Exercise Patience

Exercising is something people love, hate or do because they think it will give them a benefit. If you’ve ever tried to get in shape, you know it doesn’t happen overnight. Depending on your fitness level, it can take weeks, months or even years. I’ve made the mistake of overdoing a workout after taking a break and paid the price in sore muscles. I’ve learned to start slowly and build up. I’m riding my bike again and not embarrassed to tell you I have to walk up some of the hills near my home.

Thinking about physical exercise made me think of our spiritual muscles. How I wish the parallel didn’t exist. For some reason, I can be patient with myself when it comes to building up my muscles and fitness level, but I can get frustrated when my spiritual fitness seems to take too long. I want to be more loving, patient, kind, giving and compassionate – now. I’d also like to keep my mouth shut more often. But sometimes I feel I’m taking a step back or treading water. I do sometimes feel like I’m moving forward, but never fast enough.

I’ve been telling myself I’ll get to the point when I can ride up one, then two of the hills I have to walk now – perhaps I should remember the same thing when it comes to spiritual growth and transformation. It takes hard work in the form of practicing the spiritual disciplines (the same as if we were learning a language), focusing on Christ and continual trust in the work of the Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus. And of course, patience.

God leads us to understanding

“May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5, NLT).

You’ve probably heard and/or prayed the prayer of the impatient: Lord, give me patience and give it to me now! We want everything to be like microwave popcorn—done in two minutes. If a web page takes longer than a few seconds, we quickly move on to one that loads instantly. And impatient drivers? Everyone’s in a hurry and look out if you’re in their way.

God knows us. He understands how we think and he cares about what we learn and how we learn it. This prayer asks God to lead us into understanding, not give it immediately. That wouldn’t be good for us or others. We learn the things of God as we yield to his gentle leading (which he also helps us do), as we let him guide us first to see how much he loves us, then to love others in the same way and finally to learn patient endurance. The endurance is necessary because we, like little children learning to walk, will stumble, fall and even get hurt in the process. In our impatience we might get angry at God, ourselves and others and feel we are going backward, not forward. In his love, in his own patient endurance, God helps us up and continues to teach us, never giving up even as we continue to stumble.