We have been told to love, for love is not an option. We have been given by the Spirit the ability to love with agape love. Patience is another name for love, as Paul explained that “love is patient.” Therefore, as we work through our difficult relationships, we will need to be patient.
The meaning of the word patience (in Greek, macrothumea) is “long-suffering” or “slow to anger.” Love suffers because it is the nature of love to suffer. Remember what C.S. Lewis said: “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken!” (The Four Loves, 169). But there is no alternative. We are not only called to love, we are also commanded to love.
Such love means loving not only when your heart is whole, but loving when your heart is broken. It means loving when the person you are trying to love is continuously hurting you afresh. Long-suffering means that love suffers well. Being inordinately fond of myself, I don’t “do” pain very well. In fact, I don’t do pain at all if I can help it! Do you? Who’s for pain? The whole ethos of our society, as C.S. Lewis said, is to “embrace pleasure and eschew pain.” It takes a radical act of God in our lives to so change our hearts that we are willing to embrace pain and eschew pleasure—to suffer for the sake of love! Yet, if that is what it takes to love someone, it must be done.
Patience is love waiting out a suffering situation. If pain cannot be avoided, then pain must be accepted. What we need to do is go with the pain and allow the pain to drive us to God.
Don’t waste the pain, let it prove thee.
Don’t stop the tears, let them cleanse thee.
Rest, stop the striving, soon you’ll be arriving in His arms.
Don’t waste the pain, let it drive you
Deeper into God.
He’s waiting—and you should have come sooner!
Let pain drive you toward God and not away from Him! Once you are deeper into God, you will find a bigger capacity to love even those who cause you pain.
God is very good at loving people who hurt Him and who are hard to love. When Jesus was frustrated with the disciples one time, He said to them, “How long must I suffer you?” (Matt. 17:17). He then went on “suffering” them for a considerable time because He knew that this was God’s will for Him, and He willed to do God’s will. Long-suffering means being patient with an insufferable situation or person—even when you are hurting badly yourself—because it is the will of God. It hurts terribly to love at times like that, but that is what agape love does.
So how patient is God with people? The Old Testament tells us that “the Lord observed the extent of the people’s wickedness, and he saw all their thoughts were consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he ever made them. It broke his heart” (Gen. 6:5-6). Fortunately, He didn’t wipe the entire race off the map immediately, but first He patiently waited for people to repent. Noah, who had found grace in His eyes, preached forgiveness while building the ark. The New Testament, referring to this incident, says that “God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat” (1 Pet. 3:20). God is surely patient! In fact, He waited 120 years and prepared a way for anyone sorry for his or her sin to find His grace and forgiveness.
In London there is a famous place called Hyde Park Corner. Anyone can get up on a soapbox there and talk about anything. Crowds usually gather to listen and heckle. It is all pretty humorous, whatever the subject—politics, religion, and sex are the favorites.
One day a famous preacher named Theodore Packer was preaching. He had his say through good-humored heckling, and then it was the turn of the atheist to give an opposing argument. That meant it was Theodore’s turn to heckle. The unbeliever waxed strong and at one point, as he was finishing up blaspheming God, he shook his fist at heaven and said, “God, if you’re there, I give you five minutes to strike me down dead for what I have been saying about you!”
Theodore Packer spoke up, “Does the gentleman think he can exhaust the patience of God in five minutes?”
How long does your patience last? Does it last 120 years, 120 minutes, or 120 seconds? To have the patience God wants us to have, we need Jesus.
Love waits well! Don’t you just hate that? I hate waiting for anything, especially for a circumstance to change or a person to say she is sorry. Patience loves on to give time for God’s redemptive power to do its work. Love gives us the power to suffer long when we desperately want things to change.
Just Between Us Magazine