'Going Postal' Is Unwise and Counterproductive, and It Doesn't Actually Characterize the Postal Service - Have Patience Instead

5 U.S. Postal mailboxes aligned in a row on a drive-by sidewalk

I used to think I was very patient. Any offense was water off my back.  If things didn’t work out, no big deal. ...Then my patience was tested.  This was some 30 years ago, so I don’t recall the circumstances, but I do remember the ego shock when it hit me:  I really did have a problem with patience. Since then, I’ve been tested and tested again, continuously, and I’ve fallen short.  I’m not the guy I so naively…and arrogantly…thought I was.

The kind of patience I’m writing about is the kind that is associated with forbearance, forgiveness, understanding, gentleness, and self-control. It’s the kind of patience that directs a right response when we experience the unpleasantries of people.

About a year ago, I shared with the men in our small group that various little things had been bothering me and I had trouble just letting them be. Some things should bother us as Christians, but these were not those things. A couple weeks later I shared the following story about how God reminded me to be patient.

Driving is a great time to pray so I was talking to God about my lack of patience. Mid-prayer, a vehicle cut me off. Slightly irritated, I maneuvered around the person, not just out of spite, but also to be in a better position for my upcoming interchange departure. After my swift lane change, I noticed a highway patrol officer keeping close watch. After thanking God for His mercy, I continued to pray. Not long afterwards, I was nearly muscled onto the shoulder by an 18-wheeler (unprovoked). The truck bore a US Post Office logo which awakened my disdain for the Post Office. Seconds later, I received a text saying the Post Office delivered my package. Then I started thinking about the good things the postal service does for us.

I thanked God for His reminders to just be patient. There’s no need to rush or retaliate. I should keep things in perspective. God’s watching out for me and He’s in control.

In an earlier post I wrote about times when I’ve belittled and trampled people in response to atrocities against me. A part of me felt justified, but it was sin. So, what do we do with impatience? Here are a few truths to consider.

1.  Our impatience doesn’t really buy us anything. In fact, it often works against us.

Consider the extreme side of impatience: “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel” (Proverbs 15:18). If you’re wondering why Solomon didn’t contrast patience with impatience, picture the lack of patience on a graduating scale. On the low end, we might experience adjectives like nervous, restless, and anxious. Moving further up we would become annoyed and irritated. As these adjectives are allowed to fester, we eventually find ourselves at hasty and angry; and eventually, as we boil, we get snappy and rash, with a short fuse, and we might even explode in a violent (and uncontrollable) rage. At that point, what has our impatience bought us? Well, probably not much more than debt, because we would owe a lot of repair work for the damage we’ve done.

That’s the way I used to respond on the road. Honestly, because of my lack of patience, I responded at times with rage…and sometimes even road rage. But since God has perfect patience, He responded with mercy. Think about that for a minute.

Every time we think we’ve scored and gotten away with a fit of rage,
it’s really a blessing of God’s patience and mercy.

(See 2 Peter 3:3-9 to see how God withholds judgment to allow people to respond and come to Him.)

So, if you drive a vehicle with the kind of cruise control that adjusts to the traffic in front of you, will you join me and use it? You will get to your destination at just about the same time you would with the zippy approach.  Let your vehicle control your speed and use those now available brain cells to recount your blessings and what you can offer to the other drivers on the road. Using cruise control is both a suggestion and a metaphor. What can we let go of while we thank God for His blessings? Maybe some of these?
  • Missing the morning train and waiting for the next one
  • Standing in line at the grocery store (during Thanksgiving week)
  • Waiting on God while serving faithfully
  • Urging the salvation or the growth of dear ones instead of trusting the work of the Holy Spirit
God gives us many opportunities to reflect on His blessings and to watch Him work.

2.  We have received so much mercy and grace.

When our patience fails, we are probably not acknowledging, and certainly not appreciating, the mercy and grace of God. Though they are separate ideas, I like to refer to mercy and grace together because they are very similar gifts granted to us by God. We are both wholly deserving of punishment and wholly undeserving of the abundant life He offers. By wholly, I mean everything about us. That makes us the same as the next person, including the person who is really pushing our buttons. And to withhold either mercy or grace from that person, would be to undermine and discount the mercy and grace God gives to that person. (And, to be clear, whether the person is a follower of Christ is irrelevant.) (See Ephesians 2:1-10, 2 Peter 3:8-9, and Titus 3:1-11.)

Think about it for a moment. In what ways are we recipients of God’s mercy and grace? [I’m leaving this space blank for you to fill in.]

[If you didn’t come up with a long list, please email authordlv@att.net so we can dialogue about it.]

God is merciful, compassionate, patient, and always ready to forgive (Psalms 145:8). By grace we have been saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8). We can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). Chapter after chapter we find examples of God’s mercy and grace in Scripture. Read what God asks of us in Titus 3:1-8:

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities,
to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,
to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate,
and always to be gentle toward everyone.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient,
deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.
We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us,
not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that, having been justified by his grace,
we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things,
so that those who have trusted in God may be careful
to devote themselves to doing what is good.
These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

As recipients of God’s mercy and grace, He expects us to be gentle, considering the other person, remembering we were once the same way.  (And with the help of the Holy Spirit, we have been improving.)

3.  Patience is linked to humility.

Of course, it’s really hard to become gentle, peaceable, considerate, and obedient to God if we don’t get a sense of the big picture. God’s love, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the richness of life we experience on earth, and the direct relationship we share with our Heavenly Father should bring us to our knees. As I wrote above, we are no different than anyone else on this earth, but we don’t really recognize that fact until we compare ourselves to the ever-superlative God – almighty, all loving, all knowing, all forgiving… We can’t define His greatness with a list.

Who are we compared to God?
Who are we that He would love us?
Who are we that He would forgive us and restore our relationship with Him?
Who are we to enjoy our Father’s warmth, His guidance, His provisions, and His listening ear?
Who are we to hide behind the strength of His legs and the protection of His shield?
Who are we to rest upon His beating heart?

Who are we to castigate another person, to bully another victim, to slander another name?

Patience and humility go together. (See Ephesians 4:1-2.) And humility makes us more receptive to my final point.

4.  God is in control.

We don’t need to push back or even vent our frustrations. We can step back with forbearance because God is our God, He is on our side, and He is in control. Choose patience toward others when they push all the wrong buttons. It’s the fruit of the Spirit called longsuffering (Galatians 5:22).

Doesn’t God know when all our buttons are pushed?
Doesn’t He know how to give us joy and peace and a blessed outcome?
Isn’t He already working on that while we’re contemplating retaliation?

Proverbs 19:19 says “a hot-tempered person must pay the penalty.” Isn’t it better to let God handle the situation than to incur a penalty?

Solomon also wrote, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). God will handle it. Read what Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:1-4:

To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.
All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the LORD.
Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.
The LORD works out everything to its proper end –
even the wicked for a day of disaster.

God is in control and He will work His plan. See also Isaiah 55:8-9.

So, instead of ‘going postal,’ choose patience. It is the wise choice and it pleases God.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12

Whoever is patient has great understanding,
but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
Proverbs 14:29

Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city.
Proverbs 16:32

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  1. Oh Stephen, what a humbling post. You bring so much wisdom to this topic. I loved this:

    "And to withhold either mercy or grace from that person, would be to undermine and discount the mercy and grace God gives to that person."

    When I withhold mercy or grace, I put myself in the place of God in that person's life. Ouch. And you're right, patience is linked to humility and to trusting God with the outcomes, and the timing, and even the justice when we are mistreated. When we choose NOT to respond in impatience or anger, we honor Him. I'm working on this when I drive, especially when my boys are in the car. I want to set a godly example for them of how we respond to others on the road . . . and in life.

  2. Jeanne, I think this is hard for everyone! I know it is for me. I tell my family that we see who people really are on the road and when playing sports. That's when our true character comes out and that's when I sometimes lose my composure and withhold mercy and grace.

    I appreciate your comment and desire to honor God and raise boys who will do the same.

  3. WOW! What a thorough look at patience, some things I hadn't thought of as part of patience before. I feel like the more I grow in patience the more is needed. This was God showing me other areas of patience and where I need more work. Thanks for being a willing vessel.

    1. I'm guessing we all need more work and I'll be the first in line. So glad God is merciful and gracious and in control. Thank you for reading and sharing from your heart. I'm glad this post is meaningful for you.

  4. "Our impatience doesn't really buy us anything." So true, Stephen. Impatience costs us our peace and causes us more pain. Thanks for your refreshing honesty. I'm glad the Spirit helps us stay the patience course when we're in a season of waiting.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

    1. Yes, Wendy. We probably don't gain what we hope to gain. We do often end up in pain at the expense of peace. Praise God for His mercy and grace. Thank you for reading and commenting. Blessings to you.


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