. (Neh. 9:30; Isa. 30:18) For instance, how did Jehovah react when Abraham questioned His decision to destroy Sodom? First of all, Jehovah did not interrupt as Abraham spoke. Instead, Jehovah listened patiently to each of Abraham’s questions and concerns. Then, Jehovah showed that he had listened as he repeated Abraham’s concerns and assured him that He would not destroy Sodom even if just ten righteous men were found in that city. (Gen. 18:22-33) What a fine example of patient listening and of not overreacting!
Godly patience truly is a vital part of the new personality with which all Christians must clothe themselves. If we work hard to develop this valuable and enduring quality, we honor our caring and patient heavenly Father, and we will be counted among “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”—Heb. 6:10-12.
a The quality of love was discussed in the first article of this nine-part series on the fruitage of God’s holy spirit.
b Name has been changed.