How many of you reading this article are by nature patient? Is there anyone who finds patience as natural as breathing? Anyone? Anyone? I’m looking for that man or woman, young or old, who instinctively responds to irritating people and aggravating circumstances with a calm and controlled spirit. Anyone? Anyone? Hmmm. I didn’t think so.
No one comes by patience naturally. No one instinctively responds to adversity and interruptions without at least some measure of irritation and anger. No one encounters opposition to one’s plans without some degree of agitation and frustration. Patience, to put it simply, is counter-intuitive. It is not something with which we are born. It is, instead, a work of God’s grace in the human heart, a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Let me begin with a confession. I’m an impatient man. I hate it, but it’s true. I get frustrated when a train stops on the tracks and I’m delayed 15 minutes or more for an appointment. I get angry when my computer won’t function or when I struggle to connect with the Internet. It happens when I drive and someone won’t get out of my way. It happens when I’m waiting in line and can’t understand why it doesn’t move faster than a snail’s pace. When what I want doesn’t happen when I want, I get irritated. I wish it weren’t true, but it is. Patience seems so unproductive. I often wonder what it’s good for. But then I see the damage it does to others, the hurt it inflicts, and the bad testimony it bears for the Lord Jesus Christ.
So why is impatience such a problem with me, and perhaps with you? I suppose we could analyze it until we grow impatient with not arriving at an exhaustive answer, but let me reduce the problem to two factors.
First, impatience is the product of selfish entitlement in the human soul. I get impatient because I actually believe I deserve better. I ought not to be delayed by the mistakes others make. I ought not be interrupted or interfered with. It’s not right that things don’t go my way. Who do these people think they are that fail to come through when I’m expecting them to produce? It’s my right to have everything happen when I want it to happen and in the precise manner in which I believe it should happen. “My right.” Did you hear that? Do you feel the spirit of entitlement in it? I’m impatient because I’m selfish and entitled. That’s the first factor.
The second contributing cause to impatience is a failure to truly believe in and trust the sovereignty of God. I say I believe Romans 8:28. I say that I believe God causes all things to work together for my good and for his glory. I say that I believe everything, even suffering and disappointment and tragedy and delays and interference from others, ultimately are under God’s sovereign control and that he knows what he’s doing. But sometimes the simple fact is that what I say I believe doesn’t change the way I behave. And that grieves me.
It grieves my heart that I’m as selfish as I am. It grieves me even more that I don’t have enough confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God and the truth of his Word that I would trust him when things don’t go my way. So that’s why I’m impatient. I suppose there are other reasons, but those two stick out painfully and are most obvious to me.