In Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip, Charlie Brown asks Linus, “What would you do if you felt that nobody liked you?”
Linus responds, “Well, Charlie Brown, I guess I would take a real hard look at myself, ask if I am doing anything that turns people off, How can I improve myself? Do I need to change in some way? Yep. that’s my answer Charlie Brown.”
In the final frame Charlie Brown says, “I hate that answer.”
Charlie Brown’s problem, and ours, is often an issue of patience. Linus’ answer requires serious thought, time, effort and energy. In our relationships it takes patience to see things through the lens of others. It is the ability to suppress annoyance, be composed during trial and calm while enduring provocation.
In addition to love, joy, peace, kindness and others, patience is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). The character of the new man, one who is clothed in Christ, includes patience. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col 3:12-14, ESV).
The Greek word for patience is defined as “forbearance, slowness in avenging wrongs.” The word is translated longsuffering. It literally means “long tempered.”
Patience is difficult because it goes against our human nature. We’re like the four-year-old boy traveling with his mother and constantly asking over and over, “When are we going to get there?” Finally, the mother got so irritated that she said, “We still have 90 more miles to go. So don’t ask me again when we’re going to get there.” The boy was silent for a long time. Then he timidly asked, “Mom, will I still be four when we get there?”
Patience is contrary to our culture. We live on the fast track. We live in a world of fast food. Express lunches. Microwaves. High-speed Internet.
However, God calls us to patience. May I offer some suggestions to help us grow more patient?
First, we can abide in Christ (Jn. 15:5). Jesus is the perfect example of patience. In his work. In dealing with difficult people. In training the apostles. In suffering. Being more Christlike will produce greater patience.
Second, we can grow in love. The great love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, says, “Love is patient.” The more we love, the greater we love, the deeper we love, the more patient we become. The way to be more patient is to be more loving.
Thirdly, we can utilize prayer. In Colossians 1:9-11 Paul prayed for several things, including patience. Do you want more patience? Pray. Just don’t be like the guy who prayed, “Lord give me more patience... and right now!”
Fourth, take a moment to slow down. Take a break! When I’m being impatient, sometimes a pause and deep breath is a great elixir. Remember, even God rested on the Sabbath from his work of creation. Jesus often took time out of his hectic schedule to go the mountains, or the seashore, and just get away from the crowds.
Finally, we can wait on the Lord. The Psalmist said, “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart, wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Ps. 27:14).
If you’re like me and wish to exercise more patience in your life this week, look no further than to the fifth chapter of James:
“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:7-8)