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17 - THE PURSUIT OF VIRTUES: PATIENCE

PATIENCE:

The importance of patience is given to us by the Lord Himself. Speaking of the Great Tribulation that will come before His second coming, the Lord tells us, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matt 10:22) And again, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” (Luk 21:19)
In speaking of these last days that precede His second coming, the Lord tells us, “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luk 18:8) and again, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matt 24:12) This means that faith and love will be weakened in those perilous days, but “he that endureth (is patient) shall be saved.” And by patience one can possess (or preserve) his soul. Patience may be the virtue that saves one in those last days. The book of Revelation, which speaks to us about the last days, again stresses the importance of patience in overcoming the difficulties of those last days. “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev 14:12)
But patience is not only important for survival in the last days, it is important for our spiritual survival today. “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” (Heb 10:36) Even after doing the will of God we still need patience in order to receive the promises of God. “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.” (Jas 5:7) Patience is what keeps us going, and struggling towards perfection, in the hope for the “precious fruit.” Again, “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” so tells us Saint Paul (Heb 12:1).

THE TRAINING FOR PATIENCE:

Like with any other virtue, ask the guidance of your Father in confession. Then pray to God asking Him to guide you in using the many occasions that he grants you everyday in order to practice patience. Do not, however, imitate the person who prayed to God saying, “God please give me patience, and I want it right now!”
God, in His love towards us, gives us plenty of chances to practice and acquire this important virtue of patience. Unfortunately, because we are not “tuned” towards God properly, we fail to realize these opportunities and most of the time we miss taking advantage of them. For example, you are out of a job and it has been two months now. You have sent hundreds of resumes to various places, you have been praying fervently, but, alas, not a single response. You start blaming God and asking, “Why is God doing this to me?” The answer is this, God is giving you a golden opportunity to practice patience. It is the easiest thing for God to give you a job right away. But an instant job will not lead you into the Kingdom of Heaven, patience will. So, God gives you a chance to practice and acquire patience, and the sooner you do it, the sooner he will give you that job!
More often than not, we are absorbed in the problem, trying to find out why is God doing this, or trying to solve it on our own without ever realizing why God in His mercy is sending us this problem. Saint Paul tells us in Romans 8:28, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” That means every thing that happens to us is for our own good, if we love God. A wise person then, as soon as something happens that he does not understand, should ask himself, what message is God sending me? What virtue does God want me to practice now?
Saint Paul again tells us in Hebrews 12:11, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” What this means is this, even though initially, the problem may not be something that brings joy to us, yet if we use it as an exercise in patience, the fruits will give us peace and joy.
“My kids are driving me crazy!” said a mother to me, and I told her, “You are lucky!Your kids are the school of virtue which will lead you to eternal life, you should thank God for them!”
The Bible tells us again and again that “problems” are good for us because they teach us patience. “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (Jas 1:3-4) That means, trials and tribulations create patience in us, but we are warned that this “work of patience” has to be perfected (through practice) before we ourselves reach our goal of Christian perfection.
Saint Paul tells us the same thing in Romans 5:3-4, “tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience.”
Once we get it into our heads that all difficulties that are sent our way are meant for our own good, that we may through them exercise ourselves and be experienced in patience, we will have no problem acquiring this saving virtue.
Having recognized the “problem” as an opportunity to practice patience, I have to prepare my mind for using this opportunity to its fullest potential, or “let the patience have its perfect work” as Saint James tells us.
If it has been two months without an interview, I should resolve within my mind, “Even if it takes two years without a job, in order to acquire perfect patience, I will endure it.” Comfort yourself by saying, “God loves me, and that is why he wants to give me the incorruptible instead of the corruptible, the heavenly instead of the earthly and the eternal instead of the temporal.”
Strengthen yourself by saying, “ The sooner I resolve within myself to ‘endure to the end’ the sooner will God solve the problem for me.”
One of the saints once said, “You cannot describe to someone the taste of honey, he has to taste it himself.” What this means is, you have to try this yourself. You have to exercise yourself in this virtue faithfully before you feel the sweet results of your exercise. And the results are worth it, for they will endure with you. Once you have completed this exercise successfully, the experience will remain with you till the end of your life. You will always go back to the same resolve that you initially showed and remember the sweet fruits of that resolve; how God after giving you the grace of patience throughout your tribulation, has lifted your tribulation and has given you more than you ever hoped or asked for. You are now well grounded in patience and ready to move on to the next step on the ladder that leads to Christian perfection.


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