Fruit of the Spirit: Patience in the Midst of Suffering
If there is a word we need for the 21st century, it might be “patience.” From microwaves to Amazon Prime, instant gratification is widely available, and waiting for a significant amount of time is almost unheard of. Patience is scarce in a society that commodifies time. For most of us in the Western world, time is something that we save, trade, spend, or waste. And we certainly don’t sit around and do nothing if we do have to wait for something. After all, “time is money,” and multi-tasking is a virtue.
So what is Paul talking about? How is patience a fruit of the Spirit? How is it a reflection of Christ?
The real meaning of the word patience in Galatians 5:22 relates more closely to the old English word “longsuffering.” Our English definition of longsuffering is “having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.” While the ability to wait patiently for something is an admirable character quality, it’s not quite in line with the sacrificial, Christ-reflecting life we’re called to as believers.
Paul knew something about longsuffering. He endured shipwrecks, imprisonments, beatings, and ridicule, all the while counting it a privilege to suffer patiently for Christ.
The fruit of the Spirit is a well-rounded picture of the person of Christ.
When we display the kind of patience the fruit of the Spirit produces in us, we reflect the longsuffering of Christ. He endured the cross and the burden of humanity’s sin with the patient love of a Savior. Peter recognized Jesus’s longsuffering as something believers should emulate.
“…if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.'” 1 Peter 2:20b-24
What does this mean for us?
When we practice the longsuffering kind of patience, we mirror Christ.
When we patiently endure the ridicule that Western society likes to throw at Christians, we mirror Christ.
When we endure the suffering that life sometimes brings us — whether that’s death, disease, or any kind of loss — and patiently long for the day when Heaven comes to earth, we mirror Christ.
When we experience the pain of denying our sinful habits and choose instead to “live for righteousness,” we mirror Christ.
When people sin against us, and we are patient toward them as God is patient toward us, we mirror Christ.
Christians all over the world put this idea of longsuffering to the test in the face of persecution, rejection, and even death. Today, as we patiently endure our own circumstances, let’s join together in prayer for the global Church to continue to reflect Christ even in suffering.