If Patience Is a Virtue How Do We Get It?
- Heather Adams Contributing Writer
- 2021 17 Feb
If we’re honest, patience is one of those qualities that most everyone could use more of. Scientists and health professionals agree that being more patient has a positive effect on us and those we come in contact with. In fact, the Apostle Paul listed patience as one of the ways to recognize agape or selfless love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
The Merriam Webster Dictionary describes being patient as, “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint.” Dictionary.com’s entry reads, “an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.” Being patient truly is a wonderful goal to reach for - but getting there can seem daunting. Patience is not one of my natural strengths. And when I started following Christ, that was one area I assumed needed improvement. God’s Word quickly confirmed that He desires to see this Fruit of the Spirit in His people, and will help us make the change. As I focused on this new objective, the old phrase “Patience is a virtue” came to mind. I’d heard it used mostly as a caution to people when they complained about waiting. But I wondered if this little saying could offer me some wisdom, too.
What Does “Patience Is a Virtue” Mean?
This phrase was not taken directly from the Bible, though God’s Word certainly agrees with the sentiment of it. And over the years, many writers have found ways to express a similar view. The actual origin of “Patience is a virtue” is not clear. The fifth-century author Prudentious wrote in his poem Psychomania about the battle within man between virtuous and sinful traits. He explored the idea that patience, along with humility and others, is a trait that will help defeat the worst in our characters. The poet William Langford wrote a phrase in his allegorical work Piers Plowman (c.a. 1370) that reads, “Patience is a fair virtue.” Later, a character in Chaucer’s book Canterbury Tales stated that “Patience is a high virtue.”
When someone uses this phrase, they are reminding us that learning patience is part of growing more like Christ. Simply put, patience helps us navigate times of waiting with more grace, improves our interactions with others, and makes our testimony more powerful. Being more even-tempered as we go through our day brings us practical benefits as well:
- Less stress and more mental and physical health
- Less frustration in dealing with people and more enjoyment of the connections we make
- Less need to control every situation and more ability to adjust to circumstances
- Less dread of our to-do list and more positive use of our time
What the Bible Says about 'Patience Is a Virtue'
A lucky few are born with patience. But most everyone finds being longsuffering in any way to be a challenge. As with any muscle we want to strengthen, we need to devote ourselves to practicing patience with God, others, and ourselves. A good first step is to learn what Scripture has to tell us about this attribute.
God is the ultimate example of patience for us:
“Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:13)
God shows goodness to us, even while we deserve His wrath.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
God’s timing is always perfect, and for our best. Passages clearly tell us blessings that come with displaying patience:
“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” (Proverbs 15:18)
Our relationships can have greater peace and purpose.
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him...those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:7,9)
Our hearts can turn waiting into worship. The Apostles advise us that patience should be part of how we live righteously:
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
We are to show grace for each other in all we do.
“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm…” (James 5:7-8)
We must commit to our present work, knowing our eternal future is on its way.
6 Ways Christians Can Build More Patience in Their Lives
We know that it is God who changes hearts to make us like His Son. But He involves us in the process as well. We need to slow our pace down when we can, and to keep the needs of others in mind. If you’ve decided you want to develop in this area, here are some steps to take that God will honor:
1. Figure out what triggers your impatience.
“...being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience…” (Colossians 1:11)
Becoming a kind of detective will help you observe what situations set you off. For example, does annoyance bubble up while waiting in line, or maybe if someone seems to talk too long? Take note of what you catch yourself doing, without judging yourself too harshly.
2. Be honest about why you struggle with patience.
“...patience is better than pride.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8)
Digging a little deeper will reveal why you react in an irritated way. You might find that you feel frustrated at having to wait for your turn, or possibly feel you’re wasting time. Let your discoveries lead to seeking out your Heavenly Father.
3. Confess your lack of patience to God.
“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)
Seeking Him out for help in this area isn’t showing weakness, but wisdom. You can start the process of growth just by admitting your struggle to the Lord. Repent for how you’ve acted, and let God’s forgiveness urge you on to better things.
4. Share your hope of overcoming impatience with a trusted friend or family member.
“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
Being transparent and keeping each other accountable shows spiritual maturity. You’ll most likely end up learning something and gaining a fuller perspective. Treasure the advice and input you receive from loving brothers or sisters.
5. Read and Memorize scriptures about patience.
“Love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
Keeping God’s Word in your mind and heart will equip you to change. You’ll become more aware of what pleases God, and want to choose better behavior. Allow verses to become personal prayers that will strengthen you.
6. Practice the art of waiting well.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
Using moments in your everyday routine to show more patience will build up your resolve. Little victories add up, and quietness will become second nature. Take advantage of every opportunity, trusting God to gently teach you.
Christian Quotes about Being Patient
Philosophers, preachers, and writers through the centuries have mentioned how valuable patience is for Christians. Each one of them longed to bring glory to God through how they lived, and they passed valuable insights about the trait on to us.
"Our Lord has many weak children in his family, many dull pupils in his school, many raw soldiers in his army, many lame sheep in his flock. Yet he bears with them all, and casts none away. Happy is that Christian who has learned to do likewise with his brethren." - J.C. Ryle
"Patience is the companion of wisdom." - St. Augustine
"I think Christians fail so often to get answers to their prayers because they do not wait long enough on God. They just drop down and say a few words, and then jump up and forget it and expect God to answer them. Such praying always reminds me of the small boy ringing his neighbor's door-bell, and then running away as fast as he can go." - E.M. Bounds
"What then are we to do about our problems? We must learn to live with them until such time as God delivers us from them. We must pray for grace to endure them without murmuring. Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting. They harm us only when we resist them or endure them unwillingly." - A.W. Tozer
"Humility and patience are the surest proofs of the increase of love." - John Wesley
“Patience is a virtue” may indeed be an old-fashioned saying, but it holds a rich meaning for me now. Its message tells us to live by a higher standard, the one that God sets for us. If we are willing to obey, He will make us shine more brightly for Him in the world. I want to be that light, how about you?
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
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Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather's blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby! You can connect with her on her website: heatheradamsworshipwalk.com