…and right after this, we hear:
- There’s been an accident
- We’re getting a divorce
- They found a lump
- The car won’t start
- We lost the bid
- I’ve been laid off
- There’s construction traffic
- We broke up
It’s not always big things, though – A broken plate, a missed phone call, standing in a long line – it’s still bad news, whether someone says so or not! And then some ‘sage of wisdom‘ feels its their duty to remind you that “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” (Epictetus BC.55-BC.134) Now Bad news just became Mad news and your reaction is to envision them in your situation and maybe even to kick the cat!
According to Paul in Romans 5:3, these trials and “tribulations” are used by God to develop patience. Well, if that’s what it takes to gain patience, who wants it? Sorry, that is my normal reaction. However, God does desire to perfect us into His image and that image includes a life characterized by patience.
I find God’s timing amazing: as I was writing the previous paragraph, my son called and literally said, “Dad, I have bad news…the clutch on my car is not working!” Are you kidding me? Is this a joke? So the words that follow, are meant for me as well because these are the kinds of things with which God chooses to test all of us. (I need to be more careful on the subjects about which I write!)
The 5 “Rs” of Learning Patience (at least for me)
1. Recognize what you cannot control
This is the basis for impatience. I want the traffic to start moving now. I want healing now. It is this ‘now‘ component that we are not able to control, and the first step of developing patience is to surrender our will to control the now and trust that God is big enough to handle even this very moment.
2. Re-focus on what you can control
This may seem like a trivial thing but in the midst of the moment, it can make a world of difference. This is the heart of Epictetus’ quote. We are the ones that control our reactions to a situation. Choosing a different reaction than our normal worry or anger can help produce patience.
3. Realize it could be worse…and for someone else, it is
My car broke down – his car was totaled. I’ve been sick for a month – she was born sick and fights every day to live. A measure of growing in patience is the ability to look beyond ourselves and see the needs that are present in the lives of those around us. Chances are, we will find that “it ain’t so bad for me after all.”
4. Remain thankful, even for little things
The little thing may be the previous point – it ain’t so bad. But there are always blessings that we take for granted. There are past answers to pray or encouragements that we can look back at and spend a short moment in ‘thanks giving’.
5. Review the emotions associated with impatience
There are always emotions associated with our impatience. The emotion is not the trigger, it is the response. When I feel frustration or anger or hurt, it is often because I am already impatient for something to change in my life. The time between impatience and anger may only be a nanosecond, but once I see that I have become angry, I know that I am also impatient. To put it another way: Patience is the opposite of whatever emotion that is produced by impatience.
So when we find ourselves knee-deep in anger, frustration, hurt, bitterness, envy; we need to look back to see what we are being impatience about and ask God to help us change that reaction to one of patience – contentment, thankfulness, peace, hope.
Remember Romans 5:3 “tribulation develops patience”? Verse 4 says that after patience comes experience and then comes hope!
The next time you have bad news, try starting with the Hope that God has something better for you on the other side of the bad news. When we start with Hope, we have already learned patience!
Open Mic: Share your thoughts
- How do you handle those moments of impatience?
- What verses or experiences can you share that would help others?