“Love is patient…”
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”
Seems like God is always making us wait. Rarely does He make a promise then immediately fulfill it. Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for a son. Joseph waited about 20 years to be king. So did David! And the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years.
Why? Why does God make us wait?
It’s easy for the eternal God to wait. He, after all, has all the time in the world. He could even make more time if He wanted. But for us mere mortals, the clock is ticking—our biological clocks, our financial clocks. We only have a few good years on this planet, and we don’t want to waste any of them. Why should we wait on God? We send up prayers to Him and wait expectantly. After a few hours, days, weeks, or years we shout “Get on with it!!!” like a Monty Python character.
We already spend most of our lives waiting. An average of six months of our lives is at traffic lights and another five years we’re waiting in lines. In fact, we’ve worked hard to eliminate as much waiting from our lives as possible. We stream music instantly, watch movies on demand, and use apps to order food before we even get to the restaurant. So a God who makes you wait adds an unappealing aspect to a religion that already has an antiquated reputation.
But maybe our struggle to eliminate waiting from our lives has had an unintended effect. Could we be breading out something beneficial?
What Patience Isn’t
Patience isn’t about being able to endure long periods of time. Patience is about self-control. It’s about keeping a level head, and being able to calmly and coolly perform a task … even if that task is just waiting.
Ask the father of a 5-year-old how it is to have their son help fix something. Chances are they are no help at all. But they will ask a lot of questions. “What does this do?” “Why are you doing that?” It takes a lot of patience to endure their curiosity while focusing on the task. But the outcome is much greater than just having the thing fixed. The son will have a closer relationship with his father, knowledge, confidence, trust, etc.
Called to Patience
God wants children who are patient.
Patience is love (1 Corinthians 13:4). Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). When God makes us wait, He is building our patience. He is building our endurance.
This is a muscle not many possess and fewer use. But those on the receiving end of patience are immeasurably grateful. It takes patience for a surgeon to perform a complicated, life-saving surgery. It takes patience for an architect to design a safe structure. It takes patience for an artist to complete a flawless masterpiece.
Without patience we would be without beauty, shelter or our very lives. So when God gives us patience, He is preparing us to provide for someone else. He is giving us a great tool to teach, protect and lead the next generation.
Patience Is a Bridge
Patience is about spanning a distance. It is building a bridge. God is also about building bridges—bridges across time, generations, tax brackets and social barriers. If these expanses were easily traversable patience wouldn’t be necessary. In order to reach people, God needs workers who are patient—patient to complete it, overcomers, more than conquerors.
Is God making you wait for something? Hurts, doesn’t it? It always does when you start working a muscle you’ve never worked before, or let atrophy. But God is your trainer. He’s there cheering you on when you want to give up saying “Give me one more rep!” Stick with it and He will make sure that muscle gets properly built.
There’s no shortcuts. “Let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:4). There is someone on the other side of your wait that God will reach through you.
God is love. And love is patient. So God is our example of perfect patience. He will never leave us nor forsake us. To paraphrase the late great Rich Mullins “Our God is a patient God. He reigns….
…wait for it…
…from Heaven above.”
Phil Baker is a writer and a creative living in Nashville.