If you’re at all like me you’ve suffered setback after setback, on every level, over the past month or so. You’ve seen your plans for your relationship, career, social life, exercise, travel, and whatever else, disrupted along with everyone else’s as the pandemic swept over us and the lockdown descended. But the upset didn’t end there. This altered state of life affords the perfect opportunity for tackling, and triumphing over, the vices we’ve struggled with for so long, whether it’s as singular an issue as getting out of bed on time, or a lingering problem like laziness, procrastination, or difficulty in prayer. However, the perfection of the opportunity to address these problems has made it all the more frustrating when we fail to do so. The past month has been a real lived insight into what St. Paul is talking about in Romans 7; the interior conflict between good and evil:
“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19)
If the situation is evaluated with purely human eyes, it seems hopeless. This is the conclusion St. Paul gave voice to when he went on to cry, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” But his answer speaks of our solution, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25). Love himself delivers us from the tired, old tracks we keep falling into, but He does this with a trait we must learn from him: patience.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul faithfully relates to us the nature of love, and it is in the very first line of this famous passage that he tells us, “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4). I have found myself returning to this exhortation increasingly as I’ve grappled with my faults, as I’ve grown frustrated with them. Love is the remedy to all ailments, and it is just as important that we apply it properly to ourselves. In this case, the way to love yourself properly is to be patient. St. Padre Pio offered wisdom here when he stated that “you must hate your faults, but with a quiet hate, not troublesome and restless.” Patience is born of humility and counteracts pride directly. It is a prideful thing to assume that you ought to be getting over your faults faster than you are – it is patient and humble to assume that God is helping you in his own good time, provided you are continually giving him the room to do so. To be patient is not to desire freedom any less – it is to understand that freedom does not come about through your efforts alone, but primarily, it comes directly from your relationship with God.
In all of our dealings with God, we must remember:
“that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9)
God has his plan, and if we are continually praying and giving our assent to his action in our lives, patience is how we allow it to proceed at God’s pace. The alternative is to grow frustrated, to become agitated, and slowly but surely, to grow in distaste towards God, the world, and yourself, as none of them move according to the pace you set for them. So during this difficult time, take St. Francis de Sales’ words to heart:
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.”
God desires our happiness, and making us patient is one of the key ways he gives it to us.