“The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression.” – Numbers 14:18
A couple of people recently asked me if I found them annoying. It was on two separate occasions, and each person is not necessarily connected to the other. I found the coincidence thoughtworthy, and it made me analyze how I handle people who do things in life differently than I do. Do I show true patience when anyone is annoying me?
The modern word most commonly used to explain the biblical term “longsuffering” is patience. I think this might be a mistake, though. Patience has a widespread application, and its meaning has great range. I often see patience like a stiff, emotionless nanny standing in the kitchen with arms crossed watching me clean the floors at what is certainly for her too slow a pace. She is not mad, nor is she rebuking me. She simply stands in perfect silence waiting for me to get my act together.
But longsuffering has a greater relational quality to it. It implies that the "suffering" is meant to be shared. A person who suffers long with others would not only wait with you in the emergency room, but they would also be willing to go grab you a bite to eat while you endured medical imprisonment. They choose to go the extra mile both with a cheerful heart and an eagerness to serve.
That is how Christ taught patience. He didn’t watch His disciples from the top of a hill clucking his tongue when they messed up. Rather, he got down to where they were at, and He demonstrated what right behaviour looked like. To say that Jesus went the extra mile for them is an understatement.
And in fact, He has gone the extra mile for you and me. We blow it every day, and yet, the Bible tells us that God’s wrath has already been satisfied. He stays alongside us every day, even when we blow things up. And he is not shaking his head when we fall. Rather, His Spirit which dwells in the hearts of believers lovingly finds ways to help us course correct and to mature in our spiritual walk.
So, when you encounter people (loved ones or acquaintances) who annoy you, take a moment and ask yourself if your response to those people is what needs to change. Be a longsufferer like your Lord Jesus, being willing to go the extra mile for others.