Forbearance is defined as patient self-control; restraint and tolerance. Sometimes you will even see the word in the context of the law—the action of refraining from exercising a legal right, especially enforcing the payment of a debt. However, biblically, forbearance is another word for patience.
Patience isn't easy
I am sure we can all agree that patience is very much so easier said than done. They tried to engrave the concept in our head in kindergarten with a chorus of "Wait your turn," but the difficulty we face now has nothing to do with actually getting a chance to go down our favorite slide during recess, but rather, the reward the world gives us for being productive and doing "something" rather than "nothing." Though practicing patience can be easier some days than others, Galatians 5:22 reminds us that forbearance is one of the fruits of the Spirit, a quality that lives in and through us.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law." -Galatians 5:22
So, What's Next?
Forbearance can be difficult in the context of a world that runs off of, "So, what's next?" We plan for our next degree, our future wedding, and even our next job before we have even sat down for breakfast, our minds continually rushing to find the next best thing that will bring us happiness or approval from our friends and family.
Nevertheless, it is clear that to harvest forbearance in our life, we must first nurture the fruit in God's truth. Forbearance can look like a lot of things—waiting on God before making that move, fasting before you make a major decision for your company, deliberately spending your mornings with God by listening for His guidance, etc. Though it shows up in many ways in our life, there are specific moments in the Bible that teach us why forbearance is considered to a fruit of the Spirit and ultimately, a gift.
Psalm 37:7 says, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!" It is clear that God is aware of "our way" however, though it exists, it isn't always the best way. In verse 9 of the same chapter it says that "…but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land." It is important to note that during this time, inheriting land was a major economic win. This scripture reminds us that obediently waiting on God allows us to expect so much more of our lives than what we could have ever planned for ourselves. Think about what one could do with land during this time—feed their family, help their community during times when food was sparse, and even be seen as a leader amongst those who they live. When we practice forbearance, we choose to follow our Spirit instead of our flesh and when we do, God rewards us for choosing His will over our own.
A lot of the time, when I start making my "lists" that consist of all the things I need to do in life, I often have to catch myself and ask, "Are you making these lists out of purpose or fear?" Let me explain. Doing, as a verb, can sometimes feel better than remaining still because it serves as a distraction and cop-out for actually being honest with our anxieties, worries, or lack of faith.
The theory: Do so you don't think.
The problem: Doing things that stray from the purpose that God has intended for us can be more of a setback than anything.
Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that even though we may not be aware of God's plan for our lives, the divine plan and our purpose in Him remains steady, even when we don't.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” - Jeremiah 29:11
When we choose forbearance over impatience or doing things on our timing and in our way, we open up valuable, peaceful space to not only connect with God but heal. Isaiah 40:31 says, "But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." When you nurture your fruit of forbearance for harvesting, you give yourself time to prepare for what God has planned for you. You lose the anxieties of “not being ready” because you spend more time preparing yourself, often without even knowing, to be even more equipped than ever for your purpose for His kingdom.
There is a season for everything
Forbearance is an essential fruit of our Spirit. Have you ever tried to grow apples in the winter? If you did, you probably wouldn't be as successful as if you were to produce them during their prime peak season. Practicing forbearance in our life reminds us that there is a season for everything, as Ecclesiastes illustrates in 3:1-22. As we wait and trust in God, just like how we wait for crops to grow after being planted in the soil, we can trust that growth is happening even when we can't see it.