Patience, or long-suffering, is the fourth fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. There are, of course, many examples of patience, like waiting in lines, dealing with traffic, interacting with difficult people, or waiting for some situation to be resolved. Indeed, patience really plays out in our relationships. It is learning to stay calm in the midst of circumstances beyond one’s control. From a spiritual perspective it is putting confidence in God who is in control.
Some translations of the Bible use the word “long-suffering.” Is there a difference? In researching this word, I learned that it focuses more on people who have wronged you, or have been abusive. It addresses situations of hardship or adversity. The Greek meaning is long-tempered. Temper draws a distinction between remaining calm and getting angry. It brings to mind the saying that someone “lost their temper.” It takes a strong character (or weakness) under the control of the Holy Spirit to respond, as opposed to reacting, to a difficult person or situation.
How does the Bible further clarify patience as a fruit of the Spirit? Ephesians 4:2 links it with “forbearing one another in love.” One translation of this verse says “showing tolerance for one another.” I believe this could imply seeking to understand another person’s feelings and views. Perhaps it is exercising restraint in expressing opinions and emotions. Wow, how our culture could apply this right now! The fallen sinful nature of humanity is not capable of consistently showing patience in the way the Bible defines it. That is why it must be a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible stresses how powerful patience can be. Proverbs 14:29 says, “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” Then 16:32 adds to this: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”
Christians can make it their focus to have the same kind of patience toward others that God has toward each person, as expressed in Psalm 103:8. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” In what ways can you express Holy Spirit powered patience in a situation or toward a person you are dealing with at this present time?