Last week, we saw how living with God’s wisdom and understanding allows us to develop character traits of endurance and patience, which leads to impactful lives lived with gratitude. Most of us would love to leave a legacy of these two enduring attributes: impactful and thankful.
But the concrete question then becomes, how do we develop the two character traits of endurance and patience so our lives will be impactful and gracious?
Let me suggest that we only develop the two character traits of endurance and patience as we experience difficult or challenging times. We often admire the faith or attitudes of another person, but too often we are not willing to go to where they went to “school” to learn it. I can honestly say that I have never seen a person who has made a significant impact (“bearing much fruit”, from last week) and possesses a deep sense of gratitude without going through some significant breaking time.
There are those who have made a significant impact with their lives, but their life is characterized by arrogance rather than graciousness because they didn’t live their lives with a sense of God’s wisdom and understanding which precluded them from being totally broken.
Then there are those who have a deep sense of gratitude in their lives but they have not made a significant impact (from our perspective). This may be a result of us simply not being aware of their impact on the lives of others. However, it may also be that these are the ones who were broken very late in life and didn’t necessarily live much of their lives out of God’s wisdom and understanding. Therefore, God didn’t use them in the lives of many others.
As I look at those lives that have demonstrated impact and gratitude, they almost always result from seeking to live in God’s wisdom and understanding through the difficult times of life and through brokenness.
It is intriguing that both character traits, endurance and patience, are things we all want; we just don’t want to go through what we must to develop them. Like building muscles only happens as we put our existing muscles through stress. Or you can only learn to swim by getting in the water and struggling to coordinate breathing with your upper and lower body movements—the same with endurance and patience.
We experience positive growth as we face difficult and challenging times, that is, times we would rather not be facing, but we choose not to remove ourselves from them. We choose to find the wisdom of God and understanding of life to persevere and thereby develop endurance. In other words, when we trust and live by God’s wisdom amid challenges, we build our capacity for endurance to a greater level.
The same is true for patience. Patience isn’t patience until it is tested. That is, patience isn’t patience until you don’t want to be patient. Greater patience develops as you develop the ability to put up with smaller challenges. As you gain the strength to handle smaller issues with patience, are you then given opportunities for greater patience. This is why older people can demonstrate greater amounts of patience and endurance because they have had a lifetime of opportunities to develop them.
Also, realize we are never done with learning God’s wisdom and understanding. We have opportunities to develop these to greater and greater depths the longer we live.
Before I close, I need to ask why are there a lot of grouchy old people rather than ones who developed patience and endurance as described above? I think the answer is rather obvious: they never learned to live by God’s wisdom and understanding. When we seek God’s wisdom, we are acknowledging that we don’t know all we need to know. Seeking God’s wisdom is typified by humility and curiosity. Seeking God’s understanding similarly begins from a position of acknowledging our perspective is not sufficient to make sense of ourselves, others, or the world.
From my observation, grouchy old people are bitter because their lives don’t match their expectations. They feel that they know what’s best and have created expectations to match their understanding of the world around them. Their bitterness is a result of their lives not matching their expectations, politically, emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, maritally, economically, spiritually, relationally, or in some other way. Since their experience doesn’t match their expectations, they become bitter rather than grateful.
The next time you meet a grouchy old person, check me out on this: Ask them how their life differs today from what they expected…and then listen to them complain about unmet expectations.
On the other hand, when someone has sought God’s wisdom and understanding for a long time, their expectations are shaped by His wisdom and understanding. Then, they live a life of gratitude demonstrated through patience and endurance.
By God’s grace, this is who I desire to be as I age.