"Patience is a virtue," they say.
Honestly, I wish "they" wouldn't say that! Patience does not come naturally to me -- it is almost always a battle with myself. Dreams of the future and the myriad of unknowns / what-ifs fill my mind with hopes and worries. When someone lets me down or does something disappointing, I find myself lacking patience towards him or her. The suffering in the world begins to overwhelm me and I find myself longing for Christ's return right this instant. But, there always seems to be waiting involved.
Why is patience so hard? Can you relate?
More often than not, lack of patience takes on the form and appearance of anxiety. We human beings worry a lot about a lot of things. We worry about our careers, our health, our family members, our friendships, our financial security...the list could go on and on. When one of these areas is shaken up, our hearts jump to potential conclusions as we imagine the different scenarios that might play out. "If only I knew God's will for this," we think. "If only I could see the future just for a moment," our mind wanders. It is fear in its most fundamental sense.
Scripture points us in a different direction. Psalm 27:14 says, "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" Later in the prayer and song book, Psalm 130:5-6 says, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning." These passages directly link patient waiting with soul-filling hope and heart-strengthening courage. Could it be that the process of waiting for God to show up or to give us direction is actually good for us? As we practice patience, God meets us along the way with His promises and His presence. Our futures are in His loving hands.
Sometimes, lack of patience looks like a short temper. We all struggle with this from time to time. A younger sibling makes a stupid mistake and seemingly doesn't learn from it -- we get mad. A coworker slacks off while we are working hard -- we get mad. A superior doesn't seem to understand our perspective -- we get mad. A friend who is younger in their faith habitually trips on something despite our encouragement -- we get mad. Sound familiar?
Again, Scripture points us in a different direction. 1 Thessalonians 5:13 says, "And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all." In 1 Corinthians 13:4, we are reminded that, "Love is patient and kind." People will be people. But, God urges us to be patient with one another, and to wait upon each other as we each learn and grow. This is difficult, but not impossible. We must drop our entitled expectations and remind ourselves that nobody truly owes us anything. And as a matter of perspective, it is good to remind ourselves that there is likely someone waiting on us to change, too.
Almost everyday, we are submitted to a barrage of violent stories in the news, disheartening poverty statistics, and never-ending calls-to-action. It's overwhelming to say the least. It is only natural for a believer to find himself or herself wishing for Jesus to return soon. We feel like we can never do enough. We feel like the world may not be getting any better with time. We feel like nothing really matters in light of all the suffering. But, these things are not a good state for our heart to be in.
Scripture points us again to patient waiting. James 5:6-8 says, "Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand." In 2 Peter 3:9, we find, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." In essence, Jesus will come soon enough. These passages offer us a glimpse at God's patient heart, and the fact that He longs for the love of every human soul. He is incredibly patient in His redemptive plans and purposes, waiting for every plant to get a taste of the rain. But, we also know that this reality will eventually end. "Eventually" could be 5 minutes from now, or it could be 5 billion years from now. We do not know. But we do know that we can wait and endure with our loving and patient Father in heaven, while also putting our faith into action in order to inaugurate His Kingdom even in the here and now.
Perhaps this reflection has not given you the answer you were hoping for. Why is patience so hard? Well, it just is -- and that's not a good enough excuse to avoid pursuing a hopeful-trust, a loving kindness, and an expectant waiting. God can and will help us to be more patient. I pray that at the very least, these passages of Scripture may be encouraging to you during those impatient moments as they have been to me.
"But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." - Romans 8:25
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES