The fourth Fruit of the Spirit is longsuffering. I’ve always closely related longsuffering to patience, but once I looked up its definition, I realized it’s more than just patience. The definition is the following:
Bearing injuries or provocation for a long time; patient; not easily provoked.
That definition takes it a step above mere patience. Longsuffering is patience in times of adversity and struggles. It’s being able to take wrongdoing without lashing out. It’s the ability to stay humble during trials and recognize that, overall, God is in control. This is why longsuffering is a fruit of the spirit. I have observed many unsaved people who possess great patience, but only Christians following close to God can have true longsuffering.
And as we have looked at in the previous studies, each fruit needs the previous ones. If we do not have peace, how can we expect to handle things that go wrong? But if we do have peace and reliance upon God, we can see the bigger picture, and through that, persevere through our trials.
Many Scriptures that mention longsuffering are about the Lord Himself.
The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4, it mentions that charity “suffereth long.” Is that not how the Lord deals with us? How often, before we were saved, did we sin and trample on His Son’s sacrifice? Yet when we came to the cross, He accepted us and gave us eternal life. How often, after we were born again, have we fallen to those same sins over and over again? Yet God, in his love and longsuffering, continues to forgive and bless us when we acknowledge and move on from those wrongs. How great a God is the One we serve!
There are many people in the Bible who we can learn from who show this fruit. The most obvious one is Jesus. He was rejected by His people, betrayed by His own disciple, then sentenced to death for crimes He did not commit. Then He went through so much torture before being nailed to the cross in agony. And how did Jesus deal with these unjust and evil people? Did He call fire down from heaven to consume them? Did He wipe the earth clean? No, He responded with, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” If that is not true longsuffering, I don’t know what is.
Jacob showed longsuffering with his uncle. He worked seven years for Laban’s daughter, Rachel, yet he was tricked into marrying Leah. The Bible states that ten times Laban changed his wages, yet you see no retaliation or bitterness in Jacob. Joseph was longsuffering with his brothers. As second only to Pharaoh, he could’ve had them all killed for the evil they did to him. Yet his response was, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.” David showed longsuffering with Saul. Twice, Saul tried to kill him for no reason, and spent many years hunting him down. Yet, twice, when David was given the opportunity to kill Saul, he didn’t.
There are many others who show this great Fruit of the Spirit. Remember these people when you feel the urge to lash out at those who do you wrong. When you are tempted to feel angry at God, remember His longsuffering towards you. Remember, “all things work together for good to them that love God”. In every circumstance, it worked out. We can look at the accounts of people like Joseph and Job and easily see God’s great plan, because we know how it ends. However, those people didn’t. When Joseph was sold into slavery, he had no idea he would become a ruler of Egypt. When Job lost everything, he didn’t know he would eventually gain more than what he had before. Remember this when you are tempted to question God. You are living through the trial, while God is already on the other side of it. Have longsuffering with the people and trials in your life. Don’t let them sow seeds of hate and bitterness in your heart. Keep and guard this Fruit of the Spirit.
Note: A proofreader of mine pointed out that longsuffering involves love. One cannot be longsuffering without it. That is how marriage works; the spouses, through love, have longsuffering with the faults of the other. This makes perfect sense as the first Fruit of the Spirit is love. As each fruit hinges on the previous ones, longsuffering cannot exist in a person without the love of God inside.