Galatians 5:22,23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Many of us have suffered from events that come at us from the outside. In addition there is the suffering we face from physical sickness, ungodly attitudes of those around us, difficult relationships and the pressure of daily life. In the midst of this suffering, Jesus is teaching us, by His Spirit how to suffer well, how to see meaning and find hope in our lives when we are under attack.
None of us likes to suffer. To suffer is to be a victim of the pain and the circumstances which brought the suffering to us. Yet God’s love gives us power through His Holy Spirit to accept life and to find goodness in living even while we are victims of situations we despise. The Greek word for longsuffering is macrothumeo, which in our attitude toward people means not losing patience with people, however unreasonable they may be, and which does not lose hope for them, however unlovely and unteachable they may be. In regard to our attitude toward events, it is the forbearance which endures injuries and evil deeds without being provoked to anger or revenge.
Longsuffering is not a grim, bleak acceptance of a situation. Because Christ lives in us, we as Christians wait “not as one who waits for the night, but as one who waits for the morning” (William Barclay). In the Bible, patience is not a spineless submission to whatever comes along, an inexhaustible willingness to put up with everything. Christians realize the redemptive value of suffering in creating Christlike character in us. Romans 5:3, 4 says “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
To be longsuffering is in a sense to be free, utterly submissive to God and His will. To earn the description “longsuffering” we have to make a decision for what we do not want, choose to live indefinitely with what we hate. (Lewis Smedes) The person who is longsuffering sees eternal benefit to temporal discomfort and is willing to allow God’s process of sanctification to run its course. Longsuffering is the power to be a creative victim. It is not passive. “It is a tough, active, aggressive style of life. It takes power of soul to be longsuffering. God’s love song is not in praise of merely hanging on. It is in praise of power, the power of affirming and creating life in the midst of suffering.” (Lewis Smedes)
So, whatever you are suffering from, pray that God will give you the power through His Spirit to affirm and create life, to see meaning and find hope in its midst.