I researched the definition of patience today and found one that I felt captured the essence of this particular trait that is considered to be a virtue. The definition offered by Google was my favorite. It defined patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
Most people are aware of how well they perform in this regard, but if you want to determine whether you have an accurate view of your capacity for patience, there are a few simple things you can do to put your patience to the test. However, you must be completely unbiased and thorough about it. You must test yourself in each of the three areas – delay, trouble and suffering.
- The test of your ability to tolerate delay might be achieved by going for a drive in rush hour traffic, or choosing the longest checkout line in the grocery store, or helping your six year old make cookies at their own pace.
- The test of your ability to tolerate trouble might be achieved by thinking back to the last three unwelcome events in your life and reflecting on how you responded. Perhaps your car broke down and needed expensive repairs, or you lost your job, or you were faced with a challenging parenting decision.
- As for your tolerance for suffering, in what areas of your life do you experience it? In your physical body? In a relationship? In anxiety or depression that makes everyday tasks a real challenge?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with experiencing the natural feelings associated with trying events and circumstances. The question is this — what will we choose to do with those feelings? Will we let them rule us and rob us of joy and peace? Or will we let them develop the virtue of patience in us?
For here is the reality . . . life is full of delays, troubles, and suffering. We cannot escape those experiences, and if we fight against them we will only bring ourselves more harm. The happiest people on the planet are those who not only tolerate these things, but who have learned to embrace them, understanding that delay, trouble and suffering can actually usher them into a greater level of wellness.
Eugene Peterson’s translation of Romans 5:3-5 in The Message Bible describes this process beautifully. It reads in part, “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary — we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”