Patience is an essential quality of a Christian, no matter who they are. Paul encourages the believers to “put on” patience, and he lists it as one of the fundamental fruits of the Spirit (Col. 3:12; Gal. 5:22).
In addition to the ordinary need, there are certain circumstances that require exceptional patience.
Patience when circumstances are out of your control. James uses the example of a farmer waiting for “the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain” (James 5:7). Arguably, there are very few things that a farmer can control about growing plants. Aside from tilling the soil and planting, there’s just a whole lot of waiting. The farmer cannot forcibly germinate his seeds any more than he can conjure rain from the clouds overhead. He can hope and pray and watch. But he cannot make it happen.
Patience sometimes looks very passive. It requires trust in someone or something else, and a stillness instead of a frantic grasping for control. Often the greatest discomfort in patience is that there isn’t more for the patient one can do other than be patient.
Patience when people will not change. The prophets of old are one of the best examples of persistent patience. Isaiah and Jeremiah (and Hosea and Amos and many others) are filled with God’s pleadings with an obstinate nation. Real life analogies, intricate stories and metaphors, and tearful pleadings by prophets often did nothing to move the hearts of His people. And still He sent more; and then, He sent His Son.
Patience sometimes looks devastatingly active. It requires doing what God has asked, even when the results are not materializing as hoped. It involves trying again and again in selfless service and persistence, out of love for someone other than self.
Patience when your experience is unexplainable. Job is a long-winded book that tells of a God-loving man’s confusing experience. Though readers are given the extra context of the conversations between the devil and God regarding Job, it still does not answer every question. Besides, it’s possible Job never even heard that part of his story, and he at least didn’t know it while he was going through the darkest chapters. Yet, he stayed faithful to God. He didn’t withhold his bitterest of questions and heartaches, but he refused to accept faulty theology from his friends, or the recommendation to curse God from his wife, or even the suggestion to be quiet.
Patience sometimes is painful. It’s the experience of waiting and not knowing why that tears at the heartstrings. Sometimes, answers come with relieving clarity later on; but sometimes they can only be hoped for at the time when God will provide all the answers. Believers need patience with God because He paints on a larger canvas than human sight can see.