Patience is a virtue, but long suffering takes patience to a whole new level. As Christians, we’re called to be patient in suffering, but what exactly does the Bible say about long suffering? If you’re wondering how long you’re expected to patiently endure hardships or how suffering produces godly character, this comprehensive guide has the answers you need.
In short, the Bible teaches that God uses trials and tribulations to refine our faith and develop Christlike virtues within us. As we trust in God’s sovereignty and timing, long suffering produces proven character, spiritual maturity, and an eternal reward.
Defining Long Suffering in the Bible
Patience in Persevering Through Trials
The Bible encourages believers to patiently endure hardships and trials. According to James 1:2-4, we should “consider it pure joy” when we face trials because it develops perseverance and maturity in our faith. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
This requires actively choosing to patiently press on through difficulties with our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Patience in suffering requires faith and hope that God will ultimately work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We can rest in God’s sovereignty, trusting that He will provide the grace we need in each moment (2 Corinthians 12:9).
As we turn to Him, the Holy Spirit produces patience, kindness, and self-control in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
Steadfastness in Prolonged Sufferings
Many biblical heroes like Job, Joseph, David, and Paul endured intense sufferings that lasted for years or decades. God calls believers to steadfastly endure trials without wavering in our faith or giving up hope.
James 5:10-11 exhorts us to follow the example of the prophets who persevered with patience in the midst of sufferings. Job demonstrated incredible steadfastness as “an example of suffering and patience” (James 5:11) despite losing everything. His steadfast faith was ultimately rewarded.
Paul and other apostles also modeled joyful endurance through chronic hardships (2 Corinthians 6:3-10). Their steadfast commitment to Christ stemmed from an eternal perspective and deep conviction that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Why Does God Allow Suffering?
For Discipline and Correction
God allows suffering to discipline us and lead us back to the right path when we go astray (Hebrews 12:7-11). His loving discipline helps transform us into the image of Christ and produce righteousness in our lives.
Chastisement from God should not discourage us, but remind us of God’s love and fatherly concern for our wellbeing.
For Spiritual Maturity and Christlike Virtues
Suffering builds endurance, character and hope in our lives (Romans 5:3-4). It humbles us and leads us to depend on God rather than ourselves. Times of affliction can allow God’s power to rest upon us (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Suffering teaches us to be patient and kind during hard times.
As we experience God’s comfort during trials, we can comfort others with the same consolation.
To Refine Faith and Reliance on God
Suffering tests and refines our faith like gold is refined by fire (1 Peter 1:6-7). It reveals areas where we still depend on ourselves rather than fully trusting God. As we cry out to God in distress, our faith and relationship with Him can grow deeper.
We begin to appreciate God’s sovereignty, goodness and loving care in new ways during painful trials of affliction. Suffering keeps us dependent and rooted in Christ.
To Fulfill His Purposes and Plans
God can use suffering to accomplish His divine purposes and plans, for example:
- Suffering can bring repentance and restoration like in Jonah’s life.
- It can display God’s grace and work as with Lazarus’ death (John 11:4).
- It can humble prideful hearts as Paul’s thorn did (2 Corinthians 12:7).
- It can lead people to salvation as the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:27-34).
- It can establish our true allegiance to God as seen in Job.
- It can develop ministry and service gifts as seen in Joseph’s slavery (Genesis 50:20).
While suffering is painful, God promises to use it for good to fulfill His redemptive plan (Romans 8:28). We can rejoice knowing He is accomplishing greater purposes through it.
Examples of Long Suffering in the Bible
Job’s Perseverance Through Suffering
The Old Testament book of Job provides one of the most well-known examples of long suffering and perseverance. After losing his wealth, health, and children, Job refused to curse God (Job 1:20-22). Despite intense grief and pain, Job maintained his faith in God.
When his friends accused him of sin, Job defended his integrity (Job 27:5-6). After God allowed Satan to afflict Job, God eventually vindicated Job and blessed him with twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10).
Job’s patient endurance serves as an inspirational model of long suffering and steadfast faith in the midst of trials.
Joseph’s Steadfast Faith During Trial
In the book of Genesis, Joseph endured intense suffering yet remained faithful to God. After being sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph worked as a slave and was later falsely imprisoned for years (Genesis 39-40).
Despite being misunderstood, forgotten, and wrongfully accused, Joseph trusted in God’s sovereignty. When freed from prison, Joseph forgave his brothers and even saved Egypt and his family from famine (Genesis 41-47).
Joseph’s story reminds believers that through trials and injustice, God remains faithful to His promises.
David’s Patience While Being Pursued
King David demonstrated remarkable long suffering when pursued by King Saul. Although anointed by God to be king, David patiently endured over a decade as a fugitive while Saul tried multiple times to kill him.
Despite opportunities to seize the kingdom or take Saul’s life, David spared Saul and waited for God’s timing (1 Samuel 24). He endured bitterness from his own people when they wanted to stone him (1 Samuel 30:6).
David’s patience under duress and injustice foreshadows Christ’s suffering at the hands of sinners.
Throughout Scripture, we find inspiring examples of steadfast saints who endured suffering with faith in God. Their courage, perseverance, and trust in the Lord despite intense hardship motivate believers today to also patiently endure trials and remain faithful.
By clinging to God’s promises, we can have hope that He will ultimately deliver us and turn our sufferings into good.
How to Develop Long Suffering
Cultivating long suffering, or the ability to patiently endure hardships, is an important part of the Christian walk. Here are some practical ways to grow in long suffering based on biblical principles.
Trust in God’s Sovereignty and Goodness
The key to bearing up under affliction is trusting that God is in complete control and has a good purpose for allowing trials in your life (Romans 8:28). Even when circumstances seem senseless, remember that the Lord of all creation works all things for the good of those who love Him.
Surrender control to His capable hands.
Draw Near to God in Prayer
Pour out your heart to God in prayer when facing difficulties that test your endurance (Psalms 62:8). Ask Him for strength, wisdom and peace as you go through troubles. Let His comforting presence refresh you.
The Lord invites you to cast all your cares on Him, so take full advantage of His offer (1 Peter 5:7).
Meditate on Relevant Scriptures
God’s word equips you to suffer long (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Verses like James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5 and Hebrews 12:1-3 remind you of the godly purpose and fruit of enduring trials. Meditate on such passages. Let biblical truth renew your persevering spirit whenever hardships threaten to wear you down.
Remain Faithful Through the Trial
Stand firm in your faith while passing through the fire of afflictions intended to refine you. Determine beforehand not to relinquish your trust in God or act unfaithfully towards Him under pressure (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Pray for His grace to help you be patient and faithful when tested severely (Hebrews 4:16). You will reap great reward if you persevere under trial (James 1:12).
The Blessings and Rewards of Long Suffering
Spiritual Maturity and Christlike Character
Long suffering helps develop spiritual maturity and Christlike character in believers. As we patiently endure trials and tribulations, we become more dependent on God, deepen our trust in Him, and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
Hardships refine our faith like gold and burn away impurities in our lives that hinder our walk with God. Long suffering produces godly virtues like mercy, gentleness, humility and compassion for others.
The Bible encourages us that “the testing of our faith produces perseverance” and to “let perseverance finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4). This spiritual maturity is evident by the “fruit of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
As we develop Christlike character, we become more effective witnesses for the gospel.
An Example and Encouragement to Others
When believers patiently endure hard times with joy and faith, we serve as living testimonies of God’s faithfulness and set an example for others. Our steadfast hope in Christ gives credibility to the gospel message we proclaim.
The apostle Paul told believers to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12) so that others may see Christ living within us.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Paul explains that God comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others. The patient endurance of believers encourages and inspires other Christians, especially new believers, to remain strong in hardship and not lose heart.
Hebrews 10:36 encourages, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Our long suffering strengthens the faith of others.
Eternal Reward and Blessing from God
God promises eternal rewards to those who patiently endure hardship for His name’s sake. Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). We can rejoice when we suffer for Christ, “because you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Colossians 3:24).
The Bible connects the concept of long suffering with inheriting God’s promises and blessings. Hebrews 6:12 states: “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”
James 5:11 also reminds believers that through persevering like Job, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.”
Although we may not see the fruit of long suffering in this life, we can trust God’s promises that our present sufferings are “not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
The day will come when God will wipe away every tear and reward those who served Him faithfully through long suffering. What amazing blessings await those who patiently endure!
In closing, God uses trials and tribulations to refine our faith and develop Christlike virtues within us. As we patiently endure suffering while trusting in God’s goodness and timing, we can experience spiritual growth and maturity.
The Bible provides many examples of long suffering and gives practical advice for developing perseverance and steadfastness. While difficult trials may linger for a season, God promises meaningful purpose in our suffering and rich blessings for those who endure with faith in Him.