There’s a common Christian axiom: “Never pray for patience.”
I confess I took that advice to heart for a lot of my Christian walk. There were certain things I wanted from God, and other things that I wanted to stay away from. I had plans for my life, and I wanted God to get on board and help me out with them. But, like a loving parent, God steers us towards the things we need rather than the things we want.
What develops patience is spelled out clearly in Romans 5:3: “…we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” Patience requires practice. So God sends opportunities to exercise it out of love.
Patience transforms me from a selfish being who is focused on the things of this world (things that don’t really matter) into a son who is focused on His Kingdom. That’s the process of becoming a disciple. The modern, western culture I live in doesn’t easily accommodate discipleship. It feels foreign. Wrong, even. I’m asked to set aside my own goals and aspirations for my life and take up the goals that God has for me. I doubt God has the same, great plans for me that I do, and so I resist the change.
But should I fear anything that God is leading me into – even if it is difficult? I know if God had told me how He was going to exercise my patience, I would have made different decisions. In retrospect, I appreciate the work He has done in me. Each trial brings new strength, forges eternal bonds of friendship with the people who walked through them with me and it makes me more like Him. It’s not that I pursue hardships for the sake of suffering, but I pursue Him, regardless of the circumstances I find myself in. Then I can say:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance (patience). Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
I believe we should always step into what God has for us and pray for patience. And peace. And love. And trust Him to walk with us through anything He brings our way.
That’s the heart of a disciple.