On any normal day there is a lot to be impatient about … slow internet, crazy people in the traffic, a demanding boss, unmet expectations. Impatience spews out of our mouths with words like: “Hurry up! Slow down! Speak up! Not now! How many times have I told you not to? When are you going to do what I’ve asked?” 

But these are not normal days: how much more is there to be impatient about in this season of lockdown? We are like prisoners in our homes and prisoners can be a rowdy bunch. Today my neighbours in the house behind us, were having a massive screaming match that had their whole family screaming at each other out in their garden for all to hear! 

What makes impatience so easy for us to slip into is the level of uncertainty, the lack of control, the lack of routine, the fact that we are in each other’s space all the time. But one of the fruits of the Spirit is patience. We have been studying in Galatians 5:22-23. Some bible versions translate “patience” as: “forbearance” or “long suffering.” 

The Greek word in Galatians 5:22 for patience comes from the Hebrew word for long-suffering which is: long nosed. Someone who is patient is “long of nose”. The word used here in the Greek is: makrothumia. Makro = long & thumos = breathing hard. Someone with a short nose has a short fuse and gets into a huff very easily. But someone with a long nose is patient because it takes longer to breath hard and for the angry air to push out through their long nose. So being patient is being “long nosed.” 

The opposite of patience is impatience: a strong sense of annoyance. Impatience is usually our response to the unintentional actions of others. They annoy us and push our buttons and step on our toes. Perhaps, they haven’t done what we have asked in the way we asked, or they are not performing on our timetable, making us late, taking too long in the queue in front of us or in the bathroom. 

Husbands & wives; parents & kids; employers & employees; technology; uncertainty; finances, fears, lack of control – the list of what can cause impatience in this season is endless! 

“be patient, bearing with one another in love.” – in other words: cut each other some slack! 

Ephesians 4:2b

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:4: “love is patient.” The fruit of the spirit from which all others fruit flows is love! 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 

Colossians 3:12-14

Irritability takes impatience even further. Irritability is impatience on steroids. Irritability is the frequency of our impatience. Most of us will be impatient at times, but an irritable person is impatient most of the time at even the smallest thing! An irritable person may not even realise that they are grumbling against God! 

My impatience & irritability is evidence that I want to be God – and I’m frustrated that I’m not God! We hate waiting, but waiting is the only way patience is developed. You can’t just pray for patience – patience is developed by waiting – there is no short cut! This is the season to experience the fruit of the Spirit. Impatience is evidence that we’ve created hoops that the people around us must jump through in order to make us happy. If we’re honest – while we may not verbalise it – we may even be grumbling under our breath: “God, you better jump through my hoops too.” 

Oh how patient the Spirit of God has been with me & with you – despite our impatience! It is when I reflect on God’s patience with me, that I am led to repentance and pray again: Holy Spirit fill me with the fruit of the Spirit – with patience! 

I remember after 9/11 reading the many stories of impatient people who were late in getting to work in the Twin Towers – one lost their keys, another spilt the milk, one was delayed in traffic, another missed their train, another had trouble getting their child ready for school. How different their impatient outbursts looked in the light of the tragic events of 9/11. Those disruptions and interruptions that were beyond their control had actually saved their lives. How foolish to think we are sovereign and all knowing! We believe these disruptions will save lives! Patience lays down its schedule and trusts God and waits expectantly to see what God will do! 

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 

Lamentations 3:25-26

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. 

Psalm 5:3

What will God do? Are you ready to be amazed at what God is going to do in you and through you in this season and after this season? Leave control to God. Leave timing to God. And in the meantime while we wait, leave vengeance to God: 

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

1 Peter 4:8

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. 

Proverbs 19:11

While I wait I will worship; serve; I will ask God to fill me with His Spirit and be who God wants me to be. 

The Lord knows that it is the little things, those continual irritations, the ongoing attacks that have the power to drive us away from His provisions in Christ. It is the small things – the mosquitoes that can eventually drive us mad and become a stronghold for sin in our lives. 

A yesterday experience of the Spirit is not enough. The Holy Spirit wants to make Christ real to you amidst all that is going on! Repent and invite the Good Shepherd to anoint you with oil and manifest in you the fruit of patience! 

Questions & Activities for kids

  • Read the story of how Abraham and Sarah had to wait for a (very!) long time before they could have a child (Genesis 12-21). Discuss how they might have felt, and how they had to be patient and trust God while they waited. Ask your child if there is a situation where they find it hard to be patient? One thing we learn from this story (and throughout the Bible) is that God always keeps his promises, so we can patiently wait and trust that he will do as he said he would. How might this help us to trust God and wait patiently?    
  • Play a board game together. Ask your children: Was it difficult to wait your turn? Why is patience important when playing a game together? What makes it hard to be patient with each other? Remind your children of how God is perfectly patient with us, and how he helps us to be patient with those around us.    
  • Do an activity as a family that takes some time and requires patience (for example building a puzzle, baking cookies or bread, planting some seeds). Use this as an opportunity to discuss and reinforce today’s devotion on patience.

If you’d like something to test the patience of your kids, here is a 10 hours-long video of paint drying!