Most mornings I pray a prayer that goes like this:
Lord, please give me patience with my children and joy in my response to them today.
Without fail, that patience is challenged within minutes of their toddler feet hitting the floor or with the first infant cry for food. I have twin two-year-olds and a newborn. Patience is a struggle for me most days.
Every frustrating or trying circumstance is a test to our patience and an opportunity to learn it in greater measure.
One particularly trying day, when life spiraled out of control before we even finished breakfast, I sighed and thought, I'm going to stop praying that prayer, because when I do my day just seems harder.
Within seconds of my self-pitying thought, I was reminded of something my mom once said: "When you have a hard day, God is teaching you patience. He is doing it through the difficulty."
An Impatient People
Patience is learned; it's not a natural character trait. From the moment we come into the world, we are an impatient people.
- Babies scream for milk and want it immediately.
- Toddlers want a snack when they feel their stomach growl.
- Teenagers can't wait to be on their own.
- Singles can't wait to be married.
- Parents can't wait to have some time to themselves.
We all lack patience to some degree. That's why it must be learned.
So it's worked into our lives through the difficulties of a day—through spilled milk and fussy naps, through tantrums and sibling fights, through diaper changes and spit up. And it's not just a mom thing.
We struggle with patience when we encounter a difficult coworker, a roommate who demands too much from us, a husband who doesn't do things the way we would like them done, a neighbor who invades our life with her needs. Every frustrating or trying circumstance is a test to our patience and an opportunity to learn it in greater measure. It's why I pray for it.
When the day spirals into chaos before we even get out of our pajamas, I feel as if my prayers for patience are unanswered. When I wonder how the opposite of patience can be happening to someone who prayed so earnestly for it hours before, I need to remember that my prayer has actually been answered in the faces of three sweet boys and their endless needs. With each interruption and need for training, patience is being worked into my frustrated and selfish soul.
Leaning on Christ
Patience comes through difficulty and failure. Patience comes through my sin and my repentance. Patience comes through learning how to lean on Christ, instead of my futile efforts to respond with joy.
Christ is the patient one who supplies every ounce of patience I need through His imputed righteousness to me.
I'm not naturally patient, but there is another who is. Christ, who endured hardship and suffering and never once responded in frustration or anger. Christ, who wept over a hard-hearted people who did not have ears to hear his voice ( Matt. 23:37). Christ is the patient one who supplies every ounce of patience I need through His imputed righteousness to me ( Rom. 4:22 –25).
My prayers for patience are not a self-help mechanism. My prayers for patience are a desperate plea for the work of another on my behalf. When I pray for patience, I am doing repentance and faith all over again, recognizing that my sin keeps me from joy, but my Savior restores me every time I fail.
In my weakest moments, it's hard to see how my prayer for patience is doing any good. Without Christ, it's not. But in Christ, my prayer for patience is carried by the all-powerful love of a Savior who grants me the will to do what my heart tells me I can't.
Before my feet hit the floor in the morning, I pray for patience. And I know in Christ that prayer will be met every single time.
How has God used difficulty and failure to teach you patience? In what areas do you need to pray for patience today?