How good are you at waiting? Strange question I know but it is something that I am desperately in need of improving in my life. God has been showing me that I don’t always wait very well. You know the guy at the Motor Vehicles that came knowing it would be a long wait but still paces, looks at his watch, mumbles under his breath and seems genuinely shocked and annoyed that he has to wait? That has been me too many times in my life. Contrast that with the people that knew they were going to wait so they brought a book, came without an agenda or decided to chat with someone sitting next to them to make the experience a pleasant one. Why is it that some people are impatient and others have learned, better yet, chosen to wait well?
The first thing that I have had to learn about patience is that it is not an emotion it is character. It is not a feeling that comes because I want or need it to it is a worked out built up part of who I am that is either present or absent, it does not come and go. James wrote “Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Patience is to our character what muscle is to our bodies. It is not a matter of want to, it must be trained, built up and established within us. For years I have heard people laugh and say, “don’t ever pray for patience.” While I understand that this is meant to be a joke, it is actually a very faith stunting thought. The joke is really the hope of our flesh (human nature, emotions, desires), that we will not have to endure the difficulty that building patience will require.
Impatience is the great reducer of our dreams, promises and destinies. In the here and now, I have driven to a restaurant that I truly want to eat at, seen a long line and chosen to go someplace inferior simply because I didn’t want to wait thirty minutes to be seated. If I will do that in the natural, I will also do it in my spiritual life. There are many times in which God calls us to wait, if I have not allowed Him to build up patience in my life I am susceptible to choosing something inferior, to taking what I can come up with rather than waiting for what I know is sent from heaven. Isn’t this exactly what happened when Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham? When Moses chose to kill the Egyptian taskmaster because he was called to be Israel’s deliverer? When Jacob chose to get Isaac’s blessing by deceit rather than favor? Even when Peter pulled out his sword to fight for Jesus on the night of His arrest? I have done it as well. I have settled for less than what was promised because I wanted something now more than everything later.
Impatience is about more than impulse, it is also about mistrust. The hard truth that I am facing and repenting of right now is that if I truly believe that God will provide for all of my needs, that He “knows the plans that He has for me” and that His love for me is great then I must trust Him enough to wait and wait patiently. Paul wrote, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” Patience is ultimately the faith to believe that God will do everything He has ever promised, not because I am ready but because His timing is perfect. If I trust God, I must be patient, I must believe so fully in His love for me that I don’t balk, don’t fight and don’t quit, but let patience have its perfect work in me.
The final and most important reason that patience is so important is that it is a part of who God is. Romans 15:5 calls Him “The God of patience.” We see how He has been patient with us, how he is longsuffering in His will that none would perish and that patience is a work/fruit of the Holy Spirit. But maybe the most powerful example of God’s patience is not something that someone else said about Him, or even an act on someone else’s behalf. When God descended in a cloud and stood with Moses to give him the second set of tablets He declared His own name. God Himself passed before Moses and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering (patient, slow to anger) and abounding in goodness and truth”. If longsuffering is so fully a part of God’s character that He proclaims it Himself, then shouldn’t it be a part of His character that we seek to have Him build in us? Patience is much more than a virtue, it is a part of who God is and truly, it is a promise of who we are able to be. He can make us whole, He can make us clean, and he can make us complete. We must choose to let go of our control and let Him make us patient. With patience comes more than we have ever asked or imagined.