“Longsuffering” is sometimes translated patience. Some synonyms for the word include: patient, uncomplaining, forbearing, obliging, restrained, composed, subservient, disciplined, constrained, self-controlled. One source I read defined it this way, “longsuffering is sometimes translated as patiently enduring wrongs or difficulties, enduring mental and/or physical difficulties without complaint from which the cause is people.” Another description. “Patience, as a noun, is having the quality of bearing provocation, annoyance, or pain without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like, from which the cause is circumstance or events.”
The Bible has much to say about longsuffering. In the King James version, it is a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
The Apostle Paul when writing to the church at Ephesus urged the church on toward unity in Ephesians chapter 4. I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (NKJV)
Again, in Colossians Paul describes the characteristics of a new believer in chapter 3.
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
In our microwave society we see little longsuffering. We are quick to judge, quick to act, and quick to dismiss those with whom we disagree. We want results immediately, not only results, but our presupposed results. We often overlook the fact that God in His Sovereignty may be allowing us to go through certain events to teach us some truth we have yet to grasp. A truth or realization we would not fully understand by merely reading it in Scripture. Read it – yes, but experience it – WOW! YES!
A dear pastor friend years ago said that in ministry we will encounter people who are our sand paper. They really rub us the wrong way. They irritate us. However, this grating process may be gradually eroding something in us that needs smoothing off. Our rough edges are being softened, to make us more useful for the Kingdom of God. In like manner, we may be someone else’s sandpaper performing a similar function for them. Don’t dismiss or shun the sandpaper folks from your life, these may be the very people God has placed in your path to transform you more fully into His image.
Are these encounters desirous and fun? Certainly not–yet, very much needed if we are serious about our walk of faith and the sanctification process that is at work in us! We can remove ourselves from the painful situations, but we may miss the greatest lesson God has for us by doing so.
Let us be long-suffering with each other. God is at work, even during great pain, discomfort, confusion, and distress.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (I Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV).
I pray we can persevere together for the Kingdom’s sake!