Love is patient … (I Cor. 13: 4)
Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all. (I Thess. 5:14)
Keep loving one another earnestly … (I Peter 4:8)
I have a few friendships that have involved long seasons of enduring. It could be enduring physical suffering. It could be enduring emotional devastation from broken relationships. It could be enduring disillusionment with the Church and Christianity. For most, it’s a combination of some or all of the above. Sometimes, I’ve endured well. Sometimes, I’ve given up. “Really, you should be past this by now!” I read this excerpt today from Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb, which I also wrote about here.
We Christians are an impatient lot. We insist on gathering grain before it grows. We want to see flowers before spring and fruit before fall. When a brother or sister is going through a tough time, we insist that the Spirit’s work be obvious. Unless they speak of their trials from a spiritual perspective, we tend to apply pressure more than we dispense grace. We rarely belive that life is hidden in the barren tree. Let a friend express his exasperation with a four-letter word, and immediately we’re more concerned with his language than with his agony (oh, how painfully convicting).
No farmer goes to the orchard in winter to pick apples. Christians do it all the time. And when the fruit isn’t there, we walk off in disgust. The good farmer patiently waits with his basket, knowing he will soon fill it with delicious fruit. …
Two unwritten rules eventually surface in our response to one who hurts. First, mourning has a time limit. … At some point, we insist on victory. Second, we think there’s a proper way to mourn. Ugly battles should remain out of sight. … Church is too often a place of pretense and therefore a place without hope. When brokenness is disdained, where the real story is never told, the power of God is not felt. Where brokenness is invited and received with grace, the gospel comes alive with hope.
Crabb’s insight is very convicting to me. I get really angry when I watch other Christians give up on each other and write each other off. I hate it when I see their dispensations of grace expire on each other, and they either walk away or turn against one another. Yet, I do it too. I give up. I turn against. And sometimes, I just walk away. I like the old Kenny Rogers song, “You gotta know when to walk away, know when to run.” But much harder than running away is staying engaged in painful situations. It’s easier to write people off than endure for the long haul with a hope that transcends results I see this week, this month, or this year. Yet, that is the hope to which God calls us--a hope for ourselves, but also a hope for those around us.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. (I Cor. 13:7-8)