My word for this year is patience. People often smile when I tell them that, replying with something like, “Watch out!” Or “You shouldn’t have asked for that!”

I understand why they are saying that, and I smile in return. And yet, patience is a fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 and is one of the characteristics of godly love in 1 Cor 13. If we desire to be mature in Christ, patience is something by which we should want to be characterized. And we don’t want to have low thoughts of God, thinking He is going to get us good and make us regret it if we ask Him for patience. This kind of reasoning also implies that He will not work on patience or something similar in our lives until we have asked Him.  God doesn’t need our permission to work in our lives. And yet these notions are very common in our hearts and minds, aren’t they? We assume the process is going to be awful, or that the prize isn’t worth the pain. But is that right thinking about growing in patience?

My focus on patience began with a personal study of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. I took each word or phrase in the description of love and dug into it.  Here are some of the lovely things I found on the first word, patience:

Let’s start by looking at a few definitions to give us a clear understanding.

Patience: The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering, or to continue despite difficulties without getting angry or upset, complaining, or becoming annoyed. (Oxford Languages and Cambridge Dictionary).

When we complain and get irritated or angry, we are saying we don’t like what we got (or didn’t get yet), which in essence, is what God has brought into our life (or hasn’t brought yet).  I’m not saying that we should not seek to change a bad or unpleasant situation; I am saying that complaining, irritation, and anger speak of a bad attitude toward that situation and claiming our rights instead of seeking to respond in a godly way to what God brings us.  Perhaps God purposes unpleasantness for the very reason of exposing ugliness in our hearts.

You’ve likely heard the illustration of the tea bag in a cup of hot water with the hot water pulling out the color and flavor of the tea.  We can’t blame the hot water of life for drawing out what is already in our hearts.  Instead, we can benefit from seeing what is being exposed so that we may begin the process of addressing our heart’s motives and desires.

Patience: The quality or virtue of patience is presented as either forbearance or endurance. In the former sense, it is a quality of self-restraint or of not giving way to anger, even in the face of provocation; it is attributed to both God and man and is closely related to mercy and compassion (

From the above definition, the phrase “even in the face of provocation” is a great picture of calmness despite somebody being selfish, rude, or ugly. We can’t blame others for our responses.  They can’t make us sin.  Yes, they affect us, but they don’t control us.  Our responses come from our own hearts.  (There’s that tea bag again!)

Also consider those words, “mercy and compassion”—when we think about others and their situation and how to show love, we become others-centered instead of self-centered.  Patience is other-focused. How can I show love to this person right now?  I can be patient.  How can I reflect Christ to others?  I can wait quietly.

Now from my favorite dictionary—Webster’s 1828:

Patience: The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation, or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness. Patience may spring from constitutional fortitude, from a kind of heroic pride, or from Christian submission to the divine will.

“Christian submission to the divine will”–that’s a nice phrase!  It’s more of that truth that everything that happens to us is from God’s hand.  If we are believers, then Romans 8: 28-30 is true for us, that God works all things for good for His children, and that good is sanctification—becoming more like our Savior.  Therefore, we can yield to His will for us, no matter what it is, with quiet submission and peace of mind. No need to get worked up, but seeking instead to respond in a way that reflects Christ. This is simple, but not easy.  It usually takes some mental, emotional, and spiritual wrestling as we remind ourselves of the truth.

The word, “fretfulness” is the opposite of quiet waiting.  It is agitated, restless, impatient with a splash of worry.  It’s the what-ifs and how-longs pouring in instead of trusting in God’s plan and working.  It’s forgetting God is trustworthy and so we expect to make things happen on our time schedule, according to our designs.

Synonyms: forbearing, tolerant, long-suffering, calm, composed, understanding

“Understanding”—do we seek to have this?  Do we seek to understand why the check-out lady is taking so long? Why the child didn’t obey? Do we seek to understand why the traffic is so backed up? Do we ask first why our husband is late before giving him a piece of our mind? And until we are able to get that understanding, do we assume the best of others?

Bible Verses:

James 5:7Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.”

God encourages us to be patient for His promises, even in suffering.  As I can wait for the promise of the produce of my garden, so I can wait for the fruit of His promises.

1 Peter 3:8-9 “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

God is patient toward me and other believers in bringing us into the fold. I can be patient toward others as I wait for God to work in their lives.

Romans 2:4 “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

God is patient toward sinners. This is not the same as not noticing or caring about sin. We are not to be complacent about our sins, even though God is patient with us.  We can have patience with others in their sin, not being judgmental when they do not change, but remembering God’s kindness to them and to us. God is patient with me as He develops, refines, and grows me.  I can be patient with others, even when they don’t progress as I think they should. I can encourage them in godliness and yet leave their progress to God and not be their Holy Spirit.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 “The end of something is better than its beginning. Patience is better than pride.”

Pride demands its own way, in its own time.  Pride says I know best, so you better do what I want. It doesn’t consider that it might not have all the answers, or that something beyond self is at work. Pride wants it now, without considering the better beauty of quiet waiting.

Proverbs 15:18 “Hot tempers cause arguments, but patience brings peace.”

With God’s help, I can tolerate trouble without getting upset. I can respond with a measured, soft answer.  I can show forbearance and restraint, even in the face of provocation.

Psalm 40:1 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.”

Love is patient, so a practical way I can show love to the Lord is by being patient in His workings, remembering that He loves me, is near to me, and hears me. This shows that I believe Him and trust Him.

Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Patience is accepting or continuing despite trouble and difficulties. What can be more troublesome or difficult than tribulation? Yet, patience is persevering in such things; such things as poor health, heart-breaking relationships, a difficult job, chronic pain, abuse, death, being alone, financial pressures, persecution…the list goes on. 

How do we be patient in the face of such trials? We remember Christ’s example of endurance, that even in the face of the cross and abusive insults, He entrusted Himself to God. (1 Peter 2:21-25). We remember the character of God (Ps 103, 117, 145) and we recall His promises (like 1 Peter 5:10 and 2 Cor 4:17). And we pray! 


Because God is patient with me and because, as a believer, I possess all the riches of Christ as well as the strength and help of the Holy Spirit, I can grow in and reflect godly patience to others.  I can forbear and endure in love, not becoming irritable or giving way to self, but remembering that situations reveal my own heart and that these situations are opportunities to love others as God loves me. May God grow us all in patience.