But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. –Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
Patience is probably the fruit I have struggled with the most in my life, so it’s the area I struggle the most in my marriage. God has chastened me and grown me so much in this area over the years, but the reality is there are still plenty of days that I want what I want when I want it. And I don’t want to wait. If there is nothing pressing on my “want-er,” then I can be patient…but I still struggle to put down what I want and wait for God to move far too often.
Before I saw any growth in this area of my life, I had to first understand how the fruit of the Spirit works inside of us. The fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of His Spirit working inside of us. Our fruit is our behavior—the outward manifestation of what is going on in our hearts. If our heart is fear, our fruit is going to be anxious behavior, like panic attacks. If our heart is anger, our fruit is going to be bitterness or lack of forgiveness. If our heart is despair, our fruit is going to be depressive thoughts or inaction. If our heart is foolishness, then our behavior is going to be addictive in nature, like eating or drinking.
But when our hearts are filled with His Spirit, the fruit that comes out is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. When He has a hold of our hearts, these are the behaviors that are evident. We don’t have to think about them, they just happen.
I think one of the most common mistakes Christians make when they read this list of fruits is they think, “I need to do those things more.” They set about trying to become more loving, more joyful, more patient in their responses to people. They think if they are believers, they are supposed to act more like this list, so they determine to become more loving or more patient. But that isn’t how it works. When we try to become more loving in our own strength, we will inevitably fail. And when we fail at it, we beat ourselves up for a while, then we usually resolve to do it again. We get caught in this sin-confess-repeat cycle. This was my struggle for years. I just thought I needed to become more patient, so every morning I would wake up and resolve to do better.
We cannot simply resolve to become more patient and expect for our behavior to change. The way to grow in the fruit of the Spirit is not to determine to become gentler or kinder or more patient, but by determining to grow in the Spirit—the fruit will happen all on its own. You don’t have to think about how to become more patient, you have to think about how to grow His Spirit. Learning this has been transformational for me.
We grow His Spirit by doing those things He calls us to do—spending time in the Word and in prayer, serving others, meeting with other believers in church and small group, storing His Word in our hearts. When we do these things, our fruits, or behaviors, will naturally change.
Now, in order to understand the fruit of patience, we need to understand the words that were originally used in Scripture. There are two Greek words that translate into our word for patience: hupomone and makrothumia. Hupomone refers to the hope and perseverance we need when we have to bear up under a difficult circumstance. We need patience to wait on God’s timing as we face challenging situations. This is the fruit of the Spirit that is evident when someone is facing a trial, and they have a supernatural trust that God is sovereign in that trial, and that He will move when He is ready.
Makrothumia, on the other hand, means long-suffering in respect to people. This patience requires heaping amounts of mercy and forgiveness. We are not to judge other people for their wrongs—we are called to simply forgive them, choosing instead to allow God to be the judge.
For marriages to be successful, we need the Spirit to give us a heaping amount of both. Over the course of time, marriages will undergo deep and difficult trials that have the potential to destroy the bond between man and wife. These trials don’t necessarily have anything to do with sin caused by either husband and wife, but are the result of suffering because of circumstances outside of the marriage. Difficulty getting pregnant or the loss of a child, devastating financial loss or tragedy, a difficult medical diagnosis or caring for elderly parents—these are all heart-breaking trials that can rip a marriage apart as each seek to point the finger of blame. We want it to be someone’s fault, or we want our spouse to respond differently than they are capable of responding when the pressure of a trial is on. When your eyes are focused on God, and the Spirit is given the opportunity to fill you with hupomone, He rushes in with His supernatural patience as you face those moments.
Likewise, we need the Spirit to fill us with makrothumia to make it through the day-to-day challenges of living with a broken person. The reality is your spouse will break your heart—they can’t help it. They will say and do things that will cut us to the core and the enemy would like nothing more than to have you nurse that wound over and over. Marriages that make it to the finish line are filled with a supernatural amount of mercy and forgiveness. We can’t let it go, but if we allow the Spirit to fill us with makrothumia, He will take it from us.
Patience in our trials and with our spouse can only come from the Holy Spirit. When we come before God and confess our sin of selfishness, and we actively seek Him for endurance in our trials and patience toward our partner, when we focus our energies on those things that strengthen our Spirit, we find He fills us with the supernatural patience that can only come from the Spirit.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗