BCC Staff: This week we feature the top ten posts from 2011 – 2016. We hope these posts encourage, edify, and challenge you!
One of my favorite knock-knock jokes goes something like this:
Clown: “Knock, knock.”
John Doe: “Who’s there?”
Clown: “Impatient cow.”
John Doe: “Impatient c—…” (interrupting)
Clown: (interrupting) “Moooooooooo…”
I hope this silly joke made you laugh, although that was not my purpose! The simple point is that an impatient cow will not allow John Doe to finish his expected line of “impatient cow who?” because the cow is so impatient. That is the essence of impatience: it is unloving, unkind, and self-focused.
You may have said (or heard someone say): “I made the mistake and prayed for patience this morning and got stuck in traffic for two hours today. I learned a very valuable lesson today: never pray for patience!” That’s often the way we think about patience, but what does the Bible say about patience and impatience?
Impatience and Its Relationship to Love
In the “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13:4a states: “Love is patient and kind…” I stop there because it is by God’s design that His very first word choice to describe agape love is patience.
Agape love is the way the Lord loves us: unconditionally. It is not based upon how we love Him, but upon how He chooses to love us despite how we love (or fail to love) Him. If you have been a believer very long, you understand how patient God has been with you and your struggles with sin. Agape love is first characterized by patience, and if we are to love like God does, then we also must learn to be patient.
I had a counselee one time tell me that he was the “most impatient person on the planet.” I responded with this simple statement: “Turn to 1 Corinthians 13:4 and let’s read that verse together.” I had him read the verse aloud over and over until he got it and said, “Wow, so I am unloving when I am impatient.” I smiled because God opened His eyes to see the truth about God’s character and his own character in that one moment.
We must understand that those impatient moments at the grocery store, in the car stuck in traffic, or at home with our families reveal a selfish, unloving heart. Even as believers, we can fall prey to our flesh and place ourselves first above God and others. When that happens, it is sin and we must confess it immediately and learn to replace those thoughts, words, and actions with patient, loving ones for the glory of Christ to accurately reflect His forbearing love.
Biblical Counseling Applications
One of my favorite biblical counseling verses is 1 Thessalonians 5:14: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (emphasis added).
As biblical counselors, you and I must treat the idle differently than the fainthearted and the weak, because each of those three types of counselees needs something different from the Lord. However, we are to be patient with them all because that is the one element every counselee needs both to learn as a counselee and to receive from the counselor. Patience reflects the love of God.
How do we teach patience to our counselees? It is a tough question, because patience is better learned as “on the job training” than in a classroom. Similar to how Jesus taught His twelve disciples with “on the job training,” biblical counselors may need to teach patience in the moment (within a session). In addiction counseling, we often meet with counselees daily. At the very least, these counselees are often required to call in daily for accountability purposes. Those phone calls almost always afford us a teachable moment regarding patience and love. Because of how they have learned to think, addicts tend to be very self-centered and unloving people, yet solid biblical counseling will lovingly confront them with the truth for the purpose of sanctification. Any counselee confronted with loving truth will have a choice to make: accept the counsel and be sanctified or reject the counsel altogether.
There are many verses that address patience, such as Romans 12:12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Instructing our counselees to be patient in tribulation really is a “faith statement” on their part and asks the question: Are you really trusting Christ or giving lip service to trusting Him? Patience is not only reflected as an aspect of loving God and others, but it is also a powerful statement about whether we believe God is both sovereign and good. A counselee’s theology will be lived out in the simple moments in life wherever a choice to be patient or impatient presents itself.
Have your counselee journal those moments of victorious patience or defeating impatience in between sessions if you do not meet daily with your counselees so you can apply the Word that will “discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12) surrounding each session.
For the biblical counselor, as a minister of the gospel called to speak God’s wise counsel to others, 2 Timothy 2:24-26 is clear:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Counselors are to “patiently endure evil,” which means the counselee may not like the Word of God being taught to him and rebel; nevertheless, the counselor is to learn to “correct his opponents with gentleness” so that the good purposes of God will be accomplished.
Isn’t our ultimate goal that God would grant our counselees repentance? Patience and gentleness in correction are tools that God may use to turn a wayward soul from death to life. What an honor to be a part of that process, but you will likely never see it occur unless you are patient as a counselor, disciple-maker, pastor, teacher, or trusted Christian friend. Patience may best be taught as you model it before your counselee in all humility and grace.
More can be said about patience, but not in this brief blog post. So I encourage you to study the matter in the Word of God and find gems like Ecclesiastes 7:8: “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”
Patience is a key element of the biblical counseling process, disciple-making opportunities, and in the Christian walk in general: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). We can be thankful that our Father in heaven was, and continues to be, patient with us. As a result of that kindness, we can show that same patience to others as a tangible way to say, “God loves you.”
Note that you can do this same joke with a duck, sheep, dog, cat, horse, or any other animal with a distinct sound. I highly recommend you try this series of jokes out with a 4 year old sometime.