Saturday, June 13, 2015

Patience: Why It's Worth Praying For

"Don't pray for patience!" The "joke" usually starts off like this and continues:  "If you do, then God will allow some situation to really try your patience so that you will have a chance to grow in it! No one wants to have a difficult situation like that. Bad things happen. It's hard to be patient." I've heard this joke when I was a teen, and I admit I laughed the first time.

But over the years, it's hard to laugh at it because I realize now patience is so closely tied to hope and growth in general. How do people become good at writing or good at a profession or a hobby? Well, over the years I've noticed, by just participating and being there, what I painfully knew I couldn't do--to think of certain words that are just right when I need them (I tend to write and edit)--actually happen much more often and easily now. It happened just by patiently watching, reading, and practicing over many years. That was patience. The opposite of patience would be to rage and give up.

We hear grand stories of people who somehow were experts or had great success in something in a small amount of time and hope we are like that. But honestly that is rare, and that's why we hear about it.

Or most likely, we see a finished piece of anything, and think it must be easy. But when we get there, we wonder why it's so hard. Like writing. As I studied it, I've been told that the best writing, the ones with smaller snappier words that seem like conversation or compelling, are sometimes the hardest and take the longest to write. You would have never guessed by just reading it, unless you've endeavored to be a writer and experienced it.

I think patience is hard to want because we felt like as a child patience was always what we were told to do when it was so hard. Filled with energy, we didn't want to wait. Excited over the smallest things, we were ready to go now. And we had to depend on our parents to do many things like go somewhere. Now we're older, but in a consumer culture getting things now is much better than waiting.

Wisdom and Patience: How They Work Together
Along with patience helping us grow in a hobby or skill, patience is also a big part of much wisdom. Want to be wise with money? Learn how to save and invest. Saving and investing is basically being patient in not using that money now.

Also, fearing/respecting God is wisdom, and to do that we need to be patient in allowing what we want to happen in God's timing, or being okay if things work out differently than we wanted or imagined. We recognize that God is all-wise and all-good, so what he allows is good for us and him.

How to Respond to "God Allowing Trying Events"
If patience is a big part of wisdom, why not pray for more of it? If we're worried like the joke says, that we'll have another trying event if we do pray for it, and that we can't handle one more hard thing in our life, maybe it is a good time for patience. Part of patience is knowing that life is hard in general and letting it go--not worrying about it that much and knowing that this too shall pass in time and focusing on what matters most and the process of things.

It's possible that we're ignoring the fact that much of life, if we've taken on normal responsibilities of school or work, are filled with times to be patient: Human relationships require patience because of human error from all sorts of things: misunderstandings in communication based on differences in values, personality, or culture;  lack of sleep or food can cause grumpiness or mistakes; and even at our best, we still make mistakes. And just the way our world is, whether we pray for patience or not, our car will break down at some point or a new or unexpected bill arrives in our mailbox. Life, if we're living it well, is full of times that require patience. But it's totally worth it.

So I'd say take the risk to pray for patience. It's worth it, especially since it's so helpful in everyday life when you grow in it. Even if soon after you pray for patience you experience one of the hardest times of your life, there will be years after where you benefit from how at that time you learned how to more quietly and confidently weather difficulties. What if each time you prayed for patience, the helpful stuff you learned in tough times spread to all areas of life for years ahead.

The key is to continue to be open and willing to learn. Some people stop caring about learning as they get older, convinced they feel fine and are probably right about, well, everything. But we are called to be humble in learning from God's Word, which applies to all of areas of life and living. In difficult times we may be able to learn something. Not always, but sometimes.
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