But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-24)
The present is one of the hardest times in which to live. When I say “the present” I don’t simply mean this period of time, I mean this particular millisecond. I mean living entirely in the here and now, not anchored down by past regrets or consumed with yearnings for future promises.
This is all the more difficult when you find yourself waiting for some particular outcome. Like a small child on Christmas Eve you find your thoughts filled with the future, and anxiety can begin to rise.
The Greek word translated “patience” (makrothumía) deals with this kind of condition. It is defined as a “state of remaining tranquil while awaiting an outcome”, and can be translated as patience, steadfastness or endurance. In Christian terms, it is trusting in God for your future and having a deep sense that in the end his timing is probably better than yours. It is living in the present, and not being dominated by a future which might never happen.
John Favel, the seventeenth century vicar of Dartmouth, put it well: “The delay of your mercies is really for your advantage… The foolish child would pluck the apple while it is green, but when it is ripe, it drops of its own accord, and is more pleasant and wholesome”.
There is more, though. The word can also be defined as a “state of being able to bear up under provocation”. In other words, this is patience under persecution. It’s once again derived from trust, and a steady confidence in God. Like a rock in the sea, it withstands the waves. Trees grow stronger when they sway in the wind and the Christian strengthens with patient endurance.