Home > Scripture Reflections > The problem of impatience

The problem of impatience

September 10, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Flemish 17th century

Flemish 17th century on Num 21:4-10

Can anything good come from impatience?  I imagine someone saying, “yes, when you are impatient with mediocrity.” Even if that is true, does not patience still needs to saturate our words and actions since we all know that patience is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22)?

As I reflected this morning about my own habitual cultivation of impatience, I yearn to see patient people distinguishing themselves as counter cultural beacons.

“And the people became impatient on the way” is the phrase from Numbers 21:4 that started my thinking this morning. A few of my own conclusions about impatience.

Why am I impatient?  I am often impatient because I am discontented, ungrateful, proud (thinking my self and my time as more important than others), and because I am not led by the Spirit.

What are the consequences of my impatience The short answer: sin.  Yes, when I am impatient, I sin; I sin against others;  I cause others to sin (when they get impatient with my own impatient–you know how that goes).
How can I avoid impatience? Go slow (driving, walking, eating, talking).  Practice simplicity (see Richard Foster for more on this). Be alert (to the Spirit’s leading, to what is happening around me and within me). Consider others (as more important than myself from Philippians 2).

And finally, how wonderful to mull over, What happens when I am patience? Four words come to mind. Joy. Contentment. Compassion. Humility.

Lord, I do not know if I can pray for patience but I do long that others would see me to be a truly patient man.

Your thoughts on impatience are welcome.

  1. September 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Hello and good morning. Thank you for your wonderful thoughts on patience. What I have found in my own formation is that God has given me an awareness of trying moments when I actually am somewhat patient – and in those moments, I have begun to tell myself that I am a patient woman, which definitely helps me be even more patient. I am not very responsive to “affirmations” except in moments when they are actually true for me – but to catch myself being patient, through God’s graces, and then affirm His work, does seem to deepen and instill the virtue more thoroughly.

    There are a lot of little moment like this that come along, and I am convinced that it is faithfulness in the small things that gives us habits that carry us in the larger ones. For example, I knit. I also make many mistakes. So I patiently undo the work, stitch by stitch, until I can correct the mistake, again affirming the patience that God is giving me. Sounds mundane, my brother, but the patience to undo does transfer to the patience required to carry out our Lord’s wishes in larger contexts.

    Let me know if you try this, and if so, to what effect!!


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