Patience and longsuffering.
The essentiality of patience and longsuffering during this Advent season may be just the discovery Christians require as 2016 comes to an end. It has certainly come as a much needed discovery in my own life as the insidious beast, known as depression, debilitates members of my family this year.
We are supposed to be light in a dark world and known for our unity. Our love for each other is supposed to be so great that people know who we are because of it. Perhaps there is no greater darkness than to be trapped in a mind-generated prison that keeps the light out. Perhaps there is no tougher job than to be a family member trying to help a loved one escape that darkness. I’m certainly beginning to believe that this is the case.
With mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, unceasingly on the rise in America, wouldn’t it be telling if we were able to become the cure for many as we reflect Jesus and live with power that comes through the practice of patience and longsuffering. What would happen if we allowed Spirit to work deeply in our lives and transform us into true healers like Jesus?
Jesus’ journey was marked by patience and longsuffering as he learned to trust Father and Spirit to do what only they could do in his life.
Patience is endurance in the midst of difficult circumstances over an extended period of time. Longsuffering is an attitude or frame of mind that is gained during those difficult times. Patience and longsuffering are part of the journey that Jesus modeled for us to live, and Spirit took thirty years preparing him for that final test in the wilderness before he was ready to become a healer for the Ages.
Maybe we should slow down and let Spirit do the work in us. A deep humility and dependence might make us attractive to a wounded, broken and longing world.
I think I’m becoming more humble through this almost year long ordeal in my life. I hope I’m becoming a healer of sorts, bearing some resemblance to my Savior and my Guide.
I think Paul was trying to help us see this:
“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave…” Philippians 2, The Message
Advent is a time to remember our waiting for Christ to come and reconcile all things, to heal and make all things right. But as we wait, our lives should be foretastes of his return. They should be glimpses of his healing touch every moment of every day as we live with power, love and self control on the Earth.
The great news is that this is Spirit’s work in and through us. It is not our ability or skill that makes it so. Our job is to actively wait through the practice of patience and longsuffering. It is a humbling journey, but I’m finding joy along the way as I keep my eyes on him and know he’s calling me this way.
The Serenity Prayer is a source of strength for me. Perhaps it will be for you as well:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Byron McMillan is the Director of Content and Training at Jobs for Life and a member of CCDA Cohort 6.