Patience. A virtue much sought, a commodity to be utterly desired. Stillness of soul in the midst of turmoil, perseverance in the face of trials, undisturbed faith under the onslaught of evil.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Mulling over the word, I found a brief flash of clarity: a redefining of my understanding, a sigh of relief for my most impatient soul. And that was in the simple translation from the Hebrew that defines patience as something slightly different --

Longsuffering.

Longsuffering. Perhaps patience is not stillness of the soul, but the tenacious clinging of the spirit to God's promise in spite of appearances.

Perhaps it is the sometimes strong grip, sometimes desperate grasp on hope when trials surmount what we believe we are able to bear.

Perhaps it is blind faith in the midst of doubt; a faith that can no longer see, nor hear, nor comprehend, but believes with the desperate edge of conviction: the conviction that without faith, all will indeed be lost.

But whatever it is, I know this now: patience hurts.

Longsuffering. It might indeed be the unbroken bond within the soul that affirms our trust in an almighty God, but it comes at a price. It comes at the price of tears, and pain, and sorrow.

Tears come when the prodigal will not return home, when the routine of daily life becomes a rut that threatens to bury you, when money becomes a memory with no hope.

Pain rears its head, ugly and intrusive, in hospital rooms, at gravesides, and in empty living rooms that echo with joys once known or hurts once suffered.

And sorrow: sorrow for the hurts you can only watch but cannot heal, sorrow for sins you can repent but never forget, sorrow for lost dreams and hopes that you do not know if God will raise from the ashes in resurrection.

The word "patience" lulls us into a false sense of security: safe from the wrenching of the soul and the stretching of our spirits to the limit.

"Longsuffering" leaves no such illusions.

Longsuffering. It comes at a price, and to call it a virtue is to diminish the impact of what it truly is when once it has left its mark on our soul.

For it is a word that describes the very heart of God -- the God who is longsuffering . . .

With us.

© 2001 Paula Marolewski

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Author's Bio: 

Paula J. Marolewski provides challenging and interactive adult Bible studies for individuals, Bible studies, small groups, and adult Sunday School classes at Sink Your Roots (www.SinkYourRoots.com). Studies include such topics as Debunking the Myths about Knowing God's Will. The site also offers free weekly Seedlings - “Little thoughts that grow big results.”