Saturday, December 23, 2006

Learning Patience

The word "patience" is derived from the Latin patientia, meaning to suffer without complaint. It is the opposite of whining. The word "patient," then, is one who endurs suffering or sickness. As a patient I have trouble with patience, namely, I lack it. Ambrose Bierce defined patience as "a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue."

The Bible has some interesting thoughts on patience. Paul writes in Romans 15:4, "that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." So we learn patience from reading the Bible. In 2 Thessalonians 3:5 we read, "Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. The Greek word for patience is hypomone, which is also translated endurance or steadfastness. Patience, then, finds another source in being in Christ. It is also produced by tribulation, suffering, and the testing of our faith (cf. James 1:3).

As a cancer patient, I have to remember I am in Christ, and to endure the traffic, the needles, the chemotherapy, the waiting, all with Christian patience. I must also remember that patience produces its own fruit. As Paul writes in Romans 5:3, "we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces patience (hypomone); and patience, character; and character, hope." Thus patience produces character in a Christian, an inner strength to endure with grace, wit, and even rejoicing what God in his providence places before us.

I am not Paul, and I lack patience, but I am working on it through Scripture reading, prayer, and adoration. The goal is to be still and know that God is God (Psalm 46:10). As Augustine famously wrote at the outset of his Confessions, "our heart is restless until it rests in Thee." Amen.


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