“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
I don’t know anyone who enjoys the process of learning patience. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you are a child or an adult, learning patience is a slow, tedious, and uncomfortable process. These days we have become so used to “instant” everything that even ”normal” amounts of patience seem to have become a lost art. Our lives are moving at warp speed and we have no time to wait for anything.
We recently inherited my father-in-law’s newer computer. Our previous computer was many years old and extremely slow (and temperamental). Our old computer was a daily lesson in how to wait, and I really struggled with it. For someone who came to computers fairly late in life, I now spend the greater portion of my days on the computer, both at work and at home. My computer at work is pretty fast, so when I came home to our old computer, I would fuss at how long it took to do even the simplest of tasks. I would like to say that patience was perfected in me through this experience, but anyone who knows me well would be laughing.
Historically speaking, I have always tried to do everything fast: I worked fast, I walked fast, I ate fast, and I made decisions fast–slow was not part of my vocabulary. I was like the license plate I saw many years ago on a Ford Mustang, “No Go Slow”. It has only been within the past two years that, as a result of a new challenge with rheumatoid arthritis, I have had to slow down, and it hasn’t been an easy lesson to learn.
Learning patience is never a fun process. It is true that there are some personality types who come by patience more easily, but unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them. I believe that I have empirical evidence of God’s sense of humor when I look back over the experiences of my life. Considering how many times I have had to learn and re-learn the same lessons on patience, one could think that the issue of patience in my life is important to God. Some times I have passed the “test”, and sometimes I haven’t. And for those times when I didn’t “pass”, that same test would keep popping up in my life. There is a saying that always makes me smile: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” How many times have we all done this?
Each one of us have areas in our lives where patience is a continual struggle. For me it has been with computers and waiting for financial provision or employment for my husband in a volatile and ever-changing industry. The issue of patience in our lives is ultimately about trust and faith; faith that God will work all things out for our good. As I wait for Him to work on my behalf, the ultimate challenge has been to keep from trying to solve these issues in my own strength. It seems that the more I try to “fix” things on my own, the more messed up my life becomes and the longer God waits to move in to remedy the situation.
We have a saying in our family about the process of waiting for God to work: “It seems like God thinks He has all the time in the world! Doesn’t He know we need this fixed right now?” (said with a smile, of course). In a recent conversation with my daughter, we were talking about this process of waiting and how often it feels like God has us dangling over the edge of a great abyss until the last possible moment, at which time He rides in to the rescue. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like that feeling. That sense of “dangling” for an interminable amount of time while God works lets me know conclusively that I am not in control of the situation or the outcome. For someone who has always been a “take charge” kind of person, this lesson has been a difficult one for me to learn.
The process of learning patience and trust in God would probably be easier if we could actually see how God was working. Most often though, we can’t see what He is doing quietly in the background; the pieces of the puzzle that He is pulling together so that our problem can be resolved. We have to come to trust that He loves us enough to be concerned about these issues in our lives; we have to have faith that He is working on our behalf. And, we have to bring our requests about these problems to Him, which requires a certain amount of humility and the understanding that we need His help. The ultimate irony is that we need His help in all things, not just the big problems that seem overwhelming to us.
Because God knows the end from the beginning, He knows what we don’t: how this problem or trial is important to the maturing of our faith. I tend to look at problems as just another nuisance to get past until I can get on with “real life”, or at least that’s how I have looked at them in the past. Like some cosmic list, I have checked off each problem as it has been resolved so that I can move on to the next one. However, there never seems to be an end to my “problem list.” It is easy to completely miss many of the simple joys of life when I am that focused on my list of problems (think Martha, not Mary in Luke 10:38-42) and it also means that my focus is not where it should be, on Him.
It is only the grace and strength of God that will work His patience in me as I learn to quietly wait. It doesn’t matter if I am waiting for the manifestation of financial provision or the restoration of a broken relationship, the process of patience and the process of learning to trust are cornerstones in my faith walk. It is time to start walking in the victory that is the result of this patience process. Just like Aesop’s Fable of the “Tortoise And The Hare“, it will be “slow and steady” that gets the job done. Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy way to learn the lessons of patience, trust, and faith. Just as the tortoise slowly and methodically makes his way towards his goal, by God’s grace I want to cross the “finish line” on this one. The power of patience will be seen as I rest in Him and as His peace becomes the hallmark of my life.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NKJV)
Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
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