Last week we looked at five reasons we can be patient and wait upon the Lord even in hard times. You can read those reasons here.
This week I want to suggest five practical ways we can be patient. Trusting God’s sovereign power and love is always the source of our patience, but sometimes having some concrete steps to express this can help as well.
1. Stop and pray when you feel the anxiety, anger or impatience building
It’s easy to let our frustrations, disappointments and relentless bad news take control of our thinking and weigh us down. Sometimes we think the Christian thing is to push through and pretend we’re ok. It’s worth acknowledging how hard things are, recognising when we feel overwhelmed by impatience, and stopping in that moment to bring it to God in prayer. Job’s patience was seen not in some brave denial of reality, but in painful grief that did not give up trusting God’s goodness.
2. Keep things in perspective
Patience also gets easier when we put things into perspective, and understand how brief our struggles here on earth are compared to eternity. Just as difficult times wth young children can seem to drag on forever, but the next thing you know they are grown up, so the pain of this life will fade quickly in God’s plan to transform us. In particular it can become easier to wait if we turn our minds to being thankful to God, looking for God’s grace in even small things rather than focusing on what we feel we don’t have. The darker things get, the brighter God’s mercy and grace shines in that darkness, so be thankful!
3. Be productive
One way to practice patience is to apply our hands to getting things done. Time goes quicker when we have a sense of achievement, so trying to be fruitful with the time God gives us is a great way to express our trust in him. This might mean getting through those Christian books we’ve had sitting on the shelves for a while, sorting out the garage, perfecting a recipe, or writing letters to friends and family.
4. Be concerned for others
It’s easy to be consumed with our own problems and frustrations. Considering other people’s needs and mulling over how we can be of service to them can shift our feelings of impatience. This is a practical way for us to apply the first three points – to empathise and pray for others, to remember we’re not alone in having to endure and persevere, and to be a fruitful blessing to our brothers and sisters.
5. Get the rest you need
It’s amazing how being locked in one place can be so exhausting, and tiredness can lead to irritability and being short-fused. God made us for rest, so make sure you express faith in God by getting the sleep you need and trusting him to run the universe without you, even briefly. But rest also means figuring out the things that recharge and reenergise you and making the effort to incorporate these joyful things in your day and week.
And finally a bonus point, partly to test your patience, and partly because I couldn’t figure out how to squeeze it all in to five…
6. Guard the gates of your mind
By this I mean being careful and thoughtful about what we watch with our eyes and hear with our ears. Very often our sense of discontentment and impatience is driven by the world’s lies about life and happiness that are everywhere on TV, social media and in songs. Our discontentment and anxiety can increase the more we consume the world’s messaging.
So rather than having our day shaped by the latest announcement from Gladys, we can instead find patience and joy when we follow Paul’s urging “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things” (Phil. 4.8).