All my Christian life I have heard people, both young and old, say that you shouldn’t pray for patience. It was usually followed by a smile or a chuckle to denote that it was a joke, but if you have heard that sentiment, you know that it was at least half true. Regardless of how they meant it, it was said so often along with the reasoning behind it, which made sense, that I adopted it. The logic went something like this; if you pray for patience, you will be inundated with trails that require patience. The unsaid part that logically followed was, you don’t want those trials.
A close reading of a wonderful passage would state otherwise. In fact, it would thrill us to walk down the road of opportunities to grow in patience.
James 1:2–4 (ESV)
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
You and I have read this verse with a chuckle in our hearts at times. Count it joy…? Right. Let me draw your attention to something that we may have missed because we laughed or read with disbelief. “Lacking nothing.” I want to lack nothing! Forget about materially nothing. I am talking about the inside of a person. I want to lack nothing! That is a desire for all of us. Who in their right mind would say, “I like lacking control over my tongue, or security in my identity.” That is crazy talk. Yet, the crazy thought and talk have trapped me in not praying for patience.
My father-in-law had my honor and respect. He was such a great man and still is in heaven. His ability to continue to endure under difficult circumstanceswas incredible. He lacked very little. His faith was great. I aspire to be more like him.
If I want to lack in nothing, then I have to continue to bear up under difficulties and lean into the trial that tests my faith. Notice that it isn’t a trial to test your patience. It tests your faith. There is a strong connection here that we may have missed. Can you see it? Strong faith allows us to endure. Strong faith will enable us to hold the view (count) of joy as we go through hard things because they produce what we want. This is good news! This is hope! All the last year’s stuff or previous ten years will produce good things if we let it. There is necessary cooperation. If we don’t, we may find ourselves cynical and bitter rather than perfect and complete.
I am not saying we should tell God, “bring on the trials,” but I am saying that we should pray for patience. I am praying for the ability to continue to endure under challenging circumstances. I am praying to be able to hold my tongue when attacked. I am praying to be able to continue to endure a barrage of rejection and have my identity remain intact. I hope you will join me in dismissing the thought that we should not pray for patience. Next, we can conquer the “count it joy” thing. I and everyone around me would be much happier if I did.