Long and Short Suffering

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I have had this scripture below posted in my office for over a year. The  two reasons it speaks to me is the actual  idea of fruits of the Spirit and what a powerful list of attributes I want to develop in myself.  The other reason is my puzzlement that the word “long-suffering” was included.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, (and) temperance.” Galatians 5:22-23

I had never heard or noticed the word “long-suffering” in that list before. It is a fruit of the Spirit! It has its own regal imprint on our souls and can be  like the other wonderful attributes listed. However,  it sticks out there in the middle of the scripture for me like a big, hard, craggy mountain that the rivers, Joy, Love, and Peace get to flow by.  I know that it is such an important part of our mortal journey and that is  why it was included on the “Fruits of the Spirit”  list.

I went to the temple yesterday with a longing in my heart to know how long I would have to wait for something or even if my desires were righteous desires. My answer came as my husband and I  left the temple, and we ran into an old friend whose marriage had ended long ago. She had been single for 8 years and had recently married a kindred spirit. Her happiness was evident, her countenance was radiant and her eyes were so beautiful to look at. She told us the unbelievable way they met and how mysterious are the works of God.  I listened intently to her story, marveling how they got together.  I took this encounter not to be a coincidence or chance. I love that Heavenly Father gave me a walking, breathing example of someone who had endured a lot of pain and was long-suffering.  She toughed it out,  and she raised her teenagers as a single mom in a church full of families. My eyes teared up with gratitude  to Heavenly Father for my friend’s bounteous blessings and His thoughtfulness at answering my question about how long do we  have to suffer. Hearing my friend’s story taught me, again,  that God is very involved in the details of our lives. Our long-suffering has an equation of other people’s choices and agency, timing, and other events out of our control. God showed me an ending of long-suffering yesterday at the temple.

Another friend shared with me an unexpected, sharply critical text and a complex problem on Monday.  Imagine my delight when she told me the problem had already been  solved, two days later, in an elegant way. I clapped my hands in delight as her burden was lifted after a few days of anxious soul-searching. This was an example of  short-suffering.

In the hymn, “If You Could Hie to Kolob”  verse three stands out for me.

The works of God continue,

And worlds and lives abound;

Improvement and progression

Have one eternal round.

There is no end to matter;

There is no end to space;

There is no end to spirit;

There is no end to race.

“Improvement and progression Have one eternal round.” We get to work, sweat, labor, stretch, improve and progress for eternity. That is  our belief  in the Plan of Salvation or the Plan of Happiness. “Improvement and progression” is another way of saying enhancement and enduring, or development and long-suffering. The Lord is telling us that in order to come back and live with him we have to fail, and feel pain, and learn to  endure days, and years of long-suffering. We are also promised that wherever we are in His vineyard during our endurance, that we will be nourished by Him.( Jacob 5: 22,23) When I saw my friend outside of the temple, those hard years of her marriage and as a single mother had fallen away and she, who had stayed so faithful to her testimony of the Savior, glowed. It was evident in her countenance.  She had improved and progressed so much through that hard test. My answer to my question in the temple was answered this week by one long-suffering example and one short-suffering example. I have been really paying attention to the tender mercies in my life. I can truly say as another hymn states, “In the midst of affliction, my table is spread.” I got to see that sometimes prayers are answered quickly and others take years of pain and growth and improvement.
After my experience at the temple I felt I needed to pay closer attention to what Heavenly Father is trying to teach me. His answers have made me want to open my spiritual eyes more. One of my best  memories of paying attention came from our family’s first  attempt at vegetable gardening.  My oldest son Ross, who was 6 at the time, came to me bright-eyed, and leaning close to me, said, “If you get down really close to the garden, and listen really hard, you can hear the plants singing.” Oh, the secrets of the universe that await you when you stop, get really close to God and listen really, really hard. That’s what I have felt this week. I don’t know how long I will have to wait, but God is waiting with me and nourishing me in His vineyard.

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