Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 63: Pandemical Patience.

REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.

Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 63: PaNDEMICAL PATIENCE.

Patience carries a lot of wait! This virtue, as my parents often reminded me, is well recognised as a vital aspect of our character. Proverbs from around the world attest to this: If you are patient in one day of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow! [Chinese]. Patience is power; with time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes silk. {Chinese]. So too with Europe: An ounce of patience is worth a thousand brains! [Dutch]. Patience is a bitter plant, but it has a sweet fruit [German]. As with many wise sayings, far easier to observe and value than to practise consistently. Yet clearly worth the effort, given the benefits to others and our own well-being.

The pandemic has been, for many, an intensive course in patience. Delays, loss of income, planning uncertainties, health challenges and the like, have forced us all to take stock. Do we cut corners, do we put up with what might seem to be petty rules in seeking the interests of others above our own? In normal time, if we have enough money and reasonable health and good friends [especially if they are kind and patient toward us!], patience is relatively easy to pull off. Except of course if our plans are blocked or we are let-down. Enter patience 101, 201 and 301. Forced learning. The opportunity to regress into self or mature into other-person-centredness. Thankfully, this is not a course we have to tackle alone. This is why it is so good to remember that patience is the fourth of the fruits of the Spirit commended and set before us in Galatians 5:22-23. It is the first of the second trio which deal specifically with our relationship with others, primarily in regard to our fellow believers, which is our training ground for witness and relationship with everyone else.

There are a number of implications for us as we seek the Holy Spirit’s help to be patient. Firstly, it means that we need God’s help when circumstances [like a pandemic] and people come across our path which make us impatient. Secondly, it means that far from being annoyed about these people or events, we will see them as opportunities to grow the fruit of patience. Then thirdly, to see these troublesome people and anxiety-producing events as God- given means of growing us to be more like Himself and His Son, our Saviour and elder brother. How else will God grow us in patience, if we are especially prone to impatience [expecting to get our own way and for things to happen just when we want them to!], unless these people and events are sent into our lives? The fruits, as we have seen, stand in contrast to our old sinful attitudes and patterns [5:19-21]. So fourthly, patience will keep us from getting better at fits of rage and make us far more likely to stop and think through our response to those people and things that cause us to be impatient, leading us to jealousy, envy and avoiding the issues in drunkenness and the like.

When we read in this passage that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God [5:21], we will, fifthly, see just how much God loves us and seriously wants us to own our impatience as a sin that must be repented of, and over time, replaced with patience- His Fatherly likeness. Thankfully this includes patience [2 Peter 3:9]: be patient with others as God has been with you is true, and is essential in forgiving others who may have hurt or robbed us [Matt 18:21-35]. In this way we will be emulating our Saviour whose whole life and ministry exuded patience to the humble, the slow and the proud alike [1 Tim 1:16]. What we see in our Father and our Lord, the Holy Spirit will produce in those, who owning their impatience as a sin, repent and having found forgiveness, work hard at patience in the rough and tumble of the ups and downs of life.

That this is not only possible and essential within and amongst us, is seen by the phrase immediately following the fruits passage: against such things there is no law [5:23b]. So sixthly, this reminds us that we are privileged to show the world a different way. Patience cannot be legislated, yet it is vital to any civil society, happy family, growing marriage, healthy church, and above all, Christlike disciples. Rather, it is a fruit of God’s amazing grace to us in Christ. We, like all who receive God’s grace, stand amazed at His kindness and patience and become determined to express our gratitude to God by extending it to others [ Eph 4:2; Col 3:12; 1 Thess 5:14] and towards our gracious Father. His purpose is always loving and will only prove fruitful in us and glorifying of Him as we patiently learn from Him [Rom 12:12; 2 Cor 1:6; James 5:7-11]. Following the famous threesome of 1 Cor 13:13, Adel Bestavros reminds us that: Patience with others is Love, Patience with self is Hope, Patience with God is Faith.

Seventhly, fruits do not mature overnight and in this one we must be patient-with ourselves and even more so with others [who have to put up with us!]. When God ripens an apple, He isn’t in a hurry and doesn’t make a noise wrote David Jackman. Under God the apple will ripen. Patience pursued will grow us, commend Christ and bless others.

Peter Brain 16th February, 2021

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