2 Tips to Develop Patience

Developing patience is hard work.  We all have to wait in life.  We wait in line at the grocery store, we wait in traffic, we wait at the dentist’s office, we wait for people.  But there is a difference between waiting and being patient while we wait.  Patience has to do with cultivating a certain attitude while we wait, and that is hard work.  The only way we get better at patience is by practicing, but we can only practice patience when we are in circumstances that test our patience (and those circumstances are usually frustrating and painful). Listen to the May 27 sermon, “The Patience Test.”

There are two types of waiting.  There is an irritated, agitated, anxious and frustrated kind of waiting, and then there is patient, calm and faithful waiting.  I had been standing there in line at Starbucks for ten minutes, and I had been doing the first type of waiting, not the second. The line was long, lots of people ordering complicated drinks with long names.  I just wanted a simple cup of coffee.  That’s all I ever want at Starbucks.  I waited and waited in this line. And now the only thing that stood between me and my simple cup of coffee was a Mom and her three little kids.   I tried deep breathing, I tried reciting the 23rd psalm, I even prayed the Lord’s prayer,  but I could feel this frustration building up inside of me.  I was tired of waiting.  Finally, the Mom and her children finished their order, got their breakfast and it was my turn.  The Starbucks employee at the cash register could see the irritation on my face.  “Sorry about that,” she said.  “Thanks for your patience. How can I help you?”  I smiled a fake smile and ordered my coffee. But the truth is, she should not have thanked me for my patience.  She could thank me for waiting, because I did wait.  But I was not patient. When I think back to that day at Starbucks, as I stood in line impatiently waiting to get my coffee, I think about how much better I could have done, how much better I should have done.  Instead of being irritated with that mom and her children, I could have been silently praying for them.  Or even praying for my children.  I could have been sending an encouraging text message to a friend.  I could have initiated a pleasant conversation with the person behind me in line.  I could have sung a praise song or a hymn, very softly of course.  Instead of being impatiently waiting, I could have been patiently waiting, actively waiting, and God could have done something good in me and through me.  It was the patience test, and I am sorry to say that didn’t do so well that time. 

Here are 2 quick tips to remember:

  1. Do good work while we wait.  Patience is not passive.  While we are waiting, we can look for good work to do.  Perhaps we can pray for someone, or enter into a conversation with someone, or text an encouraging word to someone.   Sometimes we can go to work on a problem while patiently waiting for the resolution to the problem.  Some financial problems, health problems and relationship problems require us to do good work while we wait, knowing that the good work we do helps solve the problem in the long run.
  2. Keep it all in perspective.  Ultimately, the problems and people that challenge our patience are only temporary.  English poet Edward FitzGerald once famously wrote, “this too shall pass.”  As a way of reminding himself and others that keeping a proper perspective helps us remain patient during challenging times.

In our fast-paced, instant-results culture, perhaps patience is becoming more and more difficult.  But if we do good work while we wait and keep the right perspective, we can become more patient, and demonstrate the love of God in the midst of life’s challenging tests.

Pastor Mark Miller

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