As is true of all of the fruit of the Spirit, longsuffering is a crucial one in the life of the Christian. It is often one that we are challenged to keep on display not only with others we are around, but even within our our own hearts and minds every day. The challenge can be so significant that we don’t realize when we’re short of it. In the moment, some times we may not care that we’re short of it. What are we often short of? What does “longsuffering” mean?
The Greek word for longsuffering, makrothumia, is the same word in both Galatians 5:22, where Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit and this passage in Ephesians 4, among others. It’s otherwise translated as “patience” or “forebearance.” Makrothumia is an interesting word and helps us under what patience is. This Greek word is made up of two words – makro which means “long,” and thumos which means “passion or anger.” F.F. Bruce, in his Commentary on Galatians, noted that this word “embraces steadfastness and staying-power.” If in English we had an adjective “long-tempered” as a counterpart to “short-tempered,” then makrothymia could be called the quality of being “long-tempered.” (F. F. Bruce, Commentary on Galatians, 253).
Longsuffering isn’t only something that the Holy Spirit gives to and works in us. It is an attribute of God. Consider God’s words after He cut the second set of the two tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments. He came down in the cloud and stood with Moses. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). How patient our God is with His people! How patient He is with you and me today! Though God is longsuffering with us, we must not think we can presume upon His kindness and patience. For His patience with sinners will come to an end (2 Peter 3:8-10). Praise God for His chastening us, as He teaches, grows, and matures us in grace.
Would you consider yourself short-tempered or long-tempered? Do you have self-restraint when you’re stirred to anger? Are you quick to retaliate? When your “fuse” is lit, do those around you have five seconds to run? Or are you quick to snuff out your own fuse? Or do you have a long fuse and patiently forebear? Do you easily become agitated when something isn’t on schedule or someone is running a bit late? Do you easily become agitated when your waiting on a response from someone? These are all good questions to think about and answer. The struggle is real. So is the importance and necessity of this fruit showing forth. So is the work of the One who grows you and brings it to bear in you. Growth in patience usually comes with its share of growing pains. However, that pain is good as we know God often uses hard times, difficulties, disappointments, trials, and suffering to grow us more in patience, more in holiness, conforming us more to Christ’s image.
Prayerfully seek to walk worthy of your calling this week. Though the journey may be challenging, Beloved, praise the Lord your God for the fruit of longsuffering is beautiful and glorious!