Here in New England we have a saying: If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. It will change.
When I moved to the Midwest, I learned they have the same saying. And it’s true. I’ve seen the temperature flip from near 80 to below freezing in a matter of hours. I’ve witnessed rain, snow, and sunshine all in a single day. Change can happen quickly.
I’ve also learned something else. Unlike the weather, matters of relationship, self-improvement, and personal challenges do not change so rapidly. These matters take perseverance. And patience.
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Like physical fruit, spiritual fruit does not suddenly manifest. It needs to be grown under the right conditions. Unfortunately, the right conditions for growing patience may feel more like a hurricane than a soft summer rain.
A man once asked his pastor to pray for him to develop patience. Dutifully the pastor launched into an earnest prayer. “Lord, give this young man conflict and hardship at every turn. Litter his path with frustrating delays, unexpected obstacles, and personalities very different than his own.”
Indeed, patience is not something we typically receive fully formed. It is a character trait developed slowly. Ironically, we learn patience while learning patience. It is only when we are in situations that require patience that we learn how to develop it.
Reading about patience, studying God’s Word, and even receiving God’s Spirit is not the same thing as exhibiting patience. The Bible warns we need to be careful to not hear God’s Word and think that is the culmination. If we believe that, we deceive ourselves (see James 1:22). God’s Word is not the end, but the beginning. It is the seed which through trials, tribulations, and our own perseverance develops into the full fruit of patience.
James (5:7) gives an example when he urges us, “See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.”
Unlike the fast-changing weather I am used to, James was using an illustration from a part of the world that could undergo weeks, even months, with little to no rain. They did not have forecasters to give a 10-day weather outlook or an hour-by-hour prediction. Much more like the unpredictable changes we face in other areas of our life, these farmers had to prepare their fields and learn patience as they faced each day not knowing what was in store. The more their patience was challenged, the more patience they developed.
We, too, can produce a valuable crop of patience. We can plant the seeds God gives us and carefully tend them through every trial and tribulation. When life gets stormy, we can remember that the most bountiful growth happens in some of the most challenging times.
The forecast may be stormy, but hang in there my friends. There is a chance for a crop of patience.