“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience…” – Galatians 5:22 (NLT)
At the end of each year, Merriam-Webster–the dictionary folks–choose a word they believe best describes the events of the past year. The word they chose for 2016 is “surreal.” They define the word as meaning “unbelievable, fantastic.” Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large, Peter Sokolowski, said they chose the word because: “It just seems like one of those years.”
Unlike the dictionary folks, Sabra and I choose a word not for the year behind but for the year ahead. We take time together to seek out this one word from God through prayer, Bible reading, and discussion. And we study this word throughout the year individually and together. We believe God will use it in our lives and marriage to help us become more like Christ and to serve Him better.
The word we believe God has given us for 2017 is PATIENCE.
The word patience is found many times in both the Old and New Testaments, so it must be important to God…and for us—especially as married couples.
It is so important to God that it is listed fourth as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. The word here in the original Greek language is “makrothumia.” It is translated “forbearance” in the New International Version (NIV), which we tend to use on this blog. But it is translated “patience” in the New American Standard Bible (NASB), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and the English Standard Bible (ESV).
The Greek word “makrothumia” is derived from two Greek words. One is “makros” which means “long.” The other is “thumos” which is best translated “to suffer.” Thus the English word “longsuffering” is the most literal translation of the word. It is the word used in the King James Version (KJV).
The word “makrothumia” means to endure without losing faith or giving up.
An example of this use is in Hebrews 6:15: “And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised” (bold mine). We read another example in James 5:7: “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains” (bold mine).
The word most often used for patience in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word “qawa.” It means to wait with hopeful endurance.
We read an example of this in Isaiah 40:30-31: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope [qawa] in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (bold mine).
Both the Greek and Hebrew meanings of the words we translate as “patient” are attributes that are vital in our marriages.
Sabra and I have found these traits important throughout our marriage. And we have found this kind of patience essential as we have gone through the trials of our life together over the last few years.
Our life has seen many changes–in our health, our jobs, our income, and our housing, as well as many other things. These are things that might have crippled us except for the patience and hope that only God can supply no matter what our circumstances.
This patience comes from having the Holy Spirit living in us because Jesus is our Lord. And it is this patience that has allowed us to grow in our relationship with God and each other.
I still have much to learn about patience. I have never been a particularly patient person.
Because of the consequences of my illness a few years ago, I have already had to learn more about patience. I cannot drive anymore, so I have had to learn to wait for Sabra or someone else to drive me places or pick me up. I can’t just jump in the car and go. I have to be patient.
My speech has been affected so I can’t speak and be readily understood. I have to speak more slowly and more purposefully. I often have to repeat myself. I have to be patient.
Many times when I am speaking or writing, the word I want to use will simply not come quickly. I have to sit back and use some of the tools I learned in speech therapy, pray, and wait for the word to come. I have to be patient.
I pray that I will learn much more about patience over the next year as Sabra and I focus on this word in Scripture.
Yes, I know some say to be careful about asking for patience. But I choose to believe, as God’s Word says, that patience is a fruit of the Spirit and it is for our good.
I also believe God’s promise that whatever may come in our search for patience, it will be for our best.
Romans 8:26-29 says: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (bold mine).
I want to encourage you to start this new year as a couple seeking God together. Please take a few moments to go through the discussion questions below. God wants to do wonderful things in your marriage this year and help you grow closer to each other and to Him.
And learning about patience is a great place to begin.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching. Discuss together what God is teaching you through it, and how you will apply it to your lives and marriage.
♦ When you think about patience, what comes to mind? Do you think you are a patient person? Are you patient with your spouse? Are you patient with others in your life – your children, other family members, your friends, or your co-workers? Are you patient with God?
♦ Discuss some ways you could learn to be more patient. Discuss ways you can help each other be more patient. We will learn more about this next week.
♦ Are there things in your life right now that God might be using to teach you about patience?
♦ Close your time by praying together. Trust God and His goodness by asking Him to teach you more about patience and to be more patient, beginning with each other.
Next week, I’ll share some of the things God has already taught me about patience from His Word. These are truths that I know will help me and Sabra and our marriage, and I believe they will also help you.
Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.