Longsuffering as a Characteristic of Love

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When looking for the correlation between the fruit of the Spirit and the characteristics of love, it’s easy to see how longsuffering fits into the picture. As its name implies, longsuffering means “having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.” Synonyms for the word include patient, forbearing, and tolerant.

First Corinthians 13 tells us that love suffers long (vs. 4). It is patient. It doesn’t fly off the handle when things don’t go as planned. To put it very bluntly, love puts up with a lot of stuff. As if that straightforward statement in the love chapter weren’t convicting enough, it also tells us love endures all things (vs. 7).

In this context, the word endure means "to remain; to persevere; to bear bravely and calmly." Oh, good grief! It’s one thing to "put up with" last-minute schedule changes, overbooked work weeks, the dog’s latest tantrum, and the never-ending joint pain in my body, but to bear it bravely and calmly is another thing entirely. Who does this? Those who abide in the Vine.  

God is the Vine, and we are the branches, and I’ve got news for you: branches don’t produce fruit; the vine does. Branches only display it—that is, they’re supposed to. But that can’t happen when there’s a disconnect between the Vine and us. Maybe it’s sin in our lives. Perhaps it’s our unwillingness to let go and give God control. For me, I think it’s a tendency to strive to produce my own fruit, not because I think I’m better than God but rather because I feel the need to prove myself to Him and others. When I don’t see peace, joy, longsuffering, and the other results of love in my life, I think there’s something wrong. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough. Perhaps I need to do more. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

The entire time I’m striving, God is waiting for me to be still and abide, to trust in His provision. Even now, I know my place is to display the fruit and not produce it, but I still look at my life and find myself lacking. I read through these definitions of love and think, If only! But could it be that I’m trying so hard to whip myself into shape, I’m standing in God’s way? I heard the song just this past weekend, “Lord, keep me in Your will, so I won’t be in Your way.”

Notice, Galatians 5:22 tells us about the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit from the Spirit. Without the vine, we cannot bear fruit. Without love, we cannot be longsuffering. Love is the element that keeps us from harsh reactions and hasty responses. It helps us approach life and its troubles more bravely and calmly. To endure hardships. To put up with personality clashes and schedule conflicts. Yes, with love, it’s even possible to experience significant loss and still say, “It is well with my soul.”

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
— John 15:4-5

Peace as a Characteristic of Love

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I went to bed at the regular time last night. After the busy weekend, I knew I was still tired and figured I would have no difficulty sleeping. If only that had been the case! I tossed and turned the entire night as my brain insisted on running down the list of things to do for the next day and rehearsing the things I did (and didn’t accomplish) that day. Every action, every word was carefully run through the microscope as my brain churned into overtime.

That brings me to today’s characteristic in the fruit of the spirit: peace.  The word “peace” is defined as freedom from disturbance; tranquility; quietness; calmness; security; of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” Peace is the exact opposite of what I felt last night as my thoughts tossed and turned me about like clothes in a dryer.  As far as the last part of that definition is concerned, I didn't doubt my salvation, but the portion about fearing nothing and being content was sadly lacking. My mind was troubled and anxious, not so much over any one thing but many little things. And so peace and rest eluded me.

When I studied out the connection between the fruit of the Spirit and the love chapter, the concept of peace gave me pause. At first glance, I had trouble linking one of the attributes of love with peace. We could say that peace is not easily provoked, but temperance is a much better fit for that characteristic. Likewise, peace does not behave itself unseemly, but goodness is a better representation of that.  

Then I came to the phrase, “hopeth all things.” That’s it! That’s how love exemplifies peace. Hope is quiet confidence or expectation. It’s so much more than a wish or desire. Hope is a firm belief—one that doesn’t waver no matter the circumstances. It is security, an anchor for our souls.

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
— Hebrews 6:19

In that anchor—that hope—there is a tranquility, a calmness. There is contentment and a freedom from disturbance. This hope doesn’t focus on the problems of the present but the promise of the future. It offers peace and rest, and it all begins with love. A love for God that is so strong we cannot help but to trust Him. A love for others that dares to look beyond their current faults and failures to see what they are capable of. And even a love for ourselves that cares enough to say, “Don’t lose sleep over those things. They are temporary. Set your sights on the eternal, and rest in the light of the things to come.”

Love brings forth peace. And peace is hopeful, untroubled like a placid lake. Steadfast. Sure. Calm.

Do you know what? I just took my first deep breath this morning, and it felt so sweet. Peace is possible, and that’s the best news I’ve heard all day!

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
— Isaiah 26:3

This scene from the movie, Kung Fu Panda, always come to my mind when I’m talking about peace. This is me, on a typical day, trying to calm my mind and find peace. “Inner peace. In-, in-, in-, inner peace.” Enjoy this short clip!

Joy as a Characteristic of Love

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Yesterday, I shared with you some new insights into the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. If you missed it, you’ll want to go back and check that out before reading any further.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
— Galatians 5:22-23

Today, I’d like to go through each of those attributes one by one to see how they correspond to the characteristics of love outlined in I Corinthians 13. In keeping the thought that the fruit of the Spirit is love, let’s begin with the first trait listed, which is joy.

Merriam Webster defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; delight.” On the surface, that sounds shallow and perhaps as if the word is being used interchangeably with “happiness.” But, if we see how Strong’s Concordance defines joy, we’ll discover this: “cheerfulness; calm delight; gladness.”

When I first read these two definitions, a particular Bible verse popped into my head.

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
— Psalm 37:4

Delight. Desires. Sound familiar? The Bible also makes it clear we are to rejoice in the Lord, which means to have joy in Him. So, what does that have to do with love? How are the two connected? To find that out, we need only look at the love chapter, I Corinthians 13.

Verse 5 tells us that love “seeketh not her own.” Love is unselfish. It puts others first. That’s precisely what joy does. It’s been repeatedly published as the very definition of joy. When used as an acronym, joy stands for Jesus, Others, and You. It’s all about putting others before ourselves, making sure that the needs of others are taken care of before caring for our own needs. Joy—as an outflow of love—is selfless.

Verse 6 continues by telling us that love rejoices in the truth. It finds joy in what is true and right. Without love, joy couldn’t exist. They go hand in hand—not so much like peanut butter and jelly, but more like a cow and milk. Milk is a by-product of the cow just as joy is a by-product of love.

The remarkable thing is that joy doesn’t end there. Not only is it a by-product of love, but it is also the source of strength according to Nehemiah.

Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
— Nehemiah 8:10

That strength then leads to a whole host of possibilities in Christ (Philippians 4:13). Do you see what I’m getting at? Love is the root of it all, and that only makes sense when we consider that God is love. I’ve often found myself on the search for joy. Sometimes, it seems to elude me, and I waste valuable time and energy trying to either find or create it. But, until my love is right, joy won’t be there. It can’t be. The good news is, now I know where to look. Joy can’t be found in my circumstances or my comfort zones.  It can only be found in God, in love—true love.