Whew! Spring has sprung. We are passed winter. The appearance of death and hibernation is disappearing once again and nature is taking on new life. Staled becomes fresh again, praise God! Old becomes new!
But, wait; something’s missing! Spring has sprung, and the horizon looks bright again, right? True; it does. And, despite the pollen and other allergens generated by new life, the season of spring brings our senses to life again with new foliage, beautiful scents and warmth that takes the chill out of winter. Yet, why did winter happen? And, why did it take so long to end? Why was it so severe (in the northern climates) and do such horrid damage?
The Lord is re-teaching me to trust and obey Him through suffering and pain in this life. Someone recently asked me to help them understand patience so they can grow in patience. So, I went to my favorite dictionary online (WebstersDictionary1828.com) to check the definition of patience to make sure I explained it properly to her. What a blessing for me this turned out to be! As I covered this topic with this dear sister in Christ, I felt the loving conviction of the Holy Spirit showing me my disobedience to Him in years past. Look at how Noah Webster defined patience:
PATIENCE, noun pa’shens. [Latin patientia, from patior, to suffer.]
1. The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness. patience may spring from constitutional fortitude, from a kind of heroic pride, or from christian submission to the divine will.
2. A calm temper which bears evils without murmuring or discontent.
3. The act or quality of waiting long for justice or expected good without discontent.
4. Perseverance; constancy in labor or exertion.
5. The quality of bearing offenses and injuries without anger or revenge.
Ummm…. Well…. I thought I understood patience before that day, and I did on a superficial level, BUT wow did the Holy Spirit broaden my understanding that day that I was called upon to teach/train it to a fellow sojourner in Christ! Now I begin to glimpse a deeper understanding of why it is so difficult to practice patience.
All my prideful, preconceived ideas about how patient I have been truly flew out the airlock, so to speak, as the Lord opened my eyes on this wonderful topic. He has been drawing my attention to many places in His word in previous months while I studied the Gospel of Matthew (the first book in the New Testament of the Bible) with a small group of sisters in Christ. The Lord has helped me to see my foolishness and helplessness wherever I tried to ‘punch through’ the problems and struggles in my life pretending to be patient, all the while allowing a sinister attitude of bitterness to slowly brew beneath my mask of patience. Ugh! When will I ever learn?! (Can you relate?)
My husband rightly explains the Christian life as Basic Combat Training, a.k.a. boot camp. Whether you have attended a military boot camp or not, you are in a spiritual boot camp, if you are a true Christ follower. None of us graduate from this spiritual boot camp until the Lord calls us home to Him.
I remember at the start of my boot camp while on Active Duty in the U.S. Army, our drill sergeants made us go through and complete the basic training obstacle course. I thought I would DIE from exhaustion that day! I definitely was NOT in shape for this! Then, around our final week of boot camp about nine weeks later, they took us back through the very same obstacle course and made us finish it again in order to graduate basic training. I finished, praise God! But, “wait,” I thought. “Are you sure this is the same one I went through when I first arrived here?!” Nine weeks of steady, daily training got me ready for this final “obstacle” course for which I was now fit to complete. The “well done” that I received from my drill instructors was my graduation certificate. But, there is a graduation certificate awaiting me at the end of my earthly life that is far more important to me, more so today than any other time in my life. I want to finish right and strong in the Lord.
God is preparing His spiritual children for Graduation Day from our spiritual Basic Combat Training course called life on earth. In an effort to ‘strike while the iron is hot,’ each of us in Christ must make the hard choice to truly trust God with every teensy and terrific (terrifying, terrible) trial, temptation or tribulation God allows us to encounter in this life. Each of those experiences that run contrary to our will are priceless opportunities to grow in Christlikeness according to Romans 8:28-29. Those verses teach us that God will use whatever we face in this life as a holy opportunity to grow us to maturity in Christ and show the world what Christ looks like when we obey Him in these times that try our soul.
Even though a hard winter tells our untrained senses that all is bleak and hopeless, those harsh experiences of winter are designed by God to strengthen us to withstand to current and future blasts of cold that would otherwise ‘do us in.’ Spring is one of God’s reminders of the hope we have in Jesus that this winter of basic combat training will one day come to an end and climax in that new life on the new earth with Christ for all eternity. Patiently persevering through the winters of this life will pay off in the end, dear ones!
Jesus reminds us in John 15:5 that apart from Him, we are helpless and hopeless (my paraphrase of what He actually says there). But, He also tells us in the surrounding verses that when we abide in Him, and faithfully trust and obey Him with both the good and bad, easy and hard experiences in this life, He will make our life bear the eternal fruit that never dies.
So, what do you think? Do you now have a better understanding of what it means to be patient? Practicing patience puts purpose in our perseverance and helps us stand firm in our faith no matter what battles we face in this life. Will you trust Jesus to see you through? I hope you will. I am resolved to practice patience on a whole new level by trusting Him, come what may. Let’s remember to pray for our family in Christ to remain strong to the end.