Youth is a time characterized strongly by impatience. The average young person is impatient with almost everything: the imperfect world about him, government, his parents, his teachers, his church, his preachers, even himself. The youth wants to see action and change and see it NOW! In a discussion of patience, it would literally describe many youths to quote, “Give me patience and give me it NOW!’’
What is patience? It is the ability to endure under stress. It is contentment, real contentment, with the path that one must walk. It is being able to suffer long without rebelling or murmuring. It is having genuine satisfaction in the way God gives us to walk. It is meeting God’s STOP signs and being willing to stop or meeting God’s GO signs and not demurring but going.
Only a Christian can have true patience. The unbeliever can have an external form of self-control or tolerance or Stoicism, but he cannot have true patience. When he meets obstacles and suffering, what basis can an unbeliever have to be satisfied, to be sure that this difficult way is good for him?
But the believer, trusting the God of Providence Who is his Father, knows God’s way is the best way, the best way for him. Knowing this as a truth, the believer also grows in experience of trusting his Father. Gradually he learns that his ways are not God’s ways, but God’s ways are best. Bit by bit he learns that God’s wisdom far surpasses his own wisdom and that God in wisdom is sanctifying him through the trials in life, constantly drawing him to Himself. Thus, he gradually learns to quit trying to decide for himself what is best, to trust God alone, and ultimately even to thank God for the trials He sends.
This process of learning endurance in trials demands trials to be learned. How can one claim to endure suffering if there has never been any suffering? It is an impossibility! And therefore, if we would be patient we must accept what suffering our Father’s hand sends us.
Why is patience itself a blessing? Wouldn’t we be better off skipping all the suffering without learning patience?
The blessing of patience lies in that it means we have learned to look away
from ourselves as planners of our lives and to look instead to God. Remember, the blessing is always fellowship with God. And patience is the day-by-day leaning on God, the trusting of God to know how to perfect this fellowship. Patience is blessing because it is the deepening of this fellowship which is all that really counts.
THE BLESSING OF EXPERIENCE:
No Christian in his spiritual infancy can possibly know the fullness and wonder and richness of the faithfulness of our God in Christ. It takes experience to learn His faithfulness.
Experience in God’s faithfulness is one of the great blessings received through suffering. Ahead of time we are afraid of suffering but through the experiences we find God always with us, always working all things for our good. As this happens over and over, we learn that this is His pattern, that always He works our good—our spiritual good—in whatever He sends us. We learn His faithfulness!
What sort of experiences in God’s faithfulness does suffering send us?
#1. Through suffering, we experience most fully the fact of forgiveness of sins. It is God’s work in us, this forgiveness of sins, and as we suffer we experience that it really is so, that we are forgiven and our suffering is not God’s wrath but His love. Logic would say that as we suffer we experience God’s wrath, but experience and Scripture answer that it is not so; we experience God’s forgiveness. (See Romans 5:1-9)
#2. Through suffering we experience most fully God’s love. Again, how strange! Shouldn’t we best experience God’s love through the good things of life—good food, friends, warmth, nice weather, enough money, health? We want to think so, but the Bible and experience say otherwise. In suffering we most fully experience God’s love and nearness.
An example may make this clear. Look at children for awhile. Watch them. When left alone with no discipline, even though they may be in the same room with a parent or working side by side with Mama, they grow restless, get more and more unruly, and eventually defy their parents. However, if the parent keeps an eye on them, warns them from time to time, and when necessary follows these warnings with firm discipline in love, then their restless defiance of the parent changes and they realize their need of her and her love. When disciplined, a child does not run from the parent but turns to that same parent who disciplined in order to find comfort and love. Discipline leads to experience of love.
So also in our suffering. When God lets us go our own ways, we quickly fall into sin and disregard of His law. When, however, He sends us suffering, we return to Him and experience the fullness of His love. He never leaves us alone but sustains us and draws us to Himself.
What a blessing! The Bible says, “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience. . .’’