When people confide to me that they are praying for patience, I often ask what else they're doing to acquire a calm and gentle heart. Patience isn't so much something believers receive as it is an attribute that they develop over time and through experience.
Think of patience as a muscle that you have to use in order to see it build. To that end, believers should recognize difficulty as an opportunity to flex their patience. The human instinct is to cry out to God in bewilderment when tribulation comes knocking. We blame. We resist. We complain. What we don't do is say, "Thank You, Father--it's time to grow in patience!" People aren't trained to think that way, but according to the Bible, that is exactly how Christians are to respond.
James tells us to consider trials a joy (1:2). But we often fail at this, don't we? Humanly speaking, praising the Lord for tribulation is unnatural. However, doing so begins to make sense to believers when they cling to God's promise that good comes from hardship (Rom. 8:28). We are not waiting on the Lord in vain. We can praise Him for the solution He will bring, the lives He will change, or the spiritual fruit He will develop in us.
Accepting hardship as a means of growth is a radical concept in this world. Even more extreme is the believer who praises the Lord for the storm. But God's followers have cause to rejoice. Tribulation increases our patience so that we can stand firm on His promises and await His good timing.
For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org.