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  • Writer's pictureRevShirleyMurphy

Patience – A Lasting Virtue

Do you remember an old bumper sticker that read, “Be Patient! God isn’t done with me yet”? The idea is certainly humorous, but it also reveals something about human expectations. Notice how it demands nothing of the driver and subtly shifts the burden of patience to the person following him or her. Patience is something we all want from others but likely don’t desire for ourselves because, to be honest, we don’t like to wait or be inconvenienced, especially in a world that expects instant gratification.

The readings from Wisdom 12:13, 16-19, Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16, Romans 8:26-27 and Matthew 13:24-43 give us insight into the mercy and patience of God. Sometimes, it is a very difficult to be patient. When we’re bringing our concerns to the Lord again and again, we can grow tired of waiting. We can begin to feel like our prayers are falling on deaf ears. Often our desire is to take control and just “do the best we can” even though we know Galatians 5 lists patience as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. When this dawns on us, we might confess our desire to rule our own lives, inviting the Spirit to direct us and empower us once again as we continue to wait on the Lord.

Patience is not optional for the Christian. The apostle Paul repeatedly commanded Christians to demonstrate patience to each other. In fact, this is a critical test of Christian authenticity. True Christian character, the very evidence of regeneration, is seen in authentic patience.

As humans subject to finite boundaries of time and resources, we are hardwired to seek timely results. Waiting patiently is not our strong suit. When our timeline seems compromised, we express angst and frustration with others, even with God. Perhaps God can afford to wait, but we think we cannot.

Injustice particularly tests our patience. We hate it when others seem to be getting away with doing evil, but we are not. Human institutions are designed to produce justice in response to the most egregious wrongs. But the reality of corruption, sloth, bias, or errors often translate to disappointment in these outcomes.

Many other wrongs are simply not justiciable in human courts. Deep hurts that flow from dishonour, disrespect, broken promises, and other forms of infidelity regularly occur without any practical means for legal redress. The same is true for so many incidents of cheating, lying, slander, and calumny. Adding insult to injury, the perpetrators often seem unscathed, even benefitting from their wrongs.

Injustice is a common theme in the scriptures, which contain many prayers from saints affected by ill treatment and disappointed that God has not yet delivered them. Honest expression of feelings that accompany human hurt are remarkably stable throughout human history. Where are you, Lord, and why are you not helping us?

But after expressing our angst, a deep silence follows. In that silence, we are privileged to experience deep love that goes beyond our pain, which envelops and overwhelms us. We realize that God’s time is not our time, and that mercy is bigger than our claims for justice. We come to realize that divine forbearance in our lives gave time for mercy to work with us while we were still sinning. We were granted time to come to our senses, to comprehend the reality of our sinfulness and its hurt to others and even to ourselves. Repentance comes from this comprehension, in which we seek our Heavenly Father who has the mercy that we need.

The reading from Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 reflects this wisdom that comes from waiting, watching, and holding on through those hurtful times. The reading from Romans shows that when words fail us, the Holy Spirit fills in the gaps on our behalf. We are not abandoned, but deeply loved in such times. Our Lord himself is there with us, who knew our state intimately during his life and passion.

A world in which smiting quickly followed sin would result in many being smitten but few coming to know God’s love and abundant mercy that gives us so much more than we deserve. But do not be deceived, the day of reckoning will indeed come, at a day and hour we do not know. In today’s gospel, we see mercy at work in the field where wheat and tares are growing together for a time. But the wheat is gathered to the barn and the tares are burned in the fire. Jesus explains this parable with even greater clarity about the certainty of judgment for those who choose a path of evil and do not repent of it. Judgment will come, in God’s time, not ours. Mercy is also extended on God’s terms, not ours.


1. Uncommon Ground - Timothy Keller, & John Inazu

2. Patience and Humility: A Handbook for Christians – William Ullathorne

4. The Power of Patience: How This Old-Fashioned Virtue Can Improve Your Life - M.J. Ryan

5. The Daily Christian: Patience - Iann Schonken

6. Waiting on God - Andrew Murray

7. What On Earth Am I Here For? - Rick Warren

8. Patience: Perseverance Through the Wait - Terri Ann Johnson

9. Patience - Robert Strand

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