An issue with which I often struggle is having patience with…myself. This will be the first post in a three-part series on the topic of being patient with self. So, in what area do I struggle with lack of self-patience? I must admit I lean toward the oft misguided “if I work harder then…” Maybe it’s from growing up a military officer’s daughter, but I do gravitate toward rigidity at times. This can fuel a sense of despair.
For example, I must be careful I don’t fall into the trap of thinking I must pray a certain way each day, or say my prayers a certain way each day, or if I read this many passages in my Bible each day or take down this amount of notes each day then I’ll get closer to God. The truth is Christ is glad to hear us anytime in different ways.
The truth is Christ will never love me more or less than he does today, so I don’t need to think if I just worked hard enough, he’ll hear me, listen to me, consider me, guide me, give me discernment, reward me, etc. “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation,” Psalm 5:3. Expectation – with confident hope. Confident the key word.
It was a beautiful moment when I understood that once I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, asked him to forgive my sins, and acknowledged that he’s seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven that the gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s peace, and all spiritual blessings (love, joy, peace, perseverance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) were immediately given to me.
That means all these gifts are in me now. If I’m not feeling them, using them, exercising them, it’s not because I don’t have them. It’s because I’m not discerning how to access and grow them. And to do that is to plug into Christ every day.
He is the power source I need to get recharged daily. If I don’t, the distractions of the world will misguide me and blind me to those gifts within me. Therefore, it’s easy for new Christians to feel defeated. They misconceive that once they are saved, Jesus becomes the divine butler, waiting to grant them their wishes and desires. No. It’s about a relationship, an intimate relationship.
We are called to KNOW him. Know – to understand, to have direct cognition of, to recognize the nature of, to have experience of, to be convinced or certain of. Christ wants to have an intimate relationship with us. If we keep him as an acquaintance once we’re saved, we’ll get to Heaven but still experience defeat in areas that plague our lives, like anxiety and depression.
So, it’s not about working harder to get closer to Christ or attain greater abundance in my life; it’s about knowing that all these beautiful gifts are in me and will work for my good and the good of others. For example, a gift I must work on constantly is gentleness and self-control. My DNA steers my wheels around curves of impatience. Now, I can exercise a wealth of abundance with my university students…lol…most of the time.
But it’s different with my family, especially when the pressures of daily life creep in. There are times I pop off at the mouth then regret it later. This is learned, familial behavior that’s been anchored within me for years. But I can’t let that be an excuse to say, “I can’t help it. My mother was that way. Now I’m that way, and I’ll always be that way.” Baloney.
This is where patience to self comes in. Because if I snap at, say, my husband, I need to apologize, examine what led to me reacting that way, analyze the logic or illogic of it then know next time to react differently. Usually, it’s our reaction that becomes the worse issue than what caused the reaction. If I buckle under guilt because of the way I reacted, that isn’t good. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for me to beat myself up, carry around guilt, and feel badly until one day it wears off. No.
We all have things we must work on. I don’t care who it is. So, I must be careful that I don’t fall into the trap of thinking, I’m such a screw up. I should have done this better. I need to work harder at doing that. That just transfers my external impatience to impatience directed toward myself, which leads to guilt, shame, remorse, sadness, even anger.
The beauty is when we ask Christ to forgive us, he forgives. Wiped clean. Forgotten. Not ever to be brought up again. If I bring it up, that’s my fault. When that happens, I enlist 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 “Anything that sets itself up as an argument or pretense to God I am to take into obedience to the throne of Christ.” And I’ve had to do this ten times in one day at some points in my life because getting to a better state of mind is about training our thinking.
And because love keeps no record of wrongs, I’m not to throw someone’s past sins or mistakes in their face. Ahhh…yes. Uh-huh. We ladies are good at doing that with our elephant memories. I know. Been there, done that. Still catch myself doing that if I’m not careful. Our thinking is to be managed not allowed to take us wherever it wants. If we let it, it will, which is why so many people suffer from fear and anxiety; they’re not testing the logic of and controlling their own thoughts.
Christ is gentle. Oh, he had impatience and a temper, too, but that was because he got exasperated with people’s lack of faith (his disciples) and with the scribes and Pharisees (because of their rigidity and heaping encumbering laws on people). He doesn’t wait for us to mess up, so he can say, “See, you screw up. You did it AGAIN.” Lol…no, he’s not like parents, partners, siblings, or unkind, backstabbing people. He is our loving God, Wonderful Counselor.
It doesn’t matter if you say a long eloquent prayer or if you simply say, “I screwed up. I’m sorry. I need you.” He is right there. And what is more incredible is that we may FEEL like we will never improve, but don’t forget. We have Holy Spirit power within us. And what is most amazing is that when we determine to work to improve in one area, a few weeks or a few months later, we realize He’s done some major work in several areas. Our rate of return is so much more than what we put in. He is a generous, loving God.
I’ve had that happen when I went through a time when, because of family issues, I had a bitter root of anger that had surfaced and wouldn’t go away. Now, anger is not an issue that traditionally drives my compass needle. But it was there and manifesting in irritability, even…lol…anger at other drivers.
Actually, it was one day on my way to work while I was praying, a driver cut me off and I cursed aloud mid prayer. That’s not cool when you’re in the middle of talking to God and the f-bomb pops out. It’s quite sobering, and it was then I knew I had to get a handle on that anger.
What did I do? Well, a lot of my anger came from my earthly father who could be cutting and critical and from a punitive ex-husband that created seven years of financial hardship on me and the worst character assassination ever. The result, something in me had hardened, and I had little patience for baloney business.
So, I began a steady, daily work studying just who I was in the eyes of my Heavenly father and just what was my TRUE value in Him, not in the world, not in the eyes of others, in the eyes of my family, especially, not in how people saw me or how they thought I should be, or even how I thought I should be. No, in how HE sees me. Game changer.
But did it happen in a day, a week, two weeks? No. It took a few months, but by the time I realized the power He’d worked in healing me from that anger, I realized I hadn’t been angry in a while. The healing came quietly, gently, yet effectively. “My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you…” Psalm 9:3. Our enemies aren’t the foot soldier warriors, like the ones after King David the Psalmist. At least not in the U.S., thank God, really.
Our enemies come in the forms of anger, shame, guilt, remorse, anxiety, depression, fear, and thinking no one knows what we’re going through making us feel alone and isolated. But God turns them back, cripples those enemies, so they no longer have power over us. “Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy; you have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished.” Psalm 9:2. “Uprooted their cities…” These forms use our vulnerability on which to fortify, like enemy soldiers that need garrisons to fortify themselves. Don’t you see? And I love that last part, “even the memory has perished.”
That’s just like what happened to me with my anger. Once He’d taken it away, I didn’t even realize it until way after the fact that I’d been freed, had no memory, didn’t think about it. Now, does this mean I never get angry. Yes, I can get angry. Believe me. I can get angry. But it isn’t that consistent anger ruling each day or surfacing each day in reaction to small grievances.
When I reached the place where I knew what my value was in Him, it changed everything. I no longer suffered from anxiety and depression. I was able to stop taking medication, which if mixed with alcohol creates situations where all filters of the mouth are off, no governors in operation. And you don’t want that. Believe me. I know.
Christ never lied. He tells us he gives us his peace. He promises us that if we stick by him, he will help us, that if we are obedient, he is there for us. Yeah, that word obedient has negative connotation. I know. But obedience to Christ isn’t that rigid schoolmarm obedience. It’s a commitment to follow in his way, become more filled with grace, to grow closer with God, to KNOW him, not just know OF him.
And I can tell when I’m operating in grace, when I’m responding and reacting in beautiful ways where normally I would have been less than kind, less than graceful. I can feel that it’s his grace. And I know I must guard it with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) because it IS a battle. Satan wants nothing more than for me to revert to my old ways when I was going through several years of terrible duress during that difficult, long, drawn-out divorce that practically bled the life from me.
Satan’s way is confusion and despair. Girding for battle, not as in, I must wake up each day in fear of getting slayed. Rather, waking up each day determined to meditate on my salvation, my faith, reading His Word, staying in a right place with Him, and walking in and operating in peace.
Thus, it’s about working in wisdom, gentleness, walking with him, staying anchored to him each day for guidance, protection, and discernment. And don’t forget the divine, mysterious power of the Holy Spirit at work. Never, ever underestimate that power. No human on earth can ever impart that kind of power to us. Only Christ.