By Kristen Fox
“When I hear ‘Love is patient,’ I think about how I’m called to love and relate well to people in spite of how I am treated. I find this especially challenging in my family – with my husband and children. It’s easy for me to allow what I view as their shortcomings/annoying habits as reasons to be impatient, often leading to crankiness in my words and tone. Rather, I want to love them patiently based on the fact that God does the same for me – He loves me through my shortcomings and failures and His treatment of me doesn’t change based on my performance.”– Kelli
Knowledge and desire are an insightful beginning to loving others well. We know what the Bible teaches about agape love being the highest form of gracious, sacrificial love, and we delight in the LORD’s expression of it to us. Yet, is it possible for us to love like God does and to be patient as He is? If it is, what does that love look like, particularly with respect to patience?
“Love is patient.” 1 Corinthians 13:4a
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he exhorts the believers to a “still more excellent way.” He desires them to turn away from spiritual arrogance and the value system of the world, as these are the very stumbling blocks that keep them from loving well. Loving, according to the culture’s standard, is selfishly seeking one’s own good. Paul shows them that the ultimate manifestation of the Spirit within them is love, agape. This is how God loves us, and this is the love we are called to demonstrate.
In his discourse on agape love, moved by the Spirit of God, Paul includes numerous descriptors, the first of which is, “love is patient.” Why did he list patience first? Does this increase emphasis or importance? Was patience a common quality that was lacking within the Corinthian church or was patience an attribute he was seeking divine guidance with for himself?
For me, patience is a life-long journey. I have traveled a long way, but I have not arrived. Just when I find that I have been patient in some small area, I realize quickly that I have lost my patience in another. This is a common human predicament, one which God uses to draw us closer to Himself.
Although it would be easy to become impatient with myself, I find comfort in the following: acknowledging my sin of impatience and the impact it has on others; seeking forgiveness from the Father and from the one I have been impatient with; thanking God for exposing what is in my heart and giving me greater self-awareness; asking Him to cleanse me yet again of my sin; and trusting in the LORD to sustain me, to change my heart, and create in me what only can come about through His patient work.
In my own strength, I cannot become patient. No matter how patient I determine to be, I need Him. I need His love. I need His grace. I need His patience. He is the only Source that can set me free from my selfish, impatient ways. With my eyes upon Him, I gain clarity, and He reminds me of His patience with me, both now and in the days before I knew Him. He patiently pursues, patiently works, and patiently loves.
Thus, patience is an outward testimony of the inward transformation of God’s love upon one’s heart. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can love in a “still more excellent way.” One of the first steps we take and yet continuously return to is the step of patience. The journey is never a straight-forward route, but one where God invites us to circle back, to remember and to revisit, and to continue as He leads us. With the LORD we can indeed love patiently.
“I think of quietly listening to your child (friend) who is struggling – not trying to fix them . . . but loving them amidst their struggles . . . and seeing God’s place in helping them. Not setting expectations too high or even setting expectations – but waiting for God to show us the path He is choosing. And knowing that God is never late!”– Sara