Living Patiently

by Pastor Susan Humbert

When my niece was a little girl, about six or seven years old, I once asked her if she knew what patience meant. Her response: “It’s something that makes you wait.” Ah, from the mouths of babes. Although she was destined for the top 1% of the nation her senior year, her answer fell horseshoe and hand grenade close.  Waiting is part and parcel of the patience scenario, to be sure, but there is just a bit more to it than that. A bull’s eye definition must include the term, ‘long-suffering,’ and a Koine Greek word study (the ancient language of the New Testament) is going to help us understand why.

There are two Greek words in our New Testament that fulfill the needs of the ‘patience’ requirements. The one that our culture references the most is, hupomonane ὑπομονὴν.  This is the word that best describes my niece’s definition.  It’s the kind of patience that is practiced, or not practiced, when we are, for example, waiting in line at the grocery store, put on hold, or in traffic.  I remember standing in line at a pharmacy, directly behind a man who was quickly becoming unraveled by the turtle-speed service. Exasperated, he turned around, looked me in the eye and snapped before storming off, “I could die here in line! Good luck!”   Gentleness, or even some self-control may have helped his situation, but not this Spirit Fruit type of patience.

The other Greek word, mακrothumia μακροθυμία, comes from the Spirit Fruit list in Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…”  Not a huge fan of King James, it is actually the translation that provides a more accurate representation for this verse…long-suffering.  Praying for adult children far from the Lord is a good example of what we are talking about. God has had his share of it and still is.  2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow about His promises, as some counts slowness, but is long-suffering toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  We long-sufferers are in good company.