It is said that patience is a virtue; indeed it is—a virtue that is commonly and constantly challenged by time and circumstance. Usually, we don’t like waiting or enduring, and we easily give in to impatience. People are more inclined to immediate self-gratification, and it’s so hard to stay patient in every situation. That is why it is included in Galatians 5:22 in the list of the fruits of the Spirit.
In the New Testament, two Greek words are used for the word “patience.” One is hupomone, which is composed of two words—hupo, which means “under” and mone, which means “to remain or abide.” So, this kind of patience means one is able to withstand difficult circumstances. The other Greek word is makrothumeo, the combination of makros, which means “long,” and thumos, which means “passion or wrath,” or, in other words, “temper.” Makrothumeo, also translated as longsuffering or forbearance, is to be understood as the ability to extend one’s temper for a long period or to have a long temper. The Greek words may both mean patience, but they are slightly different. The word used in Galatians 5:22 is actually makrothumeo, or longsuffering. This could mean that the fruit of the Spirit helps us in our struggle to control our temper or passion.
A person’s temper is tested when one feels the need for retribution after an injustice has been done. When we experience any violation of our honor or right, we have that urge to correct it through a verbal or physical backlash. Vengeance has always been a very compelling response in the midst of injustice. For instance, a man resorts to physical violence when his friend starts throwing insults at him. It’s usually easier to strike back at the ones who hurt us than to stay patient. If you wish to know more about vengeance, you may want to read about it in a separate article, “What Does the Bible Say About Revenge?” Patience is also tested when one’s circumstance falls below one’s expectations or has become unfavorable, such as when one starts to tap his finger or foot and becomes fidgety and irritable while waiting in a very long and slow-moving line.
Impatience can lead to other evils such as acts of the flesh, which are the opposite of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-21). When one gives in to impatience due to intentional provocation by another, it may lead to hatred, fits of rage, physical violence, or even murder. It can end in dire consequences such as a lingering feeling of guilt and condemnation, dysfunction in the affected relationship, shame, an endless cycle of vengeance, or even imprisonment for the criminal act that was done. It is important for one to realize before it is too late that the consequence of losing one’s temper is never worth it. It is better to suffer from the present provocation and avert undesirable consequences in the future rather than give full vent to impatience and end up with a lot of regrets (Proverbs 29:11 A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.).
Scripture teaches us how to respond with patience. When an argument is about to become full-blown, the Bible tells us that a gentle answer deflects anger while harsh words make tempers flare (Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.). In times of relational conflict, we have to learn to bear with one another and learn to forgive offenses just as the Lord forgave us (Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.). And we are also commanded to be patient with everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Patience can be very trying for those with a very short temper, while it comes easy to some who seem to be naturally patient. But everyone has his or her own threshold with patience. We can be supernaturally patient when we learn from God’s greatest example of patience and as we let Him transform us. The whole Bible showcases the patience of God toward man. From the day we first sinned in the garden of Eden up to the sacrifice of Christ for our undeserved redemption that perpetually extends even up to now, God’s patience has meant our salvation, just as Peter reminded us (2 Peter 3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;). We must learn to be dependent upon God for our patience, for He gives us the endurance and encouragement to have the same attitude of mind as Christ had (Romans 15:5). So, as we also allow the Holy Spirit to bear the fruit of patience in us, we learn to go beyond our natural breaking point and gain supernatural patience. As we walk worthy of the Lord, He strengthens us to be patient, as Paul said in Colossians 1:9-12:“ For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”