Do you consider yourself a patient person? I like to think that I am...but I'm not really. I have somehow developed the ability to look relaxed and patient while my insides are one huge knot of frustration and impatience. I guess that's a good thing sometimes, but it doesn't help me when the One I'm impatient with is God—what with Him knowing all my inner thoughts an all.
Am I the only one who gets impatient with God? I tend to think not. Not so much because I know so much about other people but because of the number of books and sermons I found that deal specifically with learning to “wait on the Lord”. One book, especially, I think I want to check out. It's called You're Late Again, Lord! The Impatient Woman's Guide to God's Timing. The author, Karon Goodman, seems to really understand how hard it is to submit to God's perfect timing. In the introduction to the book, Goodman sums it up quite nicely.
“We have become so accustomed to ordering and orchestrating and planning and scheduling that it is incredibly hard to admit that not all is within our control. Many decisions every day are ours to handle, and we get pretty good at taking care of things. We believe that we could carry on even better if God would only cooperate. We demand the answers we need from him, and yet we hear no response. We question and condemn the intolerable delays in the events we need to happen in our lives, and yet nothing changes. Doesn't God know that we need those answers NOW?
“Yes, he knows, but thankfully, he's smarter than we are. Because he knows how hard it is for us to wait, to abandon control and to trust beyond ourselves, he has devised a plan just for us. The basis of the plan appeared many years ago, but it applies so well today, to you and me. God is so clever.”
That's the hardest part, I think—trusting God enough to release our grip on our life and handing it over to Him,...even if we don't know or understand what He has in mind for us.
As Christians, I believe our definition of patience differs from the secular definition. Secular patience can be defined as
“the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation; the ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.”
Patience in the context of secular behavior is more about appearance than anything that might be going on in a person's heart or mind. But in a Christian context, patience becomes something very different. It is wrapped together with things like faith, contentment, and meekness. Christian patience is about waiting or resting. According to a pastor by the name of J. Hampton Keathley, III,
“waiting means resting in God's timing and activity while taking care of our responsibilities—the things we can do and should do as set forth in the Word of God.”
Additionally, Keathley says that “waiting always means seeking the Lord.” Waiting for God is not like waiting in a doctor's office. There are things we need to be doing while we wait. We need to be studying the Bible to find answers to our questions and
“claiming God's promises” and praying for wisdom and understanding.
“The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God's word. “ Lamentations 3:2
Keathley states that
“Waiting means claiming God's promises by faith and resting in what God is doing in our lives so we can faithfully follow God's principles and keep His values, priorities, and pursuits.”
If we're not waiting for the Lord or resting in Him, we are probably trying to solve things by ourselves, in our own strength. We are trying to protect ourselves because we are angry, afraid and/or jealous. We whine, grumble, or even run away from the problems.
“We try to control others, call attention to ourselves to bolster our feelings of inadequacy or to defend ourselves against the comments of others. Out of fear of failure or loss we compromise our convictions, or what we know is rights. But fear, which has displaced faith in the Lord, causes us to lean on the arm of flesh.”
Keathley sure doesn't beat around the bush does he.
“To wait on the Lord means learning to be content and patient as we cling to God in a fallen world and rest in His love and wisdom.”
Paul already had that all figured out, didn't he.
“Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.” Philippians 4:11.
Mrs. White made this comment about patience:
“Patience under trials will keep us from saying and doing those things which will injure our own souls and injure those with whom we associate. Let your trials be what they will, nothing can seriously injure you if you exercise patience, if you are calm and unexcited when in trying positions.” E.G. White, Our High Calling (1961), page 70.
“Do your best, and then wait, patiently, hopefully, rejoicingly, because the promise of God can not fail. Christ's life of untiring effort has been recorded for our encouragement. He did not fail nor become discouraged. In time of trial, be patient. Patience is a precious jewel. It will bring health to heart and mind. Wait on the Lord until he sees that you are ready to receive and appreciate the blessings for which you ask. Exercise faith, even though the trials are severe. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Of faith hope is born.” The Review & Herald, May 30, 1912.