This is an area that the Lord has been impressing on my heart as of late which led to examining forbearance more closely. There are so many little things that can arise to negatively provoke us on a daily basis . . . comments made, instances that occur, someone interrupting or ignoring us, slights made against us (whether real or perceived) and the list goes on. There are also more significant issues that are true trials and dark valleys to undergo. And all of these can be met with frustration, anger, or hurt; or, they can be responded to with forbearance.
The more I studied ‘forbearance’, the more I discovered the beauty and great blessing of this attribute. As well as the humility that must be in place in order to cultivate it in one’s heart, and the love from the Father that must be burning strong in our hearts to be able to have it become a part of who we are.
Forbearance (translated from the Greek word anecho) is not often directly spoken of in Scripture, but the few passages that do speak of it are powerful. One of these is found in Ephesians 4 . . .
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance [anecho—forbearance] for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3.)
Several important points can be gleaned in this passage. One is that showing forbearance, having it as the attitude of our heart, is to walk in a manner that is worthy of our calling, a manner that is pleasing to the Lord. We can understand then, that if the opposite of forbearance is expressed, it would be displeasing to the Lord, and not worthy of the glorious calling that He has given to us.
But what does the Greek word anecho mean specifically? According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, it has the meaning of “To hold oneself up against, i.e. put up with: - bear with, endure, forbear, suffer.” Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines ‘forbearance’ as: “The exercise of patience; long suffering; indulgence towards those who injure us; lenity; delay of resentment or punishment.” And lenity is defined as “mildness of temper; softness; tenderness; mercy.”
How convicting are these definitions! When cutting remarks are made to us; when insensitive or unkind words are spoken; when we are ignored; when we receive ill-treatment; when hurtful things are done to us; how should we respond? With patience, long-suffering, tenderness, and mercy. What a beautiful response this would be! A response that would bring glory to the Lord and would be worthy of the calling He has given us! Yet how often does such a response spring in our hearts? Our natural man would respond in anger, frustration, bitterness, self-pity, or other similar things. Yet these can be conquered through the power of the Holy Spirit. God, through Christ, has given us the ability to have victory over sin and to walk in obedience to Him. But to have this victory, we must submit our hearts to Him and “do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness of God” (Romans 6:13.) As we submit our hearts to the Holy Spirit’s leading, He will guide us and direct us; He will be our strength to have victory over sin.
There is another passage in Scripture that gives a similar exhortation to what was found in Ephesians 4 about forbearance . . .
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with [anecho] one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:12-14.)
In this verse, we find that forgiveness is closely linked with forbearance. For how could one truly express forbearance from the heart if feelings of ill-will, anger, bitterness or the like remain in one's heart toward the other? While outward actions may persist for a time, eventually the true heart of a person will shine forth. One may be able to have the appearance of patient endurance, of forbearing in love, for a time, but if the heart is not in line with these, eventually failure will come and the true heart will be shown. We cannot practice something that is first not a part of who we are, that is not an outpouring of what our heart is. For “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). What is in our hearts will be expressed in our actions, our words and our attitudes. Even if we give the appearance of forbearing without it first being established in our heart, it will have an emptiness and lack of authenticity that can often be felt or noticed by others; and more importantly, such superficial forbearance is not pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.
Genuine forbearance, however, must first have taken root in the heart, before it can be expressed in our lives to others. But how would this forbearance spring up in our hearts? How do we cultivate it and make it a part of who we are? If we go back to the verse from Ephesians, we find that the forbearance is to be “in love.” Love must be the causing factor of forbearance. If true, Christ-like love is what is in our hearts towards others, then there will be fertile ground for forbearance to grow. And as we find in 1 Corinthians 13, “love bears all things . . . endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
In the book of 1 John, we find some wonderful and convicting words of encouragement about godly and true love. We find that this love is from God, it has no other source (1 John 7-8, 16); because God so loved us, we are to love one another (1 John 4:11); when we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12); we know that He abides in us because He has given us of His Spirit (1 John 4:13); by abiding in love, we abide in God, and God abides in us (1 John 4:16); through the abiding, love is perfected with us (1 John 4:17); we love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19); and “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
Love, true love from God, will arise in our hearts as we abide in Christ. And through that love, forbearance will grow and bear fruit as well. The source for both is Christ, and He will not disappoint or fail to provide the strength and means to do these things. So let us abide . . . let us abide in Christ, letting His love grow in our hearts. Let us seek to love even the most difficult of the ones around us. Let us set our minds on higher things, the things of the Lord and pleasing Him, instead of ourselves. Let us strive after and earnestly long for having a forbearance and a love that “endures all things.”
-Posted by Sarah