Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
Colossians 1:11 NKJV
What a difficult portion of Scripture this is to live out, and one that is learned through trials, difficulties, and time spent in the spiritual wilderness that God often takes us through to test our hearts and refine our character. With patience we struggle and endure through suffering, with longsuffering we endure with gentleness and love, and with joy we rejoice in our sufferings.
Peter and the apostles with him rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame in the name of Christ, can we honestly say we would do the same? (Acts 5:41). If I’m honest, I struggle in this area. My first difficulties as a Christian were short, but it was the start of my testing and refinement that hasn’t stopped since.
I lasted a week through my first trials before crying out to God in anger, only to have Him step in immediately and ask “Why did you not trust Me?” Three times this happened, each season a week longer than the last. Yet the fourth time, after nearly a month, He didn’t respond. My circumstances got even worse, the pressure grew stronger and I felt crushed beneath the burden. It quickly became apparent that He was not going to rescue me this time, and I cried out “God, where are You?”.
Then I understood the lesson: He’d taught me three times that He was in control, that He was with me every step of the way, and that I needed to learn to trust Him and patiently endure. Yet the trials continue, because patience is not sufficient. A person can be outwardly patient but in turmoil and bitterness of heart, so longsuffering is needed as well. Longsuffering is to be loving and gentle of heart during suffering, not just patient through it. Then with maturity comes joy, allowing us to not only patiently endure but rejoice in our sufferings for the name of Christ.
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.