Patience is (Unfortunately) a Virtue


“BOIL!” I commanded, watching an uncooperative pot of water.

It was dinner time, and with one hand on my hip, the other holding a bag of frozen peas and carrots, impatience seemed to be getting the best of me.

I once had a book about virtues, and patience was one of them, along with charity, humility, temperance (or self-restraint), diligence, chastity and kindness. To this day, I find patience the most difficult.

Why is that?

Merriam-Webster defines virtue as “morally good behavior or character.” We all know patience is good, and impatience is bad, but it’s just so hard. Patience means waiting. It means tolerating difficult things without getting grumpy. It means not getting easily annoyed or upset.

All things that don’t come naturally, at least for me.

I recently searched online for all the Bible verses on patience, and I got way too many results.

Romans 12:12 urges us to “be patient in tribulation.”

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him,” Psalm 37:7 tells us.

And from one of my favorite verses comes this gem: “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6). An-y-thing. If that isn’t a blunt command, I don’t know what is.

I think there are 2 things that make patience so hard.

One, we live in a global, technology-saturated world. We can find answers to any question we can think of, all at the speed of light on a glowing, hand-held screen. As our world picks up the pace, demands on our time increase. We expect things quicker and nearly bust at the seams when something slows us down. (Have you yelled at a slow Internet connection lately? Me, too.)

Two, we compare ourselves to others. He has a great job; why can’t I find one? She has a husband; when is it my turn? They just bought a bigger house; when can we get one?

There are a few things I’ve been waiting on for quite some time now. Years, actually. I feel like I’m in this never-ending waiting room, stuck between this desire to trust God’s timing and frustration over the standstill.

In those moments, I think about the Psalmist who wrote this:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
—Psalm 13:1

In my search for verses on patience, I came across another well-known goody from Romans that explains one of the positive effects of patience: “Endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:4).

The first part of that reminds me of something my mom used to say when I had to do something I didn’t want to do, like wash dishes.

“It builds character,” she’d tell me.

And she’s right. Often the things we don’t want to do or think we’re incapable of doing, (like waiting), are the very things that make us stronger people. More compassionate, hard-working and patient people who learn to trust God and have confidence in the future.

Earlier this week as I sat in traffic, I came to a red light and stopped, watching the people ahead of me continue on down the road.

Patience can be that way, too—watching others get ahead while we’re asked to stay put. But a lot of times, it’s for our own good. If we tried to catch up by running the red light, we’d probably get hit.

So, despite the frustration and occasional yelling during dinner preparation, maybe there’s a good reason we’re on hold after all. Maybe, just maybe, that pot isn’t ready to boil yet.

What are you waiting on? How can you ease the waiting period?


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