One of my friends wrote a good blog entry about patience that ended with the question, “How do you keep your patient loving heart when it is being tested?” I didn’t want to answer in her comment section because I think my answer would be too long. However, I have also been having a lot of thoughts about patience lately.
As a follower of Christ, I would obviously look first to the Bible for answers about how to keep a patient and loving heart in the middle of a trying situation. The Bible talks about many different types of patience. There is the kind of patience you need when you are waiting on God to reveal Himself or His will for a certain situation ( James 5:7-8, Psalm 37:7-9). There is the kind of patience you need when you are dealing with people or situations that get on your nerves (James 1:19-20, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Ephesians 4:1-2). And, there is the type of patience that you need when you feel like you are working hard and honestly with no return (Galatians 6:9, Isaiah 40:31, Psalm 46:10). These are all very good scriptures to contemplate both as stand-alone verses and within the context of which they were written.
These scriptures tell me that I need to be patient and wait on the Lord, but (with the exception of James 1:19-20) they do not tell me how to be patient and wait on the Lord. And that is where I sometimes look for elaboration from other sources of spiritual instruction.
I’ve posted this quote on my blog before, but I think it is worth repeating:
“Patience is a mind that is able to accept, fully and happily, whatever occurs. It is much more than just gritting our teeth and putting up with things. Being patient means to welcome wholeheartedly whatever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are. It is always possible to be patient, there is no situation so bad that it cannot be accepted patiently, with an open, accommodating, and peaceful heart.” – Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
Buddhism teaches (and I am speaking generally, because Buddhism is a very large school of thought with many different ideas) that patience is cultivated by learning to accept things as they are. When I feel impatient about the fact that I have still not finished school, for example, it is because I am expecting that I should have been finished by now. I am expecting that things should have gone differently. But should they have? Instead of focusing on how I – in my limited knowledge of the universe – think things should have been, Buddhism teaches me to humble myself and realize that perhaps things are exactly what they are supposed to be at this moment. And not only should I accept that things are what they are – but I should do so cheerfully and gratefully!
In response to my friend’s question about keeping a patient, loving heart – my answer would be that I first pray that God will create patience within me. If He doesn’t do that, then there’s nothing I can do on my own to stir up patience within myself. After I pray, I contemplate and employ the principle of fully accepting what is. Eventually, patience will be something that will occur naturally without my having to be so intentional about it.
Patience is about embracing the roller-coaster that is life. Not resentfully tolerating it.