Thank you for reading the previous posts on the Fruit of the Spirit (Fruit of the Spirit #1: An Introduction, Fruit of the Spirit #2: It all begins with Love, Part 1, Fruit of the Spirit #3: It all begins with Love, Part 2, Fruit of the Spirit #4: Joy and Fruit of the Spirit #5: Peace).
In this post, I’d like to take a brief look at the next Fruit of the Spirit that follows Love, Joy and Peace, which is Patience.
If ever there was a Fruit of the Spirit that seems to be needed or requested more than the others, I think that Patience would probably be in the top three of the requests. That’s because the meaning of Patience (Makrothymia) has to do with suffering…actually, l-o-n-g s-u-f-f-e-r-i-n-g, and what human being among us wants to experience prolonged suffering in their life circumstances and relationships?
Sadly, its a part of our human condition that we will experience some form of suffering in our lives: If we lose a pet, a friend, a job or a relationship, or, if we experience some form of trauma or devastation in the midst of a relationship (injury, betrayal, neglect or domestic violence). More than likely our losses will catapult us into a period of grief and mourning where we will experience anguish and suffering, and quite possibly over a long period of time.
Interestingly, the Latin word for Patience is “Patiens” which means “I am suffering,” which is why we call the person in the hospital receiving some form of medical or psychological care a patient. When we consider their condition in the hospital, or when they are discharged, sent home and are attempting to recover from some form of trauma to their person, we are encouraged to be patient with the patient. As mentioned earlier, one of the most loving, fruitful and restorative behaviors that you could deliver to yourself and to others who are attempting to recover from suffering, loss, trauma or injury is the fruit of the Spirit known as Patience.
If you have experienced profound loss in your life or if you are currently struggling with an issue and you’re experiencing a milder form of suffering (distress, discomfort or anxiety), or if a loved one is in need of Patience, then I offer to you the following thoughts about Patience:
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
1) If you are the patient please be patient with your self! You are attempting to recover from some form of trauma that you have experienced in your body, mind, soul or spirit, and the recovery period wherein you’re experiencing some form of suffering will take time (plus work) as you move toward healing.
Grieving and mourning any form of loss means some degree of suffering will be experienced, and patience with the body, mind and spirit that is experiencing suffering is likely to be the first medication the Doctor will provide to you to begin your healing.
Unfortunately, some people in your life may want you to get over past hurts, pains and issues sooner than later; remember, the opposite of patience is impatience, which isn’t the fruit thats going to help you to heal.
When I have the opportunity to share with “patients” about their suffering, I’ve likened recovering from a trauma to waking up in an Intensive Care Unit after an operation, and its all you could do to just get out of the bed, walk to the bathroom, relieve yourself then return to sleep for another 4 hours. You can only do so much, and you’ll need to be patient and real with yourself regarding just how much you can perform, accommodate and engage in, without overloading or overwhelming yourself by trying to do too much too soon.
As you begin to feel better, any Doctor or Nurse will want you to get out of bed, walk down the hall and engage in some activity to move your muscles as you work toward discharge. What might your “patient behavior” or recovery work look like practically?
First, by all means embrace your spiritual disciplines (rest, silence, solitude, prayer, meditation, reflection, journaling, study, worship, fellowship and journaling to name a few) to connect with a power greater than yourself. In a time of suffering and loss, you’ll need God’s empowerment to strengthen you and to restore your mind, heart, soul and spirit to a realistic level of functioning as you endeavor to make sense of your suffering and begin to learn how to recover and live through any loss in your life.
Second, I encourage you to access any human resource (a Counselor, Therapist, Pastor, Rabbi, Priest, Sponsor, Spiritual Guide, a good and safe friend) or psychological tool to help you to strategize then communicate to others (partner or family members, especially if they were involved in the creation of your trauma) what safe behaviors and practices you’ll need to develop together in order to create the safety that is necessary to live with them.
In a time like this, patience that is reciprocally given to each other will need to be a part of your process of healing because some identified and safe behaviors that you’ll need to heal will not be developed overnight (however, that still doesn’t mean they aren’t targeted for development and delivery). Be patient with your process and patient with each other and slowly you’ll begin to experience some form of healing as you both are edified by this necessary fruit called Patience.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” – Colossians 3:12 (TNIV)
2) If your partner or family member is “the patient” and is in the process of healing from anything that has caused suffering, loss or grief, then I encourage you, to the best of your abilities to practice love, care, compassion, empathy (which is being tender with their innards), which is a practice that “this Doctor” would prescribe for your situation.
I can’t emphasize how critical the demonstration of Patience is to the healing and recovery process of another who is suffering, and you’re the closest human being to deliver the “reasonable responses” to him or her, which is like medicine that could help to ameliorate their suffering. If the first three Fruit of the Spirit (Love, Joy and Peace) are for our personal benefit, then the next three, led by Patience (Patience, Kindness and Goodness) are Fruit to develop and deliver for the benefit of others in our lives.
As you work to develop and deliver the Fruit of Patience, you’ll want to keep in mind that their recovery with their suffering will take longer than you probably have the patience for, so the question is how do we develop the fruit of Patience for our own good, then deliver Patience for the well-being of the one who needs it the most?
First, the same two points mentioned above for your partner (spiritual disciplines and human resources) applies to you as well. The Fruit of the Spirit called Patience is grown, developed and matured with God’s empowerment, and it is helped and “fertilized” by the wisdom found in the counsel of many (Proverbs 15:22).
Second, developing emotional self-awareness (please read this!) will help you to identify when impatience, frustration and irritability are arising within you, and learning how to constructively deal with your emotions will go a long way towards containing what you don’t want to deliver, but accurately delivering the Patience that you do wish to deliver!
Third, the demonstration of Mercy and the development of Empathy are critical ingredients in the process of helping the patient to heal (Matthew 10:1, 8).Think about it, Jesus practiced tenderness, sympathy, empathy, compassion and kindness (our next Fruit of the Spirit) with those who suffered pain, heartache and brokenness of body and spirit as He ministered to the “patients” around Him, and He invites us to do the same.
Finally, make sure you aren’t “contaminating” your own process of growing Patience, by allowing character defects such as resentment, selfishness, hard-heartedness and impatience to take root in you (Ephesians 4:26-32; Ephesians 5:1-2). Remember, just focus on making progress with the development of this fruitful behavior, not perfection, but do focus on eliminating any harmful behaviors that sabotage your efforts in growing Patience.
So in conclusion, developing and delivering these characteristics, which are doable if we put in the time, work and devotion to develop them in the “garden of our mind” means we will love, nurture, edify and strengthen ourselves with the first crop of the fruit of Patience, and we’ll grow, share and deliver to others (our neighbors) what they need from our abundance.
Above all, be patient with yourself and with others, because we are all in a process of growing in our human condition! May God help you immensely in your growth process!
Here’s a link to the next post in this series: “The Fruit of the Spirit #7: Kindness.”
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