Thursday, 20 September 2012

The joyfully long-suffering parent

Are there times when you find it hard to be patient with your children?

Wait, don't answer....'re going to say "yes" - am I correct??

How did I know, you ask?

Because I find it very hard myself.

Knowing children as as I do, and knowing parents as I do, patience is a toughie.  We have challenges, pretty much on a daily basis, that test our patience.   That make that particular fruit of the spirit, a hard one to put into action.

Whiny children.

Squabbling children.

Children who drag their heels when they are supposed to be getting on with something.


Childish behaviour.

The list is long, and probably varies from family to family.  But the truth is still the same.  We need a heaping dose of patience to deal with children the way we ought to.  That's why I think the KJV using the word "long-suffering" gives a more accurate picture of how this plays out.  It's not just being patient - like you want your children to be when their Birthday is approaching, or a special trip is due to happen.

Where does the Bible mention this "longsuffering"?

First of all, we are told that it is how the Lord deals with us.

"But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth."
Psalm 86:15

Do you see that description?  The ways in which the Lord deals with us?





If these are the ways that the Lord deals with me, sinful as I am, can I show any less to the children God has blessed me with?  My heart sinks when I read these, because I know that I am so often lacking in these things, when I deal with my children.

So, we have the Lord as an example in long-suffering.  Then, we are directly told to have this very same thing in our own lives.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering"
Galatians 5:22

"With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;" 
Ephesians 4:2

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; "
Colossians 3:12

We have been told that long-suffering is something we must possess.

So, what IS it?

It is from the Greek  "makrothumia" (that is, (objectively) forbearance or (subjectively) fortitude)

This is the same as "makrothumos" (with long (enduring) temper), or slow to anger.

Slow to anger?  Again, this brings us back to how we hear the Lord described in the Old Testament - the Psalmist, Nehemiah, Jonah, Joel and Nahum all describe the Lord in this way.

He doesn't get angry quickly.   Despite our failings, and our lack of love and obedience, He doesn't get angry with us in a hurry, because we are His children and He is gracious.

Did I mention children somewhere?  We are God's children and He deals with us with long-suffering and grace.  Our sinful nature, that requires God's patient dealing with us, somehow prevents us from showing the same to those around us, and so often, our own children.

It was this verse that got me thinking about it today, as I am studying through Colossians with my Good Morning Girls group.

"Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness"
Colossians 1:11

I knew already, obviously, that I was to have long-suffering.  It's part of that fruit we are to show as believers.  It seems to be that we think of putting it into practice with more ease with everyone other than our own children, or indeed our husbands!

The great encouragement I took this morning, when trying to apply it to my own life, was this.  I struggle day in and day out with showing patience and long-suffering with my children.


Because I am not trusting in God's might and power to accomplish it.  I am not leaning on Him enough - not having Him rule in my life enough - not having the thought of pleasing Him come before all else - not relying on His unfailing strength to achieve a patience of spirit.  We are told it is ours - we just need to claim it!  We need to throw ourselves upon the Lord and by so doing, show our children an example of a gracious and loving parent - and example of how the Lord Himself deals with us in our sin.

The thing, though, that really struck me were the words at the end.

"with joyfulness"

The number of times when I have had to try and be patient, and it's almost through gritted teeth that I try and smile and deal with them gently, without lashing out in anger.

This "almost tipped over the edge, not very cheery" response.

The "I know this how I should behave but it's a struggle" kind of way.

But, we are told here that we are to have JOYFULNESS in how we do it.  With cheerfulness and calm  delight, which is what Strong's concordance translates this word to incorporate!  

Calm delight.


When our children are clamouring, bickering and being childish.  When we are weary with discipline and chastisement.

We are to have cheer?

How on EARTH can we have calm delight?

Well, I got to thinking about that and came to this conclusion. We can delight because we HAVE our children to deal with at all.  We can delight because we have God's grace in our lives that gives us the desire to train them up in the right way.  We can delight because this stage of life won't last forever. We can have delight because we know that if we are faithful to deal with our children the way that God expects us to, we will reap the benefit as they grow older.  We can delight because we know that God will continue to help and strengthen us if we cast ourselves upon us.  We can delight because these same children give us endless joy in the moments when they are not being a test to our patience.

We CAN be a joyfully longsuffering parent.  We just need to rely on God's strength and seek His help every moment of every day, and it can be ours to experience.

Now, off I go to put it into practice!

"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." 
Proverbs 16:32  

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