When was the last time you had to wait, really wait, for something you didn’t think you should have? Be it pizza delivery or a long prayed for pregnancy that never seems to come, we all have moments in our lives that seem long.
To God’s perspective it doesn’t seem but a moment, to ours it can feel like a lifetime. What exactly does it mean to “suffereth long”? This phrase is often rearranged to be identified as long-suffering or patience. It’s amazing to me how many of the statements in 1 Corinthians 13 relate back to our need for patience. As a sometimes very impatient woman, that can be a little discouraging. Perhaps the fact that it is listed first, and then multiple times, can give us some insight to its importance to the Savior. He was the perfect example of long-suffering and patience. I think of the many times the crowds pressed him for answers they thought would discredit him. I think of the many times he had to teach and re-teach the same principles until His disciples could understand them. I think of the many times He was not allowed any personal space as the masses pressed upon Him and pled for Him to serve them when He was already exhausted. Yes, Christ suffered long. We are all striving with a sincere desire to be more like Him; still, our everyday lives seem to get in the way. Our basic human nature cries out to understand: what exactly what are we to suffer and for exactly how long?
To me, I think the key is to look back at the root of what we are suffering for. The scripture in its entirety reads: “ However, in this instance it is charity: the love of Christ in our lives, that is to endure with patience. It is the attitude we maintain behind the suffering, not the suffering itself. It is those things we endure because of love that must withstand the test of time: the love that we have for a wayward child, the patience we maintain with an elderly parent, the suffering and compassion we feel for a friend in need. These must suffer long and be endured as the Savior would.
There is, however, a different kind of suffering that the Savior does not expect us to endure. I speak of abuse in any form. The Lord does not ask us to suffer injury to our spirits or bodies in His name. This is not charity and need not be suffered long. Rather, He is asking us to improve ourselves, our divine nature, our willingness to love others as He does, and show forth patience and long-suffering as we learn these life lessons.
This distinction, however, does not mean worthwhile experiences are never painful. Rather, the pain can at times bring the sweetest blessings. However, if the act is not centered in love and charity, it is not of Him. It is not growth and emulating the Savior’s life to let others destroy ours. On the same note, it is not growth and charity to try to tear down or destroy others, or try to make them follow the path you have chosen for them rather than the path the Savior has chosen for them.
If charity is to suffer long in our lives, how can we show forth righteousness and a willingness to patiently endure, to show forth His love when we would rather follow a different path?
1. We can look to the scriptures. They are full of righteous examples to help us understand the Lord’s timetable and show us the power of waiting on the Lord.
2. Take time to evaluate our current circumstances. Where have we overlooked the hand of the Lord, what areas would He have us develop greater love and patience in?
3. Look toward those around us for examples of loving kindness and patience. Develop a plan to become more like those that we admire.
4. Set a daily goal for more patience in one area of your life.
Charity is a life long project, so is each element of its nature. Choose an area of patience and long-suffering that you can affect and see it through. Recommit to your goal each day and ask for the Lord’s guidance and direction as you try to meet that goal and “suffereth long”.