Have you ever prayed to become more patient only to regret that prayer later? Almost immediately after praying it can seem like God threw all kinds of things your way to strengthen your patience when that wasn’t the plan you had in mind!
This is the first of a series of posts looking at the descriptions of love in the “love” chapter in the Bible found in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s been said that “patience is a virtue,” and it is…but in marriage it can also be elusive. The word “patience” literally means “long-suffering.” It carries the idea of enduring when things are hard, unjust, or unresolved. Disappointments, tension, stress, annoying behaviors, habits that get worse through the years, neglect, high expectations…and so much more can create the fuel of a nuclear bomb called impatience that is ready to explode in your marriage.
So how do you defuse the bomb? You can’t control your spouse’s behaviors, but you can control your response. Here are six ways to grow in patience and, as a result, infuse a greater expression of love in your marriage.
Patience is an outer reflection of the work of God in you. The first step in developing patience is to tell God that you want to grow in patience. Yes, it could mean more challenges will come your way :), but more likely what will happen is you will be increasingly attuned to God’s promptings, guidance and strengthening.
2. Practice Self-Awareness
Would your spouse think you are impatient? If you asked, would they be afraid to answer? (That may be a clue right there!)
When you “lose it” or have a sharp edge in your voice, what are the triggers that set you off? Being mindful of the triggers is an important step to growing in patience. When you are aware of a situation that could ignite a flare up of emotions in you, immediately say a prayer and ask God to help you be patient in the moment. What you cannot do on your own you can do with His help.
Be aware of your body language and tone of voice as well. Are you scowling? Looking with displeasure? Raising your volume or speaking with an edge? Patience is more than your inner emotions. Patience is expressed in your entire demeanor.
3. Practice Self-Control
Often we lose patience because we cannot control our spouse. We may not like what they did, how they did it, when they did it or why they did it. Resolve the fact that while you cannot control your spouse, you can control YOU. If you tend to react quickly, try to get alone to calm down before responding.
4. Practice Laughing More
One way to practice patience with your spouse is to smile when you might otherwise show displeasure. Let your face lead the way for your emotions. A gentle laugh, a pat on the hand or rub on the back may be all it takes to lighten the mood. Before long, you’ll find yourselves laughing about things that months earlier would have created a wall.
5. Practice Keeping Short Accounts
If something truly needs to be discussed and worked through, then do so with the best timing to achieve understanding and resolution. Choosing not to talk things through can allow them to build up inside like an over blown up tire that eventually explodes.
6. Practice Giving Grace
Grace is giving what is undeserved or unearned. It’s what God has given to you through Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf on the cross. It’s what God shows to you as you continue to make mistakes, sin, and disappoint him. He loves you unconditionally. He is patient with you. And He expects you to show the same grace to your spouse.
So which practices do you need to focus on to grow in patience? This is a great place to start as you build your marriage!