1 Corinthians 13 is known as the Bible’s “love” chapter. You may have heard it quoted at weddings… Christian and non-Christian alike. The chapter gives us a long list of character traits that true love exhibits. One thing I find particularly interesting about this passage is that the very first attribute listed is patience. (Everyone’s favorite – right?) Yes, true love is patient, which makes the opposite true as well. A lack of patience means we are not operating in love.
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I had a friend in high school who would tell me to never pray for patience. She used to claim that the days she would pray for patience were the days that God gave her the most opportunities to practice her patience!
While I don’t necessarily believe that we should avoid praying for this attribute in our lives, but we can certainly learn something important from her experience. We never just suddenly become patient with others. Learning to be patient requires practice, and God will give us many opportunities to do so.
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We learn how to be patient in little ways each and every day. Just think for a moment about all of the opportunities you have had recently to be patient.
Perhaps you were running late for an appointment and got stuck behind someone who was driving 10 miles under the speed limit. Or maybe you were waiting in line at the grocery store and it was obviously the cashier’s first day on the job. Better yet, perhaps your two-year-old decided she wanted to have a complete meltdown when you told her she couldn’t have tortilla chips and cookies for dinner. (This really did just happen to me, by the way!) All of these scenarios and more can become exercises in patience if we choose to view them this way.
Patience isn’t just about being slow to get angry, however. The term itself also implies “waiting” for something or someone. There are times in our lives when we have to be patient for weeks, months, or even years. We also need to be patient when enduring hardships. Every single human being will go through difficult times in their lives. God’s patience is the only thing that can get us through these tough situations. The good news is that He promises to reward us if we patiently endure these times of persecution or trial. (James 1:12)
We also practice patience when we wait on God. Yes, we serve a God who is faithful to keep His word, but He doesn’t necessarily carry out His plan in our timing or the way we have planned. He is a good Father who does what is best for His children. God’s timing is perfect in all things, and we may have to wait patiently on Him as He chooses the right moments to fulfill His promises in our lives.
Isn’t it wonderful that we serve a God who provides us with the patience we need to wait on Him? True love comes from God. We cannot truly love others without God’s love working through us. In the same way, we cannot be patient with others without God’s patience in our lives.
We can certainly try on our own, but as we all know, sooner or later our patience runs out. Only God can keep it overflowing in our lives.
We love because God first loved us, and we are to be patient because He was first patient with us.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.