Why patience?

A Christian Science perspective: What value can be found in patience?

Of all the many things we may be striving to achieve or acquire, or even feel desperate for, it may seem strange to consider patience as a quality we should be expressing. The fast-paced, have-it-now demands of the day may suggest to us that patience is antiquated, unnecessary, and certainly not what gets us to where we want to go or closer to what we think we need.

It turns out that what is actually needed most, perhaps even more today than ever, is the strength of character that expresses the quality of patience. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, writes, “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 4). What we most need isn’t a prayer for money, fortune, or fame. She asks that her readers pray, fervently, for growth in grace – and the first quality she uses to express this growth in grace is patience. Such patience, however, isn’t talking about waiting idly for something to change or happen. True patience is an inspiration of love.

I began to learn more about the patience inspired by love during an aggravating conversation that appeared to be wearing thin on both of us. Mid-sentence, I had a flash moment of self-reflection: I saw that I needed to be more respectful and willing to listen to what the other person was trying to communicate; I needed to put the person’s needs before mine, be selfless, be patient. While my sudden change of heart didn’t mean the other individual was ready to speak more lovingly, the situation softened and a calm swept over me. I saw the need for the grace expressed in patience, and taking the moment to express it brought a palpable reward. In our later conversations that followed, I noticed that this individual was making a concerted effort to express more patience and be willing to start over whenever our conversations began to be difficult.

It further confirmed to me that this patience was a way of expressing love, which is inherently selfless, giving, and kind. Imagine instances where you see someone expressing patience – a parent tenderly waiting for his or her young child to complete a new task, an individual attentively listening to a friend’s story of heartbreak. Frustrations may be high, worry or fear may be swelling, but patience will win the day because it nurtures our growth and promotes healing. The more we nurture within ourselves a fervent desire to grow in grace, the more natural it becomes to express this grace in patience. For patience to be healing and effective, it must go beyond a human sense of waiting or willfulness. It must be something of the divine, the qualities of God that are fundamental to life itself – to all of our lives. In fact, the Bible speaks of the “God of patience” (Romans 15:5) and later speaks of God as divine Love (see I John 4:8) – who creates everyone in Love’s likeness.

Recognizing divine Love as the source of our very being, we’re increasingly empowered to think and act in line with Love’s demands. We find it natural to express more “patience, meekness, love, and good deeds.” In patiently waiting on an infinitely patient God, we are trusting that our needs will be met; we have faith that divine Love will deliver its promise of good – a loving promise from a loving God to each of us. The book of Hebrews reads: “Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (6:12-15).

This promise of love and blessing was delivered time and time again throughout many lives recorded in the Bible and continues to be demonstrated – even today – as individuals unselfishly wait patiently on God, and on behalf of one another.

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