As I sat down to write this blog, I realized I had some serious work to do. 1 Corinthians 13:4a contains just five little words but the deeper I dug into them, the more their impact compelled me to consider what they truly meant to me and how I was (and was not) applying them in my own life.
“Love is patient and kind.” That is all. I know there are many other qualities that describe love in this passage, but for me, as I started to read, these five words were enough.
“Love is patient and kind.” Think about that. Really sit with it for a minute and feel it. This is such a simple description of love and yet it has such depth and implication for everything that we do and all the people who are part of our lives, whether for a lifetime or just a fleeting moment. The more I thought about the meaning behind these words, the more I could feel the weight of conviction in my own heart.
We’ve been writing articles on the blog this season about patience, but what is patience? What does it really mean? The Oxford Languages Dictionary defines patience as being “able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” Well, that is a very broad, and yet somehow also specific definition, isn’t it?
In order to be patient, I need to be able to handle waiting (delays), problems that arise, suffering (physical, mental, financial, etc.) without becoming upset or irritated (annoyed). That is a tall order. Then there are the last two words of that definition, “or anxious”. Not only am I not to be irritated by these things, I’m not supposed to worry about them either. If I am not to be irritated or worried in the face of delays, problems, and suffering, what quality should I display instead? Kindness. I need to replace these unhelpful qualities with kindness. 1 Corinthians 13:4 directs us to surround our patience with kindness.
The Oxford Languages Dictionary defines the act of being kind as “having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature.” Rather than being annoyed or worried when things don’t go the way we think they should, we are to think of other people instead of ourselves. We need to look outward rather than inward.
I don’t know about you, but as I consider these words I feel like I am not hitting the mark. It is so easy to become annoyed, irritable, and anxious when we have to wait. When we are forced to stop progress on the time schedule we have envisioned, we tend to naturally turn to one of these three responses. Personally, I’ve always had trouble with being patient because I like to be in control. It can be hard to admit things are out of our control and hand them over to God – even when we know that is exactly what we should do. It is hard to be kind (friendly, generous, and considerate) when we are annoyed, irritated, and worried. These things simply don’t go together. However, Corinthians 13:4 suggests that in order for us to show love to other people, patience and kindness must go hand in hand. We have to let go of the irritation, annoyance, and worry in order to show true friendship, generosity, and consideration to the people in our lives.
How can I love deeply if I lack patience and kindness? I want to love deeply, don’t you? Rather than focusing on annoyance and anxiety, I want my heart to be filled with kindness that pours out on others and meets them where they most need it. There is a personal aspect to this too. We often overlook our own self-care and call it sacrificial but what if, in showing ourselves kindness when we fall short, we are allowing ourselves to grow so we can learn how to show more kindness to others? How often I get annoyed at myself for not being able to do something I feel I should be doing to be a good pastor’s wife, mother, or friend.
Our world is hurting right now. We are all surrounded by family, friends, and acquaintances that are suffering in one way or another. Our congregations are filled with people who hold their own hurt in their hearts, whether they show it or not. Each of us also has our own sorrow. Sometimes our hurts come to the forefront and impact how we live our lives. How we respond when this happens, either to other people or ourselves, defines our love. Are we able to face these circumstances with patience and kindness?
“Love is patient and kind.” Can we show love to others even when it is hard, even on the days when it seems impossible? Can we show love to ourselves by being patient and kind when we mess up, or when we need to slow down to take care of ourselves so we can go back out and love others better? Can we show patience and kindness when our husband or children frustrate us by doing that one thing that always drives us crazy yet again? Can we love like Jesus loved?
Next week, in Part Two of this blog article, I am going to discuss some practical ways we can show love both to the people in our lives, as well as ourselves, as we strive to live a life filled with patience and kindness.
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