Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
There is a saying in Chinese that when translated states, "Constant dripping of water wears away the stone." This idiom beautifully captures the idea that something as relatively weak as a droplet of water when applied consistently over the long term can overpower something as impervious to change as stone.
Stone. Sometimes that is exactly what the challenges we face feel like. And like that little droplet of water maybe you feel as though you have been banging your head against a stone. Maybe you have even been banging away at that stone for a long time with no discernible change. I know personally how frustrating this can be. What are we to do?
I think help can be found in Proverbs 25:15. "Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone." Like the Chinese saying it prompts us to persevere. This Scripture fills me with hope that no matter what challenge I am up against, should it be the Lord's will for me to overcome it, nothing will be able to withstand His plan combined with my never-ending, gentle persistence.
But this highlights one major difference between the Scriptural proverb and the Chinese saying: gentleness. The Scripture speaks of both an underling trying to persuade a ruler and a tongue trying to break a bone. Both are weak in comparison to their adversary but are not necessarily weak in themselves. They are capable of outbursts of anger, frustration or disrespect. Thus, the proverb is highlighting not only relative weakness, but the wisdom of restraining whatever power you have. If in his frustration the underling the proverb loses control of himself, and disrespects the ruler, then he will never win his case. So it isn't just persistence that we need it is patience in the waiting, it is gentleness in our approach to the problem. This is somewhat at odds with the droplet of water which continually slams itself against the stone. Sure it may get its way in the end, but at what cost?
So don't underestimate the impact of applying gentle pressure to your problems over a long period of time. Don't give up on that family member or friend you have been sharing Jesus with for years. And don't get so frustrated that you yell at them either. Instead, be gently persistent. Are you frustrated with your lack of spiritual growth? Don't beat yourself up and try to change yourself overnight. Instead, make small changes to your daily schedule to make time for the spiritual disciplines, and then ask God's Spirit to help you apply that change over the long haul. Or maybe your problem is a person who is standing in your way. Be careful to apply the wisdom in this passage. Patience and gentleness are the order of the day. Stand firm in your persistence but do it respectfully so you don't give your adversary new reasons to oppose you. Think about it this way. Maybe it's time for you to stop slamming your head into that stone (your problem) and start gently talking to it.
To be honest, I am not entirely sure how to apply this wisdom to the particular challenges I am facing, but join me this week in prayerfully asking God to give us the to apply this proverb to our problems.