By: Sister Marie Estelle, OCD
This simple word can evoke such a variety of responses!
“It’s impossible to practice, I simply get so annoyed.”
Take a moment and examine what our first thoughts are when you hear the word PATIENCE.
Was it a negative thought? Often this virtue can bring with it difficult emotions. And when those are our reactions, the desire to become more patient can feel like an uphill battle. But what if our reaction could be different? A reaction that is filled with a hope and longing to have this virtue?
One definition states that that patience is “the capacity to accept, tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset.” And this is a true definition, but for Christians, this is only a part of it. Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. St Paul writes, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” Galatians 5:22.
Who doesn’t love fruit, or at least the concept of a beautiful spring tree resplendent with blossoms which eventually become cherries, or oranges or apples? How will the fruit of patience be manifest? How shall we attain it? Let us examine a few Scripture passages (there are countless!) so we may restructure our attitudes and thoughts and grow in this virtue.
“Be still before the Lord; wait for him. Do not be provoked by the prosperous, nor by malicious schemers.” Psalm 37:7
This passage teaches that the Lord’s training ground is often in waiting. With open eyes and open hearts, we the the opportunity to learn many lessons as we wait. We learn to be still- this means to not be controlled by the experience of anger, irritation, annoyance that can occur when our patience is tried. If we are honest, we lose our patience because we want to control the situation, the circumstances or the people. The lesson of waiting helps us to pause, examine our inner world and become open to the Lord’s ways which are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). It is a call to trust in the Father’s plan, in the loving designs of His Heart for our lives.
“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning; the patient in spirit are better than the proud in spirit” Ecclesiastes 7:8.
Really, all the virtues and fruits are closely connected! In this verse, patience is linked to humility. Jesus commanded us “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” This is not optional. If we say we are Christians, the whole Gospel is not optional. It’s challenge every day, but we have the Holy Spirit to help us.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer” Romans 12:12.
The letters of St. Paul are filled with exhortations to be patient for patience is the mark of the Christian life. As we grow in trust and humility, we will begin to see the Lord working in difficult situations. And, little by little, instead of losing our patience and emotions, we will begin to be open to new possibilities, peacefully waiting for the next great thing the Lord is going to do, as we wait. Patience opens us up to the miracle He is working within us. We are called us to become a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) and desires the renewal of our minds (Romans 2:2) so that we may live the abundant life (John10:10) and bear much fruit (John 15:8), patiently!