Define “love.” What is love? The Merriam-Webster definition of the noun,”love,” is: “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person,” or “attraction that includes sexual attraction.”
Now, those are pretty familiar definitions, but is that all love really is? Is love merely “feelings of affection” or “sexual attraction,” or is it more? If love is nothing more than feelings or attraction, you can bet it won’t last long. Feelings and attraction can come in a day and leave just as quickly. Thankfully, love is not simply feelings or attraction. Love may RESULT in these things (feelings, attraction), but they are by no means what love IS. Love is selflessness. Feelings are fleeting, but a choice to love is solid and unwavering. 1 Corinthians 13 gives many examples of what love truly is and what it isn’t.
The first quality of love, listed in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, is patience.
Patience has been a struggle of mine for years. I was born impatient (at least that’s how it felt), and grew to be impatient before I had the wisdom to realize I had done it. I tried to work on it, but my patience never lasted for long.
My husband was quite possibly the biggest reason I ever had for being patient. Don’t take me wrong here, I don’t mean he was hard to get along with; on the contrary, he was very easy to get along with. We were just beginning our relationship together at the time, and it was wonderful. He was a very patient person (he still is), and didn’t like it when people got “bent out of shape” about things. His incredible patience and desire for others to have patience was what drove me to pursue patience and contentment. I don’t know if he even realizes it, but he was the reason I tried so hard to be patient at home. I’m so thankful for his constant example to me. Now, I’m significantly more patient than I used to be (though definitely not as patient as I will be someday), and I’m much more content.
Patience stems from contentment; if you’re consistently content, you have no reason to be impatient with others. I tried to work harder on patience when I was younger, but I didn’t realize that I wasn’t solving the real problem; I was only attempting to fix a symptom of the true problem. Working on the outward appearance of patience without simultaneously addressing the underlying discontentment is like putting on perfume instead of showering; sure, it might fix the symptoms for a while, but when the perfume wears off, the same dirt and stench still lie beneath.
How does one learn contentment? Before you do anything else, pray. Ask God for contentment, because He is the only one who can change the desires you have. If you don’t have the desire for contentment, but want to desire contentment, ask Him for the desire to be content. We can’t change the desires we have, but when we ask God fervently, He can and will change our desires. He will give us the desires of our heart — the right desires. Only then can we begin to be content.
Here are some practical things that have helped me in this process of breaking the habits of discontentment (you can add your own in the comments below! I’d love to hear them):
- Spend time meditating on truth, thinking about truth, speaking truth to yourself, and singing truth to yourself. Spend time grounded in truth.
- Compliment other people. You’d be surprised at how much seeing the good in others helps you to start looking for good everywhere.
- Compliment yourself. People often criticize themselves more harshly than others, and forget to compliment themselves. Looking in the mirror and saying something like “Your eyes are stunning today!” or “Good job at accomplishing ______!” is not prideful; it’s a joyful, content attitude!
- When situations go badly, keep the right perspective (remember #1, speak truth). Look for the good, whether it’s immediate good in the situation, or good that could come of it later down the road. God uses the most terrible situations to bring so much good (I can say that from experience). This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cry, nor does this mean you shouldn’t grieve over things. Keep perspective, and trust God through the tears and grief.
Breaking habits doesn’t take a day, or even a week, so don’t lose hope when you make a mistake! Change is a process. Trust God and move forward with confidence.
Thoughts? Questions? Comment below!