“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 move at warp speed and we have no time to wait for anything.
A couple of years ago, we inherited my father-in-law’s newer computer. Our previous computer was many years old, extremely slow, and temperamental. That 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. 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 never part of my vocabulary. I was like the license plate I saw many years ago on a Ford Mustang, “No Go Slo.” It has only been within the past several years that, as a result of a challenge with rheumatoid arthritis, I have had to slow down, and it hasn’t been an easy lesson for me to learn.
Learning patience is never fun. It is true there are some who come by patience more easily, but unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them. 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 is important to God. Sometimes I have passed the “test,” and sometimes I haven’t. And for those times when I didn’t “pass,” that same test kept popping up in my life. There’s a saying which always makes me smile: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
The issue of patience in our lives is ultimately one of trust and faith; faith that God will work all things out for our good. The challenge is always to keep from trying to solve these issues in our own strength. The more we try to “fix” things, the more messed up our lives become, and the longer God waits 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 sense of “dangling” while God works. This lets me know conclusively I am not in control of the situation or the outcome.
The process of learning patience and trust in God would probably be easier if we could actually see how God was working in the background; the pieces of the puzzle He was pulling together so our problem would be resolved. We have to trust that He loves us enough to be concerned about these issues and have faith He is working on our behalf. And, we have to bring these requests to Him which requires the understanding that we need His help.
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 always looked 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 check off each one as it’s resolved so I can move on to the next one. Unfortunately, there never seems to be an end to my “problem list.” I have missed many of the simple joys of life because I have been focused on my list of problems (think Martha, not Mary in Luke 10:38-42).
It is only the grace of God which works His patience in us as we learn to quietly wait. It doesn’t matter what we are waiting for, the process of patience and learning to trust in God are cornerstones of our faith walk. Just as in Aesop’s Fable of the “Tortoise And The Hare,” it will be “slow and steady” that gets the job done. There is no quick and easy way to learn these lessons of patience, trust, and faith. Just as the tortoise slowly and methodically made his way towards the goal, by God’s grace we too can “cross the finish line” on this one.
“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 © 2013 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved