Patience is Being Slow to Anger

We hear these words in Exodus 34:5-7 as God reveals Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai,

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

God’s patience is demonstrated when God forgives the sins of His people.  This description of God as being merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness is repeated numerous times in the Old Testament and is foundational in God’s revelation of Himself (Number 14:18, Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3).

Scripture also speaks of patience as an attribute that God’s people are to imitate.  In order to be patient with each other as God is patient with us, we are called to be slow to become angry, irritated, annoyed, mad or livid.  These passages in the book of Proverbs urge God’s people to develop patience and to be slow to anger:

Proverbs 14:29

“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
    but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

Proverbs 15:18

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
    but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

Proverbs 16:32

“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
    and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city”

James repeats this godly wisdom as he says this about patience:

James 1:19,20 
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Patience is expressed in how we treat one another.  It is an action. This is a very convicting and challenging passage because it is so difficult to be slow to speak, and slow to become angry.  A relevant question to ask yourself is, “Why is something eating at me and causing me to be quick to become angry?”  Then we can pray for God to heal us inwardly, to help us get rid of any bitterness or unforgiveness which may be festering inside us.  We may need to seek God’s forgiveness for our own sin.  We may need to deal with other upsetting issues in our lives that are making us prone to anger about totally unrelated subjects.

Our sinful nature is selfish and self-centered, and we follow the opposite path of what James commands. We are prone toward being quick to speak and quick to become angry. Although many of us will mature only slightly in this fruit of the Spirit, we must continue to ask the Lord to forgive us for our sins and His mercy and grace to grow more in this godly virtue.  Don’t give up! We must remember that patience is a gift that we receive from God and not something we attain by our own strength. Yet, we also need to cooperate with God to work this virtue in our own hearts. May God’s peace and mercy be with us as we seek God’s gift of patience.