According to Webster’s Dictionary the first known use of the word longsuffering was in 1535. Today the word is rarely used and mostly misunderstood. Many believe it is interchangeable with with patience. While the definitions are similar the distinction is very important. To understand the difference we need to find the biblical definition. You see it is possible to be patient and not longsuffering. We must examine this further to know how to walk in the spirit.
Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; ~Col. 1:11
As you can see from the Word, patience and longsuffering have separate definitions and purposes. We need to learn the distinction if we are to understand the part of the fruit of the spirit which is longsuffering.
Longsuffering comes from the Greek word makrothumia which means slow anger or long temper. The word specifically deals with people. Paul instructs Timothy to exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:2) In Ephesians 4:2-3, Paul uses the word longsuffering when speaking to the Christians in Ephesus on how they are to relate to one another.
Examples of Longsuffering:
God is longsuffering so that man will repent.
A mother is longsuffering when she lovingly deals with a child who is out of will of God.
We are to be longsuffering with those who are lost and those who are backslidden.
Patience comes from the Greek word hypomone which refers to dealing with circumstances. Romans 12:12 speaks of being patient in tribulation. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to run with patience the race that is set before us.
Examples of Patience:
One exhibits patience during a trial.
A man waits patiently as the Lord directs him to a new job.
Despite financial trials we are patient and know God is fully in control.
Longsuffering is not the same as patiently waiting in line at the grocery store while holding a crying baby and running late for an appointment. Longsuffering is involves the patience we show toward those who betray use, persecute us, and have fallen from the will of God. God told Hosea to continue to love his prostitute wife and free her from slavery despite her constant unfaithfulness. It is a picture of how God exhibited longsuffering for Israel.
How faithful in love and compassion are we to the faithless or the ones who hurt us? Determine when enough is enough for you and ask yourself when enough is enough for God.
But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. ~ Psalm 86:15
The portion of fruit called longsuffering is not the armour to endure financial trials, waiting in long lines, or seeking employment. It is the armour to endure those who persecute us, harm us or have fallen away. Developing this part of the fruit has little to do with us and everything to do with allowing God’s strength and unwilling nature that any should perish come through our hearts to touch another. Do not be discouraged as the weight of longsuffering seems overwhelming. Through God’s grace and prayer you can develop this portion of the fruit of the spirit.