Italian artist and inventor, Leonardo Da Vinci, once said,
Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases it will have no power to hurt you. So, in like manner, you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.
David knew the power of “great wrongs.” He expressed this in many of his psalms, perhaps nowhere more powerfully than Psalm 35. In that prayer, he recalls how badly he had been mistreated by those whom he had treated well. “Malicious witnesses” had risen to accuse him. He had formerly done “good” to those “malicious witnesses” but they had repaid his good with “evil.” He had prayed for healing when they were sick, but they had rejoiced at his suffering (vv. 11–14).
Do you know the feeling? Do you know what it is to spend your energy ministering faithfully to someone only to face unkindness and malice in return? Do you know what it is to pour your life into someone only to have them turn on you without a cause?
In some ways, that is par for the course in the Christian life. If you are committed to one anothering other sinners, you can pretty much count on it that, at some point, someone will repay your kindness with unkindness, your good with evil, your prayers with mockery.
When this happens, it is natural to wonder why God has allowed it. It is natural to feel as if God is silent and even to feel as if you have done something wrong to deserve such mistreatment. While there may well be times when God withdraws from you because of your sin, Psalm 35 shows us that that is not always the case—that God’s silence is not always God’s absence. Sometimes, God’s silence is designed to test and produce in us patience—to cause us to wait patiently on him.
Waiting patiently on the Lord means, in part, a commitment to not repay evil with evil. It means, instead, a willingness, if necessary, to suffer injustice as you leave it in God’s hands. After all, this is the example that Jesus left for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21–23). Patience means focusing less on our opponent’s punishment or our vindication and more on praising God who always does right and will ultimately right all wrongs.
A commitment to not repay those who wrong you is not the same as neglecting to pray for vindication. David clearly shows that here. While he was willing to patiently wait for the Lord, he nevertheless poured out his heart before God, pleading for deliverance and vindication. But he did not try to vindicate himself. As he felt the bitter cold of accusations from those to whom he had been so good, he clothed himself with layers of patience, which enabled him to faithfully meet the wrongs he faced.
Ultimately, patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), which means that we must walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) in order to see him develop patience in our lives. But there are also some practical ways we can cultivate patience in our lives.
First, we can learn to wait on God. Rather than rushing ahead of him and ensuring that things happen according to our time schedule, we can learn to trust that he does things in his time. Rest in his sovereignty.
Second, we can pray for patience. It may not be easy to experience the answer to this prayer, but since God’s will for us is to grow in patience (or else it would not be a fruit of the Spirit) we can be sure that it is a prayer he is willing to answer.
Third, we can learn to express gratitude. Impatience is often the result of ingratitude, but when we learn, or make the decision, to be thankful to God in all things, we learn to grow in patience.
If you are human, you will be tempted to impatience today. Let’s look to Christ together, learn to rest in God’s sovereignty, express gratitude to God in all things, and ask him together to teach us patience.