The Heart of Impatience

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

Who does that sound like? God’s patience places what is good for us before what he is justified to do. Our patience towards others must do the same. This is not a matter of whether it is justified or not. It almost always is because as sinners, we often treat each other in ways that completely justify condemnation. Agape love takes the love of God expressed in his patience toward my sin and refusal to condemn me, and expresses that same kind of self-restraint toward the failures of others which are infinitely less significant than how I have failed God.

God doesn’t sigh. He doesn’t seek to punish by pulling away emotionally. He doesn’t slam the door or verbally attack or play games. He waits. He has the big picture in view. Love is patient because God is patient and God is love.

What is Impatience and where does it come from?

I think the heart of our impatience is control and self-idolatry. We want to control everything including the people around us with expectations that they may or may not realize but which we project on them internally. Since we are basically selfish, our expectations of other people largely have to do with what they need to do to keep us enshrined as god in our hearts.

Impatience is the personal expression of our desire to be God and our frustration when others didn’t get the memo.

Think of the last time you were impatient with someone. What was it that really bothered you? Set you off. Got you annoyed. Likely, they didn’t act, talk, drive, get back with you, or any number of other things like you expect someone who realizes your importance ought to do. The odd thing is we project these expectations on people we don’t even know… the old lady driving entirely too slow in the car ahead of us, the person in the grocery line ahead of us who is actually paying for her groceries by making out a check and slowly balancing her checking account while you wait, or the pastor who promised a shorter sermon but seems to have forgotten.

Love is Patient

But God isn’t impatient. Love is patient because God is patient and God is love. Impatience is a kind of blasphemy that first of all sets myself up as God then refuses to treat others like the real God has treated me. We all play God very badly.

It all comes back to agape expressed in the gospel and the living of that daily and expressing that toward whoever God brings across our path. Every day sinners will treat us in ways worthy of condemnation. What do we do? We must apply the gospel to them like God applied the gospel to us and consider that what I have done against God is far worse than the worst behavior or disrespect of my co-worker, family member or spouse. I have to believe that a sovereign God’s placed this special person into my life. I exercise volitional self-restraint and ask God to help me express emotional self-restraint. No sighs. No condemnation. Rather, an opportunity to do good to them like God has done to me. Rather than rolling eyes, how about an affirmation? Rather than condemnation, forgiveness. Something that affirms your care and respect for them. This is God-like and only agape love can muster it. But it can and will when we apply the gospel to it.

The opposite of impatience is not a glib denial of loss. It’s a deepening, ripening, peaceful willingness to wait for God in the unplanned place of obedience, and to walk with God at the unplanned pace of obedience – to wait in his place, and go at his pace. –Piper, Faith in Future Grace, p. 171.

Love is patient.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© 2010 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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