Human nature hasn't changed over the centuries, and this ancient wisdom can still helps us today.
These are not easy times for anyone. We’re facing uncertainty on many fronts, starting with health and finances. And it’s very likely that the pandemic also is affecting our personal and family life. Anxiety often makes us impatient. This impatience creates additional problems in our relationships with loved ones and friends, and can make us hard on ourselves.
This is hardly a new problem, however. Human nature doesn’t change. Throughout history, great philosophers and theologians have addressed the question of how to nurture virtues, particularly patience, in the face of life’s trials.
Patience is a sign of strength
We should not forget that patience is part of the virtue of fortitude. Being patient means controlling our first impulses, not giving in to anguish or stress, and not losing sight of the meaning of life beyond the difficult circumstances we may be facing.
For more inspiration, let’s look at what three great early Christian authors had to say about patience. Their wisdom can still help us today.
1Tertullian (2nd-3rd century)
Tertullian points us to the example of patience that God himself gives us.
God “from the beginning of the world, distills the dew of his light on the just and sinners alike … He tolerates ungrateful peoples, who worship idols and the works of their hands; and who persecute his name and his family.”
“His patience continually endures lust, avarice, and shameless iniquity, to such an extent that, precisely because of this, the majority do not believe in Him because they have never seen Him punishing the world.”
“Being a king He became a teacher to teach men how salvation is attained; well acquainted with patience, He teaches by it the forgiveness of our guilt. He will not vociferate or raise his voice and will not make his voice heard in the street. (Isaiah, 42:2).”
“(Jesus) did not despise sinners or publicans… He healed the ungrateful and tolerated those who only watched and waited. And if all this seemed little, he still endured the traitor who was by his side without betraying him.”
“For those of us who enjoy the gift of faith, such sufferings prove that patience is something natural to God.”
2St. Cyprian (3rd century)
If patience is “a thing that is so beloved of God, what can we do but love it, since by His having loved it He further recommends it to us?”
“It is the Lord Himself who warns us: ‘All this I have said to you that you may find your peace in me. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world’ (1 John 16:33).”
“Reflect, dear brethren: patience not only preserves the good, but its efficacy extends so far as to drive away all evil.”
3St. Augustine (4th-5th century)
“Human patience, which is right and laudable and worthy of the name of virtue, is understood to be that by which we tolerate evil things with an even mind, that we may not with a mind uneven desert good things, through which we may arrive at better.”
“For this is just, that we who from our first felicity of Paradise for stubbornly disobedient appetite for things to enjoy were dismissed, through humble patience of things that annoy us, may be received back.”
“The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts,” not verily from ourselves, but “by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.” And therefore from Him comes the patience of the just, by Whom is shed abroad their love of Him. The Apostle praising and setting off that charitable love, says that, among its other good qualities, it bears all things. ”