Finding the Root of Our Impatience

“I am a mom of an almost 2 year old girl and lately my patience is getting worse! When you are losing patience, what part of the bible do you run to?”
I was recently asked this question by a reader and thought it to be a terrific opportunity not only to reflect on my own heart, but also on what the Scriptures have to say about our struggles with impatience.

Many of us, especially those with young children, find ourselves losing the battle to remain cool, calm, and collected when our patience is being tested. Quite frankly, the hope for change can appear slim as we see ourselves falling into the same response patterns time and time again. Yet as with any issue of the heart, God’s Word has much to say about our impatience, just not in the way we might think.

The biggest key in overcoming our impatient tendencies is to first recognize it as a sour fruit of a bad root. Our impatience is a red flag of something else lying under the surface—a deeper heart issue that is being exposed by our inability to extend grace to our children or loved ones.
The biggest key in overcoming our impatient responses is to first recognize it as a sour fruit of a bad root.
Here are some common examples of how impatience might look in our day, and the biblical sin that is producing what the Scriptures would call a "fruit of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19-20):
Underlying Sin Example
Anger My daughter clings to my legs while screaming and crying, even though I know all her needs are met. I yell and push her away, angry because she's interfering my ability to do the chores.
Strife/Bitterness My husband forgets to empty the cat litter, even though I asked him this morning. I snap at him rudely because this isn’t the first time he’s forgotten, and I wish he would just do what he said he was going to do.
Pride I’m driving through traffic and stuck behind someone driving below the speed limit. I honk my horn and flash my lights because I want them to know I have important places to be and I need to get there quickly.
Somewhere in our impatience is the passion we have to be served, to be in control, to be obeyed—to be like God. Pride is our biggest stumbling block to growing in patience.
"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?"
James 4:1
Personally, the Lord has shown my issues with impatience are tied to anger and bitterness. When I fail to give grace to my children, it’s because I’m angry at their behavior or the inconvenience they're causing me.

Other times, I'm bitter about having to deal with their sin because I'd rather be doing something different—something my desires deem more important. Underlying all of this is my pride—the feeling that I deserve better than what the other person (child, or otherwise) is giving me.

By giving a biblical label to the sin uncovered by our impatient responses, we can know the precise Scriptures to seek out and pray over. It's not until we address these underlying issues within our hearts that we can weed out those harmful roots—making room for the fruit of the Spirit to bud forth (Galatians 5:22-23).

Once we've pinpointed the root cause of our impatience, we need to confess it—not only to the Lord, but also to others. Confession and repentance are critical. We cannot assume the Scriptures are a wand to waive while we await some magical dose of patience. God does not obey for us, but he does give us the strength and power to put off sinful responses when impatience knocks on our door (1 Corinthians 10:13). What we ultimately need is a supernaturally changed heart—one that will remain faithful to obeying God when we aren’t getting what we want. The only way to achieve such a heart is by the work of the Holy Spirit.
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
Psalm 51:10
The Spirit propels us toward heart change as we identify sin, confess it, repent of it, and seek forgiveness from those we’ve been impatient with (Proverbs 28:13, James 5:16, 1 John 1:9). We may think it to be silly to apply our faith in such a way with a toddler or young child, but we aren’t looking to heal their hearts of anger and pride—we are looking to change our own.

Therefore, even confessing and asking forgiveness from your little one when you have slipped into the impatience trap for the umpteenth time is of tremendous value. After all, is there ever too young of an age to model this biblical exercise of faith? From whom else are they to learn?

In the thick of the moment, when feelings of anger rise up within us, may our prayer for help from the Lord turn into confessional plea. Let’s confess as soon as we feel the selfish desires and motives within us, which prohibit our ability to give graceful attention to our children:

“Lord, I am growing angry over this {inconvenience, situation, accident, behavioral issue, etc.} I repent of my anger and ask for your grace to change my heart! Remind me of your unending patience toward me, the biggest of sinners! Empower me by your Spirit to respond gently in love. 'Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!'" (Psalm 143:10)
Christine M. Chappell
Author/Writer/Speaker
Christine Chappell is the author of Clean Home, Messy Heart and is the host of The Hope + Help Project podcast. She writes frequently about depression, sorrow, grief, and motherhood at her blog, has completed biblical counseling certificates with the Institute for Biblical Counseling & Discipleship, and is currently pursuing certification with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Christine's writing has been featured at Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, Risen Motherhood, Servants of Grace, Thrive Moms, Devotable, and For Every Mom.
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