The trying of our faith seems to be happening a great deal. Our faith is being tested, but it produces patience or puts patience to work. This verse suggests that the trials, of and by themselves, do not produce spiritual maturity. In fact, they may turn people bitter or cause them to be envious, jealous of others who do not seem to have any trials, sailing right through life without problem. It can be difficult to see the contentment of others when we feel as if we have the weight of the world on our shoulders, or we are burdened with sorrows, we are perhaps sick, a family member is giving us problems, or we are about to lose our jobs. Under such a strain, it would be easy to become bitter.
Did Jonah's trial produce a great deal of patience in him? At least at first, he was angry with God. His is a good example of trials, of and by themselves, not producing good things, particularly spiritual maturity. It is faith plus the test plus patience that complete the process of coming to holiness, because that is what the trial is designed to do. The trial of our faith is to bring us to holiness, but if we lack patience, the process is going to be short circuited.
The natural reaction to trials is to want to escape them, and that is understandable. But God says, "No, don't do that. Patiently bear with Me. Let Me work out what I want to accomplish through this trial." Our job is to let our faith produce patience. While bearing with it, what are the patient expending their energies on? They are straining against the self, for that is where the real burden lies.
In humility and meekness, the faithful Christian does not feel it is incumbent upon him to change others, but rather he emphasizes his responsibility to change himself. He patiently works through the trial, working on himself, his attitude, his relationship with God and with other people, and the factors that have caused the problem. He cannot change the other person, but he can change himself. If he does, then patience has accomplished its perfect work or its complete work.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)