Patience: Timepiece of the Soul
Sometimes life forces us not to ‘make,’ but to ‘suffer,’ enduring—from the Greek ypomeno—our own limitations as well as the limitations of others. Traveling with patience is knowing that what matures is time … To travel in patience means accepting that life is a continuous learning experience. [Pope Francis].
Patience is passive and also active. It restrains our actions and also helps us to persevere tirelessly. With patience, we forbear and persist, endure and submit.
Patience enables us to face grief without despairing, and provides the spiritual determination to continue our journey toward our Lord.
O YOU who have attained to faith! Seek aid in steadfast patience and prayer: for, behold, God is with those who are patient in adversity. [Quran 2:153].
A mind acclimated to spiritual disciplines bears the burden of diligence and the weight of constancy. Such patience strengthens our resolve, shapes our resilience and sustains us when fatigued. It renews our stamina and nurtures us through illnesses.
Through patience, every goal can be reached. … the surest weapon against the negative forces in human consciousness [is] patience. Patience means self-mastery: the capacity to hold on and remain loving in a difficult situation when every atom of your being wants to turn and run. [Eknath Easwaran, Patience: A Little Book of Inner Strength, p. 2].
Patience is the backbone of fortitude, the moral fiber that allows us to endure pain and adversity with courage. It gives strength to our character and firmness to our mind. Our patience clothes us naturally with prudence, justice and temperance.
No, patience is the true peacemaker. It is the soft answer that breaketh wrath. Better is the end of a thing, ( Says Solomon) than the beginning; and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. The proud in spirit beginneth the fray; but the patient in spirit must end it, if ever it be well ended; and that surely is the better work, and the greater honour to him that doth it. [Robert Sanderson].
Possessing Our Soul
Patience is essential for doing the will of God and controlling our soul. Jesus tells us, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Luke 21:19
The greatest happiness of any one is “to possess his soul”; and the more perfect our patience, the more fully we do so possess our souls. [Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Ch. III, On Patience].
Patience restrains our mind from responding impetuously, without thinking. It resists temptations, tolerates faults, and is a panacea for disappointment. Our irritation, anxiety and exasperation pause at the thought of such patience.
Faithful believers, by patiently enduring, can gain control of their lives. They are able to hold fast to their faith and not lose their souls by yielding to worldly temptations.
Let the impatient hear what is written, “Better is the patient than the mighty, and he that rules his spirit than he that takes cities” Proverbs 16:32. For victory over cities is a less thing, because that which is subdued is without; but a far greater thing is that which is conquered by patience, since the mind itself is by itself overcome, and subjects itself to itself, when patience compels it to bridle itself within. Let the impatient hear what the Truth says to His elect; In your patience you shall possess your souls Luke 21:19. [Pope Gregory I, The Book of Pastoral Rule].
The Long and Short of Patience
We are living in a time of technological “instancy,” but applying technology to spirituality is dangerous. It breeds impatience. It wants to speed up results and shorten relations. Impatience conforms us to shallow piety, reveling in religious entertainment, and weaving spiritual costumes for us soul.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. [1 Thessalonians 5:14 ].
Digital fantasy has become a major component of our culture. It fills our minds with an animated perspective that gives life a disposal quality. Reality is not real. It doesn’t last very long, so what good is patience?
Patience is another character quality on the top of many people’s endangered list…. We need to recognize the danger and damage of impatience and commit ourselves to developing patience. The key to growing this characteristic in our lives is understanding the depth of God’s patience toward us. When we realize His patience in the past and His continued patience toward us every day, we begin to tap into the source of patience that can fill and change our lives. [Bill Hybels, Character: Reclaiming Six Endangered Qualities].
Patience is not sporadic, nor is it seasonal. We cannot accumulate patience during good times for later use.
We cannot learn patience from books, for first we need patience to study them. It is not a periodic quality occasionally acquired from a self-help course. You may learn about patience in a classroom, but then you have to go out into the world to find it.
Quite simply, a quality like perseverance will only develop in the midst of trying circumstances. Think about it: a person who always gets what he or she wants has no chance to learn perseverance, or patience. Suffering can be one of the tools to help fashion those good qualities. [Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts?].
We will find no shortcuts for developing our relationship with God. We cannot reduce Scriptures to cliffs notes or sound bites. When we abandon patience, we risk wasting all the good already done.
Patience is the capacity to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell as fully as possible the inner and outer events of our lives. It is to enter our lives with open eyes, ears. and hands so that we really know what is happening. Patience is an extremely difficult discipline precisely because it counteracts our unreflective impulse to flee or to fight. [Henri J. M. Nouwen, Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, p. 91].
Waiting with God
As patient believers, we are not waiting for God. We wait with God, who is with us while we wait. That is what makes our waiting bearable. God being with us makes us patient. Being patient allows us to wait for God.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, character; and character, hope. [Romans 5:3-4].
Hope rests on patience. It is the basis of endurance and the root of perseverance. Our trust and faith in God have us always looking up and into the future, where patience delivers its promises.
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD [Psalm 27:14 (KJV)].
When we perceive our journey toward the Divine as a life-long effort, we understand that we can only reach our destination with patience and perseverance. Our efforts, our obedience and our submission are not things that we ever complete.
The soul that waits upon the Lord is the soul that is entirely surrendered to Him, and that trusts Him perfectly. Therefore we might name our wings the wings of Surrender and of Trust. [Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, p. 240].
Faith demands enduring virtues that don’t diminish or end, but that grow and increase. As we cultivate spiritual qualities, we perceive the depth of Divine service and learn to appreciate the necessity of patience.
True patience is the necessary surrender to hope. It comes when we open ourselves to the truth that we are vessels more than agents; more midwives than CEOs. Patience—whether with children or creativity or in prayer—involves the process of moving from separateness and an ego-based goal orientation, to a conversation with a reality larger than us, even when that reality, or eventuality, remains unclear. Patience is lending ourselves to this state of becoming; it is, as Mary taught us when she accepted God’s call to her, radical obedience. [Kathleen Hirsch].
We are never finished being patient. As believers, we adopt a state of being, a way of life, that has us always in service, always compassionate always humble — restraining ourselves and forbearing, enduring and exhorting, seeking and supplicating. We cannot continually do this without patience.
Nay, seek (God’s) help with patient perseverance and prayer: It is indeed hard, except to those who bring a lowly spirit,-
Who bear in mind the certainty that they are to meet their Lord, and that they are to return to Him [Quran 2:45-6].