“The fruit of the spirit” is a phrase the Apostle Paul used in Galatians 5:22 to describe the personal qualities produced in the life of those who follow Jesus Christ. When we are connected to God through faith in Jesus Christ, these qualities are planted in our lives and grow to maturity.
Of all the fruit of the spirit Paul includes in his list, perhaps patience may be the most difficult for us to acquire on our own. In this world of instant gratification and high-speed communication, who has time to deal with waiting, persevering, enduring, or long-suffering? We want to get on with things. When it comes to patience, we are more likely to demand, “Lord, give me patience and give it to me NOW!”
Patience is waiting with hope, with confidence and with faith. Waiting that is not anxious or fitful, but a waiting colored by the knowledge that you and I don’t have to be in control. Patience is also about putting up with people who can be difficult to get along with.
Emotions can quickly shift from peaceful to angry, glad to mad, positive to negative all for the lack of patience. When we are patient, we do not quickly retaliate or fly off the handle. We don’t return “like for like”. Patience is restraint in the face of provocation. It is inserting a moment of pause before responding. It is choosing not to respond in the moment, but rather take a longer view.
God can help us develop patience beyond what would ever be possible for us on our own. Part of learning patience is to look to how God is patient with us.
God, we are told, is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Time and time again, God’s people turned away from God’s love and failed to live according to God’s covenant, and yet God did not turn away or give up on them.
Jesus showed patience in offered forgiveness, compassion, acceptance and love to all sorts of people: tax collectors, lepers, widows, prostitutes, thieves, even those who put him to death. In fact, the only people Jesus got angry with were those who stubbornly rejected to accept the grace he came to offer.
Keep letting the fruit grow.