I Was Patient Before Having Kids

Recently a friend said, “I was much more patient before I had kids.” Saying this tongue in cheek, he meant that he’s realized that since becoming a dad, he struggles with patience. Now we know that having children doesn’t evaporate the parent’s reservoir of patience they previously enjoyed. Instead, being a parent presents a new set of challenges that reveal a lack of patience that was already there.

Patience Requires Trouble

Patience assumes something undesirable. It’s the who or the what we must be patient with. Think of its synonyms: tolerance, long-suffering, endurance, and forbearance. Who interrupts a relaxing sunny afternoon at the beach with this outburst, “I’m trying to be patient over here!” But throw in some adversity and see what happens. Maybe some seagulls attacked your lunch when you turned your back. Perhaps a group of people near you keep smoking marijuana. Or perhaps it’s something as simple as the clouds veil the sun. If you’re dealing with this in a period of an hour, you may lose your patience. It’s the difficulty that often reveals our lack of patience. For many parents, raising children presents unique challenges. But impatience is not limited to parenting. It could be your coworkers, traffic, the weather, or any number of things fitting in the bucket marked “trouble.” These are opportunities for patience.

God’s Patience is Shocking

This is what makes God’s patience with us so shocking. When we have kids, it reveals our lack of patience. But when God has children, it shows his abounding patience.

We read in Exodus 34:6 a description of what God is like. He is a God, “…merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” God’s patience here is reflected by this phrase “slow to anger.” It literally means “long-nosed.” Anger can show in a person’s nose. We can tell that the teapot is about to blow with flaring nostrils and a red nose. But God is not short-nosed (short-tempered); he’s long-nosed. He’s patient.

This isn’t because he has a bunch of perfect kids. Dealing with me isn’t like a sunny afternoon at the beach. I’m sure the same is true for you. We sin enough in an hour to shame us for eternity. And these are just the transgressions we’re aware of. If God were to mark iniquities, who would stand? (Ps. 130:3)

God’s patience is not due to any ignorance of our sins. He sees and knows everything. Where can we go to escape God’s presence? No matter where we go or how we try to hide, he is there and sees all. (Ps. 139:7–12) Furthermore, there must be something that God is enduring for it to be true patience. He patiently abides in love towards his people, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Ps. 103:8)

God is so aware of our rebellion that he sent his Son to come and save us from our sins. And it’s this truth that should shape our lives, compelling patience from us. We have all treated people unfairly. (And we have the potential and the inclination to do this over and over again!) But Jesus, who was the offended party in our sins, came and “endured from sinners such hostility against himself” (Heb. 12:3). He never sinned (Heb. 4:15; 1 Jn. 3:5). Even though he is infinitely holy and we correspond with infinite sinfulness, he never sinned. God has been so patient and loving toward his children. Indeed, this should compel patience and love from us.

Adversity reveals what we’re made of and what we lack. For many, being a parent shows a lack of patience and love. With God, on the other hand, having children reveals his overflowing patience and love.