"Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."
What Patience Does
Patience consists of tranquilizing or composing our minds, which issues in the quieting of our unruly passions. Very impatient persons who fret and fume within may express little emotion outwardly. That impatience which finds no external vent is the most injurious and dangerous to character, just as latent fevers, which lurk within and prey upon the body, may do much harm although they are not outwardly evident. Patience calms those storms and tempests which are apt to rise in the heart when a person is under any sore and heavy affliction. The emotions will be stirred, but this grace takes away the violence of them. All those turbulences and uproars of passions, all those wilful and wild emotions which distract reason and rend the soul, making us unfit for the service of God or the employment of our business - these patience out to quell, and in measure suppress. He who can rule his body better than his soul, his actions than his passions, lacks the principal part of patience.
All this must be done upon right grounds. This requires us to distinguish sharply between natural and Christian patience. There is a natural patience sometimes found in those devoid of true grace: such strength of character, fortitude of mind, tranquility of spirit, which often puts the people of God to shame. Yet that is only a moral virtue, proceeding only from natural and moral principles. How is the Christian who naturally is impulsive, fiery, fickle, to ascertain whether his patience is of a superior order? By the principles from which it proceeds, the motives actuating it, and the ends for which it is put forth.
Moral virtue proceeds only from the principles of reason, is actuated by such arguments as human prudence furnishes, and is exercised to promote self-esteem or the respect of our fellowmen. Many an unregenerate person, by a process of self-discipline, has hardened himself to bear the evils which befall him by persuading himself it is folly to rebel against fate and torment himself over the inevitable, telling himself that what cannot be cured must be endured, that to give way to peevishness is childish and will effect no good, and that to yield to a spirit of fury will only lower him in the eyes of others.
But spiritual patience proceeds from a principle of grace, is actuated by higher motives, and is induced by greatly superior considerations than those which regulate the most refined and self-controlled unregenerate person. Spiritual patience springs from faith (James 1:3) and from hope (Romans 8:25). Patience eyes the sovereignty of God, to which it is our duty to submit. It eyes His benevolence and is assured that the most painful affliction is among the 'all things' He is making work together for our good. It looks off from the absolute nature of the affliction, considered in itself, to the relative nature of it, as it is dispensed to us by God, and therefore concludes that though the cup is bitter, in our Father's hand it is salutary. though the chastisement itself is grievous, patience realizes it will make us partakers of God's holiness here and of His glory hereafter. Patience eyes the example Christ left us and seeks grace to be conformed to it. The Christian strives to exercise patience not out of self-esteem, because he is mortified when his passions get the better of him, but from a desire to please God and glorify Him.
The careful reader will find in the last three paragraphs several hints on those means which are best suited to promote and strengthen patience, such as faith, hope, love. But we will mention one or two others among which we place high the complete resigning of ourselves to God. Since most outbursts of impatience are occasioned by the crossing of our wills, it behooves each Christian to daily ascertain how fully his will is surrendered to God, and to be diligent in cultivating a spirit of submission to Him. While complete yieldedness to God does not include reducing of ourselves as serfs to our fellowmen, still less the condoning of the wrongs they have done, yet it does require us to be not unduly occupied with the instruments of our afflictions, but rather to look beyond them to Him who has some good reason for using them to stir up our nests.