"Now is the winter of our discontent."
(Richard III, Act1, Scene 1, line 1) by William Shakespeare.
What better metaphor, or image, could describe "discontent" better than "winter"? Winter is cold. Winter is uncomfortable. We are waiting to get it over with. We know things will get better, but in the meantime we have to have patience.
Patience. What does the Bible have to tell us about patience? There are many things, but one example is found in Galatians 5:22:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (ESV).
Patience is nothing less than a fruit of the Spirit. It appears to mean more than simply endurance. As a fruit of the Spirit, it is not merely a quality, it is a gift.
Searching further, we find that in Ephesians 4:1-3, patience appears to be an integral part of the calling of a Christian:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.(ESV).
The word "patience" tends to appear in very good company, alongside such words as "gentleness" and "peace." The idea of patience deserves our utmost attention and consideration. In our haste to understand, to rationalize, and to explain, we might remember that the best thing of all is simply to have patience.
Thomas `a Kempis had much to say about patience:
A really patient man does not mind by whom he is tried, whether it be by a superior or by some equal or inferior, whether it be by a good and holy man or by the wicked and unworthy. No, from whatever creature any trial comes to him, however hard it be and however frequent, he takes all alike as coming from God's hands, gives thanks for all, and counts all as the greatest gain; because nothing, however slight, if only it be suffered for God's sake, can pass without merit in his sight.
The Imitation of Christ trans. Stephen McKenna (London: Duncan Baird) 2006, page157.
This is a fine description of how we should be, but can we do it? Some of us will be instantly reminded of our shortcomings in the field of patience. Are we lost and without hope?
The answer, of course, is no. Turning back to that infinitely beautiful well of reassurance that is Scripture, we find something wonderful:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1Timothy 15-16).
Perfect patience! Whatever human patience might be, divine or perfect patience is something else altogether. Understanding God's patience with us leads us to a better understanding of his offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. We can conclude our search with the following words:
To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1Timothy 17).
In faith and fellowship,
Patrick McKitrick (more...)