Trying to be More Patient Than Job

file0001894206932“Is your middle name Job?” the woman asked my wife. “You sure are being patient with me.” Sharon just smiled and encouraged the elderly and forgetful assisted living facility resident. I smiled too when she told me about it the next morning, and it got me thinking about patience.

Was Job really patient? Despite the expression, “the patience of Job,” I didn’t remember Job as seeming particularly patient. What is patience anyway?  Looking up the definition of patience I found this:

Patience, noun

  1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
  2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay

Hmm. Not so sure I’d call Job a patient man. Yes, he bore a lengthy period of misfortune and suffering, but not without complaint or irritation. Checking a Bible translation comparison site revealed that it’s the King James Version where Job is credited with patience. More modern translations use perseverance, endurance, and steadfastness instead.

Here are several versions of James 5:11

KJV – Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

NIV – As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

NLT – We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

ESV – Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Not being able to read the ancient Greek, I’m not able to evaluate the exact word for myself, but these latter alternatives seem to better reflect the nature of the story to me.

I’m not writing to cast aspersions on Job, I’ve had no suffering like his, just to relate how my thoughts were going. After meditating on patience for a day or so and getting to this point, I brought my attention back to myself. Am I patient? How good am I at enduring trouble with a cheerful or calm demeanor? Better than I used to be. I’m doing okay at this “ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.” Then I left for work.

Facing an hour drive, I popped in an audio CD with the monthly Bible message from Ligonier Ministries. R.C. Sproul’s teaching usually begins on the second track, following some introductory comments on the first track. This day the introduction seemed prolonged and boring, and I got irritated. Going to skip a track, I noticed that I had only been listening for about 3 minutes. That woke me up. Wow. I’m really not that patient. I need to work on this.

I had my chance five minutes later when traffic backed up for half a mile on the approach to Interstate 4. I had forgotten to allow additional time for construction at the ramp and was again immediately irritated – with the delay and with myself. After just a minute I thought – Here I go again! It’s just that easy to slip into impatience. It’s ingrained more than I know. – and then I relaxed. Nothing to do now. I’ll get there when I get there.

And as you might have guessed, I didn’t experience a substantial delay. I arrived right on time only to walk in and have to wait for an elevator. What’s up? These are taking longer than usual, I thought to myself. Then a flash or recognition – No, not this again! Third time this morning! Yes indeed. Third time’s a charm as they say.

I get it. I accept it. I should be more patient, and I’m going to work on it. Be patient with me, I’m a work in progress. You are too. Whatever you’re working on, keep at it.