The God of the Bible has may characteristics. Honestly, one could use a considerable amount of time simply listing the character traits of God, much less thoroughly defining each one. There is one quality, though, that has been on my heart and mind quite a bit lately. I suppose the reason I have been thinking about it so much is because of how often I need God to exercise this particular quality when dealing with me. I am speaking of the seldom used word, “long-suffering.”
I believe the word “long-suffering” was once used more frequently than it is in today’s culture. I find that I run across this word more often in reading than I do in conversations. Observation tells me that people may tend to use the word “patience” where previous generations may have said “long-suffering.” I believe, however, this word does a much better job of describing the character of God. I believe it reaches a depth not found in the word “patience.”
The definition of “patience,” according to Merriam-Webster, is “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint.” Now, that is all well and good, but it seems to me this definition would apply more readily to humans than it would the Sovereign God of the universe. Consider the definition of “long-suffering” from the same source. Long-suffering is defined as “patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship.” Now we are getting somewhere. You will notice the word “patient” is used in the meaning of “long-suffering” so there is certainly a connection between the two words. But I believe the distinction is found in the word “offense.”
The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit, reminds us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24, CSB). Knowing all have sinned is important, especially when considering the meaning of sin and how it alters one’s relationship with God. The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament defines sin [Greek = hamartia] as “primarily a failure to achieve a standard (whether culpable or unintentional) in the broadest sense, both as deed and as the nature of the deed.” The key word here is “standard” because…whose standard is it? It is the standard of Jesus Christ.
You see, this is why I am constantly (it seems) being reminded of the long-suffering of God. Every time I personally “fall short” and fail to meet God’s standard in Christ I go through this process of conviction, guilt, self-pity, confession, repentance, forgiveness, and gratitude. It truly is quite the vicious cycle. God is abundantly long-suffering toward His children despite the “lasting offense” they keep causing by sinning against an infinitely holy God. It is this realization to which I came this afternoon. I received a lesson from the Holy Spirit regarding prayer, trust, and faith. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have been taught this lesson. You would think I would have learned it by now. Hence, my reflection on the long-suffering of God.
So the next time you fail God’s standard of His perfect Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, I offer you this counsel: confess your sin, repent, seek forgiveness, and thank God for his abundant grace and mercy. I serve an awesome, long-suffering God and I am so thankful.