A Meditation on Patience

This month, as part of our nine-month journey through virtues, we delve into ‘patience’. A term we often use, but perhaps don’t truly understand within the prism of our faith.

Scripture frequently calls us to patience, intertwining it with the fabric of following Jesus from the Old Testament to the New.

If love is indeed patient, like Paul asserts in 1 Corinthians 13, then patience is essential to practicing the greatest commandments defined by Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40: to love God and our neighbors.

Similarly, Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:22 that patience is not just a virtue but a Fruit of the Spirit—it’s an organic outcome of a life dancing to the Spirit’s rhythm.

Yet, these scriptures, while underscoring the weight of patience, might leave some yearning for clarity. They emphasize its significance, but what is the essence of biblical patience? And how can we weave it into the fabric of our daily existence?

Biblical etymology of patience

Let’s start by exploring the etymological roots of patience in the Bible.

In the Old Testament, patience emerges from the Hebrew ‘arek’, meaning ‘long’ or ‘slow’, and is also frequently translated as “slow to anger.”

In the New Testament, the term ‘patient’ or ‘patience’ frequently emerges from the Greek word ‘μακροτηυμια’. This can be translated as “longsuffering” or “forbearance.” In his Commentary on Galatians, F. F. Bruce writes that if we had an English adjective “long-tempered” to contrast with “short-tempered,” then ‘μακροτηυμια’ would fittingly describe the quality of being “long-tempered”—a quality attributed to God in Exodus 34:6.

Armed with this etymological context into biblical patience, we’re better positioned to explore how the scriptures guide us in practicing patience as followers of Jesus.

Practicing patience as followers of Jesus

1 Thessalonians 5:14 extends an all-encompassing call, urging us to practice patience with everyone, not just a select few—even those who test our patience. The Message Bible captures this well:

“Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.”

1 Thessalonians 5:14 (MSG)

We also see scripture caution against the rifts that impulsiveness and a quick temper can cause. Proverbs 15:18 underscores the idea that swift anger often cultivates disunity. This perspective is harmonized by Ephesians 4:2-3, which advocates for humility, gentleness, and patience. When we bear with one another in love, we not only avoid discord but actively nurture unity. The overarching message is unmistakable: where patience is sown, unity blossoms; in contrast, anger often paves the way to division.

Patience is enmeshed with love

1 Peter 4:7-11 (MSG) paints a vivid picture of love and patience hand in hand. Whether it’s opening our homes, offering a meal, or using our gifts, it’s underscored by an unwavering love—a love that is often a reflection of our patience. Reinforcing this idea, the NRSV accentuates how love, deeply anchored in patience, possesses the power to cover a multitude of wrongs.

Thus, biblical patience isn’t merely passive waiting. It’s active endurance. It’s choosing grace over grievances, love over lashing out. It molds our hearts, nurtures unity, and mirrors God’s patience with us.

As we conclude, let Colossians 3:12-13 echo in our hearts: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive… Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”


Amid the whirlwind of life when patience seems elusive, how can we anchor ourselves in these truths? How can we transform patience from passive waiting to an active embrace of love and grace?