Have a Little... Patience (Part 2)
Welcome back and thank you for re-joining me as we continue considering that most mundane of Christian virtues- patience. Last week we left off after having discussed this subject at some length. We saw how waiting is a fact of life and something that we should learn to accept. We heard how we as Christians are a people in waiting and that actually our daily acts of patience in waiting for the things of God are both an act of trusting Him and emulating Him, giving us all the more reason to do so. Finally, we reflected on the harsh reality that waiting can often me a deeply painful and troubling time, but that our Father sees us in all of that. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed your week of patiently awaiting this article’s conclusion (I can only assume you’ve all been on tenterhooks), so now let’s bring this on home and give some thought to what patience looks like in our day to day lives.
When considering how to practice patience, as with most things I believe this starts with attitude, and practice will follow. Embracing the need to wait is a big part of this, as noted. Similarly, recognising our waiting as something ordained by God and something that serves a purpose can change the way we view the ‘empty’ times. The reason you’re waiting is not because God is frantically rushing around behind the scenes trying to get His ducks in a row and he’s not quite ready for you yet. No, He is absolutely ready and has been for eternity. The real question, is are you and your situation ready for what God has planned? Spoilers: Only God can be the judge of that, and rightly so. No matter how good and right it might appear to us to have what we want right now, the hard truth we must grasp is that God knows best. Trusting Him means laying down our own ideas of how things should be, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane;
‘And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
In that case, rather than asking ‘God why are you denying me this…?’ ask ‘Father, what are you saving me from/ for in this moment?’ or, ‘God, what are you trying to teach me in this?’ Another common attitude I’ve encountered is; ‘When can I have X and start doing God’s work?’, when perhaps we should be asking, ‘God, this is where I am at the moment and this is what I’ve got- how do you want to use me in my current season?’ In this way we can begin transforming our dissatisfaction and frustration at waiting, into the recognition of a God given opportunity. The reality is that God is equally with us in the waiting as He is in times of activity, and our ‘downtime’ is just as useful to Him as our ‘uptime’.
Waiting by its very nature isn’t a particularly active experience and isn’t especially glamorous. When I think of patience, what I think of is a slow sort of plodding along. Plodding isn’t a particularly heroic act, but I think it’s a severely underrated one. The ability to just keep going, for however long necessary, without wavering or losing heart, has seen me through more of my life than my intellect or humour or any other skill combined. It takes courage to run towards the danger that you can see up ahead, but it is another form of courage when, after trudging along in the dark for several hours and with no idea how much further is to go, you pick yourself up and say; ‘I’m just going to keep going’. Life often feels like that long trek in the dark, and by the same token it takes a great deal of bravery to find yourself in a painful, uncertain season of life, and yet choose to trust in God and hold to his promises. For me, King David of the Old Testament serves as such an example of perseverance, but more importantly this choice to believe in the faithful of God. In Psalm 25, David is hurt and beset by difficulty, as he writes;
‘Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble and forgive all my sins. Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me’ (Psalm 25: 16-19).
His turmoil is deeply emotional and grievous, yet not two chapters later David’s resolve is firm;
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
(Psalm 27: 13-14)
David saw his situation and knew his need for God, eagerly asking for reprieve, yet even in doing so David resolved to wait for the Lord and hold to his goodness. Oh, to always have that conviction, to ‘believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of living’! Patiently, humbly waiting for the things God has promised is so often a matter of just plodding along, holding to those promises and trusting in the awesome faithfulness of God. If we can just do that, he’ll get us there eventually, all in his perfect time, and who knows what he will teach us along the way?
Several months ago, I decided to walk from Canterbury to Chartham on my own one afternoon. I’d never walked that route along the Stour valley before and I didn’t really know how far it was, but I knew overall that if I kept going down this path that I would get there eventually. I set out meandering down the way, enjoying the scenery and the weather. On the way I wasn’t really able to see more than 100m ahead at a time or tell how much farther was left. Eventually, despite enjoying my walk, I began to grow tired and somewhat impatient; for all I knew it was another 30 or 45 minutes before I would reach my destination and I couldn’t really be bothered with that. Disappointed, I decided to turn around and head back. A few weeks later, I decided to try again. Heading out along the familiar stretch of path I eventually reached the same spot where I had previously given up and turned back, but this time I pressed on. Rounding the next corner, I suddenly found myself at my destination. At that point I realised just how close I had been the last time, and had I just held firm and kept plodding I would have reached my goal just up ahead. I was put off by the fact that I didn’t know exactly how far off that destination was and I could only see a short distance ahead, but had I just trusted that I was on track, I could have made it.
We have no idea how near the Lord is, but we’ll never find out if we don’t keep plodding along, so stick with it my friend and know that Christ plods with you. Thank you again for sharing your time with me, it means a lot, and I hope you don’t feel it was wasted. As a parting thought I leave you with excerpt from Psalm 37, although I heartily recommend you go read the whole thing:
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
About the Author
Jonathan has been a member of the City Church since 2013 and was formerly a student at UKC studying Military History. Last year he completed the ID internship year with City and now works in admin at the University of Kent. Hobbies include Dungeons & Dragons, war films and making flapjack.