One morning a man (We’ll call him Dave) prayed to God, “Lord, please give me patience, I know that’s something I will need in order to follow You and show You to the world.” He got up feeling much better, knowing that God hears and answers our prayers. He opens his bedroom door and begins to walk into the kitchen, only to smell something burning. He dashes into the kitchen to find his wife nowhere in the vicinity, his breakfast, or at least what was supposed to be his morning meal, charred to an inedible mess in the stove, along with the smoke alarm beginning its shrill warning. Caught between attempting to clear the smoke from the room and turning off the smoke alarm, Dave’s ire is rising quickly. When everything is finally put in order, he finds a note left on the kitchen table. “The children and I are spending a morning in the park. Don’t forget your breakfast that’s in the stove, and your business meeting that is at 9:00 am.” Dave groans and slaps his forehead as he looks up at the clock on the wall. 8:50 am. He has ten minutes to make a 20 minute drive to his office. This meeting could prove to be the most important of his career. It could mean promotions and pay raises.
“Great. My wife decides to think of the children today, and not me.” He hurriedly grabs his briefcase and car keys and begins to walk out the door. As he’s pulling out of his driveway, his car hits something and lurches to a stop. Now close to exploding, Dave jerks the car door open and gets out to see what has impeded his departure. His son’s bicycle.
“How many times have I told him not to leave his toys in the driveway!” Dave yells as he leans down to pick up his son’s bicycle. He flings it to the side and prepares to leave once more. He makes it to work, but not in time for the meeting. He strides in just as everyone is leaving. His stomach grumbles as he is reminded that his breakfast is at home in the trash. Going to the kitchen, he fixes himself a cup of coffee and walks out to start the day. He lifts the coffee to his lips right at the exact moment one of his co-workers quickly rounds the corner and crashes into him. The coffee bounces up and relinquishes it’s contents all over Dave.
“Well, coffee is great, but I wouldn’t wear it. You should watch where you’re going next time, Dave!” His coworker calls out as he jogs down the hall past Dave.
“You could at least have the decency to apologize!” Dave yells back. “What’s wrong with people these days?” He muttered, as he walks back to the kitchen to attempt to regain some of his shirt back from the coffee that now splattered the front.
Early afternoon, Dave had a customer come in who refused to be placated. Everything they wanted was either out of the question, wouldn’t be delivered in time, or something of that nature. Finally, Dave had all he could handle. As the customer’s voice rose, so did Dave’s. “If you’d just listen to me, you might be able to find what you’re looking for!”
“Well! I can just take my business somewhere else if that’s how I will be treated!” The customer left in a huff, slamming the door on their exit.
Fast forward to that evening. As Dave walked into his house, coffee stains and all, he is greeted by the sounds of his children’s voices raised to an abnormal level.
“DAD! He hit me, and then wouldn’t give me my toy back.”
“Nuh-huh. She hit me first.” His son crossed his arms and his lower lip started to protrude.
“Did not!” The daughter got in her brothers face and he proceeded to push her to the ground.
“You know what, I don’t have time for this. If you two can’t treat each other right for just one evening..” Dave stopped, noticing that his raised voice had both of his children staring up at him with lower lips quivering and tears threatening to overflow. He brushed past them and went to the bedroom. He sat down on the bed, and prayed. “Father, I don’t understand. I prayed for patience this morning, and there were so many times today when I could’ve used some patience. Why didn’t I receive what I asked for?”
Ok, so I’m probably not the best story writer. But hopefully I can get my point across.
I’ve fallen into this trap before. The mindset that we pray to God to give us some quality and expect Him to zap us, and then bam, we have one of the fruits of the Spirit. I’ve come to realize that’s not how it works. We ask God for love, patience, kindness, peace, etc. and He gives us opportunities and instances in which we must use these qualities. They don’t suddenly appear in our lives. We must always be aware of situations that come and wonder, “Is this an opportunity God has given me to work on _____?” We have to stop ourselves and begin to apply the fruits of the Spirit on our own.
Like Paul said in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned, whatever state I am in, to be content.” Paul wasn’t suddenly zapped with contentment one day. He had to endure shipwrecks, beatings, stoning, imprisonment, etc, etc. He had to learn. Learning takes work, commitment and dedication.
When we ask God for patience, realize that He is going to send you times when you want to throw everything out the window and blow up at everyone you know. When we ask for love, He will send us times when we would rather hate and throw punches than love. When we ask for peace, we should expect circumstances that will threaten to throw our lives into a rollercoaster ride. When we ask for wisdom, we may be recieving times that we must seek God and spend time in His word to get our answers. And so on and so forth.
Just as in 2 Peter 1:5, we are to add these qualities to our lives. God doesn’t add them for us. We may feel that God isn’t answering our prayers, while in reality He has been all along. We just haven’t noticed it.