I have not posted for quite some time because I was studying/living-out this concept of “long-suffering”. The Greek word used in the New Testament is makrothumia. It means patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance. The Old Testament Hebrew is arek meaning “slow to anger”. It is used to describe God and his grace in not obliterating Israel for blatantly disregarding his commands and turning their backs on him who delivered them from slavery after they complained about it for 400 years. He put up with nothing but complaining for 40 years in the desert, too. Nothing was good enough for them.
In the New Testament, it is used as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Believers. The Apostle Paul refers to it in nearly every one of his letters to the churches. You should love in the face of being wronged. You should turn the other cheek. In other words, you should dwell on the good and not the bad because that is what God, himself, has done for us.
Please understand, I am by NO means comparing myself to God nor the Apostle Paul. Yet, I believe each has given me a template by which to live, and I can confess today that long-suffering has brought me a LONG way from where I was even a year ago. The grace and peace that is to be found within long-suffering is unimaginable to anyone whose life is chaotic and filled with stress, as mine was at one time. I think this is why long-suffering is a concept lost on modern American society.
First, one must “put up and shut up”. That’s the best way I can describe it. I used to love to let others know just how “awful” my life was and what a burden I was lifting. At times I actually got joy in heaping negativity on someone else. “You think you’ve got it bad, let me tell you how bad my life is…” How wicked is that? Where is the life? No wonder I lived in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because I went looking for it. Even when something good happened, I would always frame it in a negative context.
So, one day I stopped. I just let things be what they were. I didn’t read anything into them, and I didn’t add anything to them. I went forward from there. Even if I had to take two steps back, I would not allow it to impact my perception. Life was just life and things were. Period. This was tough because I found myself trying to add to it, yet I had to clear my mind and calm my spirit.
Second, I asked the question, “How could the Lord be using this for good?” Study the historic account of Joseph starting in Genesis 37. Joseph had to put up with a lot: sold into slavery by his older brothers, falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned, left to die. He could have cursed God and done nothing but complain. He didn’t, and God made him ruler of Egypt. The lesson Joseph learned through long-suffering is summed up in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Third, I accepted my life and stopped trying to control it. The cliche’ is “let go and let God”. It’s simplistic and it’s very true. I asked the Holy Spirit to fill me more, and I gave the Lord control of my life. I submitted to Him – another lost concept in American society. We do not like to submit – to anyone, anything, anywhere at anytime. We think it will allow others to control us. You know what I found? Peace. Why? Because in giving the Lord control, I also gave Him the headaches. Isn’t that the case in all situations where a leader is involved? Isn’t it the leader’s responsibility to come up with the answers, make the decisions and handle the ramifications? My job is to go where He tells me to go and do the work He calls me to do. I offer up feedback, opinion and make requests. He handles all the rest. WHAT A RELATIONSHIP!
Peace is to be found in this. The self-fulfilling prophecy worked the other way, too. As I focused on the good, I found more and more of it. Was my life any less stressful? Yes and no. The external stress kept coming, but I no longer received it. Why? Because I had reframed it. I no longer was a “victim”. I would take whatever life threw at me, and try to turn it around for good. Did the outcome matter? Nope. Why? I wasn’t in charge. The Big Guy would handle the outcome. Very cool.
So, what ultimately became of this? I am happy to share that I am on the verge of living my passion: I have accepted a position that will make me a principal trainer for my organization’s primary application, which is the backbone of what we do. I will be creating all the learning for it and training staff to utilize it. Nothing makes me happier than helping others learn. This is what the Lord created me to do, and now I will be paid to do it. No longer will I be in a position that makes me work 70 hours a week in a no-win pressure-cooker trying to do the impossible. I feel like Joseph when he was freed from prison and given the keys to the kingdom. I don’t say this to impress you but to impress upon you the power of long-suffering.
If you will but submit to it and submit to Him.