Chasing Down Patience

Posted by Barbie Millner, Chase Oaks Adult Ministry Resident, on Oct 18, 2022

Chasing Down Patience

Is it just me, or has anyone else begged God for patience and then regretted getting what you asked for?

When someone remarks “I need patience,” we look at them and say, “You know what that means, right? Your situation is just about to get more frustrating, because there’s no way to grow in patience except through more trial and error. Or so I’ve been told...”

And oh boy, have I done the “trial and error” part, again and again. How many times do we have to go through the same thing before we learn? And how are we supposed to even want to chase that virtue down, if it’s just going to mean more frustration in the process?

It turns out there is a powerful physical and spiritual interplay within us, each time we experience frustration. It’s a dynamic that can actually help us grow in patience.


The Hijack

Before we get into what that means, I want to share some facts about how our brains function. Different parts of our brains affect different behaviors and choices. The amygdala, for example, helps to trigger a quick “fight or flight response” when we sense danger. It causes us to react. The frontal lobes handle rational behaviors, thinking, and decision-making. They help us to figure out whether the danger or stress we feel is actually a real threat—to help us to respond. In times of high stress, our amygdala can overtake the frontal lobes, causing what is often called an “amygdala hijack.”

So when you react in anger to something, your brain marks it as an appropriate response to that specific stressor over time. If this process goes unchecked, your brain essentially bookmarks that reaction and makes it the go-to response for most, if not all, stressors.

That means something minor like your office not restocking your favorite creamer becomes (to your freshly “bookmarked” brain) a completely legitimate reason to lose your ever-loving mind. For any of us out there with a short fuse, sheepishly side-eyeing our spouse or child, we know this feeling all too well. We live with this uneasy equation, where a stressor + overreaction = the humbling, uphill trek of picking up the pieces in the aftermath.

I’m not a Bible scholar, but I have a feeling this isn’t how we are meant to be living our lives: tense, frustrated, caught in a loop of stress, anger, overreaction, guilt, then forgiveness until the next trigger.
A Healthline article about this process suggests, “When you feel this response again, acknowledge it, and work to regain control…review what happened. Consider the triggers that led to the fight or flight response.”


Retraining the Mind

Guess what? Rerouting your brain isn't a new concept, but it is a biblical one:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

When you take the time to examine your reactions and be aware of your triggers, you teach your brain what is worth being upset about and what is not.

I should add that not all anger is bad. God Himself experiences anger. But not all anger is created equal, and the Lord is unlike you and me. He is incapable of having a flawed perspective, or being myopic or petty. So when He expresses anger, it is always righteous anger.

We can experience righteous anger too. If we’re honest, though, when we boil down our anxiety, frustration, and anger, doesn’t it tend to lead to the same place? We want things to go our way, and when the situation or the people around us don’t comply with what we want, we fall apart. So how do we react in the moment with patience instead of frustration when we are facing an amygdala hijack?


Stepping Toward Patience

We can take time to recognize who or what is frustrating us, and remind ourselves that no one can make us lose our patience. That choice is ultimately up to us. And we can reaffirm that God is in control of what we wish we had figured out.

This isn’t a simple quick fix (because no heart change ever is!) but we can invite God in, repeat the truth to ourselves, and work to reset those brain patterns. The next time you feel the hijack happening, try

  1. Doing a quick math problem in your head (Simple addition will do; this helps put you back in the rational side of your brain)
  2. Refocusing on your physical body (for example, lifting each toe in your shoe or writing your name in the palm of your hand with your forefinger)
  3. Meditating on the truth, using a simple phrase like,

“God is in control of the outcome, not me” or “Just because this person is _______does not mean I need to be. Their actions are not my responsibility. I will not be held accountable for others' poor behavior.”

You can also meditate on some key scripture verses, like this one:

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him: do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret; it only leads to evil for those who are evil will be destroyed but those who hope in the lord will inherit the land… The meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.” (Psalm 37:7-11)

We don’t have to go far to find opportunities to work on patience. They're all around us: the slow checker in the grocery store, crawling traffic, potty training, the braggy coworker…you get the idea. Hopefully whatever our situation, we can see these stressors as opportunities to chase down patience. In the process, we can give the same love and grace that God has extended to us.


Share This:

Recent Stories

Swipe to Discover more

Singled Out: Singleness After 30

Jan 24, 2023

Singleness after 30 can be challenging in a marriage-centric culture. Read one single woman's reflections on navigating this season with honesty and purpose.


2 Lessons I'm Learning About How To Survive Parenthood

Jan 22, 2023

Parenthood is hard work, but there's hope. Discover two real-life lessons from a parent who's learning how to not just survive but also to grow in the process.


Where To Celebrate Lunar New Year in DFW

Jan 18, 2023

Happy Lunar New Year 2023! We've listed just a few of the many places you can celebrate (and eat) to ring in the Year of the Rabbit in DFW.


What Is Lunar New Year?

Jan 13, 2023

Red and gold decorations, unique foods, and ads for “The Year of the Rabbit” are popping up everywhere. What is Lunar New Year, and why does it matter?


Why and How We Can Celebrate MLK Day in DFW

Jan 09, 2023

Why (and how) can we celebrate MLK Day as a "day on, not a day off" right here in DFW? Look here for tips and some scheduled events around town.


How To Create Healthy Habits

Jan 06, 2023

Habits: we've all got them, and we don't always love the ones we've got. Look here for some practical tips to help you change old habits and create new, healthy ones instead.


The Mindset for Change

Jan 01, 2023

It's never too late to make changes in how we lead ourselves. Change does not come easily. It takes the right mindset, a good plan, and a good support system.


How To Set Goals for the New Year

Dec 27, 2022

The holiday season is drawing to a close, and we’re eager for new beginnings and positive change. Kickstart your new year by learning some of the “why” and “how” of goal setting.


Christmas and the Courage of Mary

Dec 23, 2022

Christmas is often filled with traditions and nostalgia. But the real story of Mary and the first Christmas is one filled danger, fear, and courage for the sake of love. Read more, here.


Celebrating Gifts for Good 2022

Dec 20, 2022

Thanks to the generosity and hard work of countless Chase Oakers, the Local Good Center's Gifts for Good 2022 was a huge success. Read more, here.