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How to be patient

~ adapted from Lecture IV of Charity and Its Fruits
by Jonathan Edwards

Love is patient…
1 Corinthians 13:4

be patient You’ve been hurt.
She was unbelievably rude to you, or he betrayed your trust and lied about you, or they so misjudged your motives that you’re in shock. Or maybe you’re just tired of that 67th question your child has asked today. 

How do you respond?
If you’re a Christian (maybe even if you’re not), you know what the Bible says: “Love is patient and kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4) and “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

But how do you practice patience?

Here’s how Jonathan Edwards explains being patient in Charity and Its Fruits.

  1. Let go of revenge
    Allow yourself no vengeful behaviors. Don’t even talk bad behind their back.
  2. Remember to love
    Keep your heart open to loving the offender. When you have negative thoughts, kick them out as soon as possible.
  3. Keep a calm mind
    Don’t let what happened rob you of your own peace, or turn you into a bitter person.
  4. Be a peacemaker
    Do your part to make peace, not dig a deeper problem.


It isn’t called “long-suffering” for nothing. It can be both “long”—in time and in intensity, and involve “suffering”—you may endure much pain before the wrong is righted.

But love helps you bear it, both love for God and love for your neighbor.

Loving God
Loving God helps you, as you…

  1. Imitate God’s patience
    One of God’s great attributes is his patience. He puts up with a lot from men. Be like him.
  2. Express your gratitude
    Be grateful for God’s patience with you. After all, you’ve injured him far more than you’ve been injured by others.
  3. Humble yourself
    Compare yourself to God. Where do you fall on the holy spectrum? Humility is rooted in a patient spirit.
  4. Trust his control
    Remember that God is sovereign, and his hand is in everything. Even when your injury is immediately from man’s hand, know that God cares. He’s working.
  5. Love God even more
    The more you love God, the more you place your happiness in him, and the less your enemies will be able to reach your heart.

Loving others
Patience also will come more freely when you love your neighbor. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Aren’t you more patient with those you love than with the faults of a stranger?

  1. Love people like Jesus did 
    Christ meekly endured the worst from evil men, yet he did not turn bitter or retaliate. Rather he prayed for his murderers. He loved people.
  2. Expect injuries
    Know that you will be hurt; you live in a fallen and corrupt world. So don’t be caught off guard when it happens and unexpectedly lose your peace.
  3. Rise above
    Fortify your soul with a spirit of Christian love so you can laugh at enemies that would hurt you.
  4. Follow good examples
    Aside from Christ’s perfect example, remember other followers who also endured patiently: David with Saul; Stephens with his murders; the apostle Paul with his persecutors.
  5. Treat others like you want to be treated
    You want God to treat you with patience, so treat others likewise (Matthew 7:2).


“But I’ve been hurt too deeply!
There’s no way I can be patient!”

Have they sinned against you more than you’ve sinned against God?
Don’t you hope God will be patient with you, even though you’ve built up many offenses against him?
Don’t you think God’s patience is a great trait?
Wouldn’t it also be a great trait in you? 
Would you be want God to never be patient with you again?
Did Christ turn against those who hurt him, yet he was hurt more unjustly than anyone has been?

“But they’re not even sorry
and still haven’t stopped.”

Remember again why it’s called long-suffering. Have you stopped hurting God yet? Doesn’t he continue to be long-suffering with you?

“But if I’m patient with them,
they’ll never change!”

Are you sure about that? And won’t God take care of serving justice to them? Would he want you to disobey him by rising up against others? Isn’t your patience more likely to end an injury whereas a vengeful spirit provokes it further?

* * *

    I haven’t done Jonathan Edwards’ lecture justice with my summary. You must read the chapter yourself.
     And I’m provoked to even more questions after reading it. Like, when does patience include tough love? How about patience and justice? How can I explain the difference between being patient versus turning a blind eye? Doesn’t patience sometimes include taking action? Etc.

So I look forward to more reading.

“Cherish, then, the spirit of longsuffering, meekness, and forbearance, and you shall possess your soul in patience and happiness, and none shall be permitted to harm you more than God in wisdom and kindness may permit.”
~ Jonathan Edwards

* * *

Lecture V: Love is kind

Previous chapters
Laurie’s notes, Lecture IV, Part 1
Lecture IV, Part 2


Laurie M. said...

He does mention in passing that there do come times when you will find it best to right a wrong, but I think that he wants to err on the side of grace, since we are so inclined not to be long-suffering. He does not, however, give any hard-fast rules - probably because there aren't any and we just have to rely on the Holy Spirit and the "Golden Rule" to guide us.

Thank you. I found this summary a nice review, a reminder I really needed just now.

Lisa notes... said...

Thanks, Laurie, for your comments. I appreciate how thoroughly you dig into each chapter, so your thoughts are valuable to me.

And I'm continuing to pray for you as you practice patience through this storm. Your willingness to be God's instrument is inspiring.


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