patience!

We consider blessed those who have persevered.  James 5:11

Patience!  “Better not pray for patience,”  a friend once cautioned me. “The Lord will send tough circumstances when you ask for patience!”   I’m not sure I agree with her theology.  We live in a fallen world where hardship and pain are simply a reality.  Jesus himself warns,”In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33).  “But take heart,” he adds, “I have overcome the world.”   James reminds that if we persevere, holding up patiently under trial, we are blessed.   The word means happy.  Fortunate.  Even joyful.

The word patience in the Greek, makrothymia, comes from two words meaning “long” and “anger.”  A patient person is “long-suffering” as opposed to giving in to hasty anger. James exhorts us to observe the farmer in our quest for patience:

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near (James 5:7,8).

I have to confess that I’m not eager to walk through circumstances that build patience.  How often do you see the words patient and happy in the same sentence?  But God promises to transform our hard places into places of joy.   Christians who have suffered persecution in dangerous places tell me that God gave them supernatural patience in the midst of their affliction, but he also gave them joy.

My friend Ange’s family was torn apart in the Rwandan genocide.  When fleeing from the soldiers, she became separated from her husband, not knowing his whereabouts until they were miraculously reunited after eight long years of searching for each other.

“I stood on the promises in Romans 5:3-5,”  she answered when I asked  how she survived.  “God’s Word promised that I could “rejoice in my sufferings.”  “These were bringing me perseverance.  Perseverance produces character, and character hope.”  “And hope,” she added softly, “does not disappoint us.”

Perhaps we could learn a lesson from believers like Ange who follow Christ in hard places where war, genocide, and persecution are a daily threat.  India, Sudan, China, the Middle East.  As we read of their patience in the face of suffering, let us take heart from their example of how to stand firm.

Lord, give me the courage to see you even in the storms of life.  To persevere through the pain until I see your glory. Help me to trust you that as James promises, You are full of compassion and mercy.  You have promised victory.  Keep me strong until the storm passes over.  May my trial be an opportunity for me to grow and for You to shine. -Amen

 


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