The older I become, the more I value patience as an indispensable component of success in any sphere of life. We often roll our eyes when children ask the dreaded “Are we there yet?” question for the umpteen time. However, that behaviour is indicative of a malaise in human nature. Most of us can point to examples of impatience in ourselves and others. It may be something small like trying to woof down a piping hot meal or something dangerous like speeding or road rage. The consequences of impatience aren’t always immediately apparent, but if we don’t know how to wait, we’ll most likely miss God’s best for us.
One of the consequences of impatience is impetuousness. We find an instructive example of this in the life of Saul, the first king of Israel, as he deliberately offered an unlawful sacrifice because he was tired of waiting for Samuel. His imprudent act ultimately cost him and his lineage the throne [1 Samuel 13:8-14]. Saul’s story encapsulates a principle I can attest to: The price of hasty decisions and rash actions often exceeds any momentary gain they engender. Furthermore, impatience is usually self-serving and, for Christians, indicates a lack of temperance [Galatians 5:23]. As the Israelites demonstrated in the wilderness, we can easily fall into idolatry or, at the very least, leave the path of righteousness when we fail to wait patiently for God [Exodus 32:1]. Invariably, those actions will be for our namesake, not His.
It’s always encouraging to read stories of people like Anna, the prophetess, and Simeon, who waited and interceded for the arrival of Jesus [Luke 2:25-38]. But it’s especially thrilling to witness God reward someone who waited patiently for Him. A few weekends ago, I was at a wedding, and the bride, a friend of ours, had waited 19 years for a husband after her first marriage broke down. She remained celibate throughout that period – a testimony in a culture rife with promiscuity, and prayerfully waited for God to fulfil her desire with the right man. That’s nearly two decades of watching and celebrating others enjoy one of your deepest longings. She didn’t expect such a long wait when it began, but as time passed, she resolved in her heart that God was faithful, irrespective of her circumstances. Consequently, her faith didn’t wane, nor did she become bitter or resentful of those who had what she desired. On this day she’d waited nearly two decades to experience, as she spoke to us through grateful tears only God truly understood; I thought her story beautifully captured the words of Jeremiah: “It is good to wait patiently for the salvation of the Lord” [Lamentations 3:26].
The author of the letter to the Hebrews encouraged his readers to follow those who received what God had promised them through faith and patience [Hebrews 6:12]. As we sat there astounded by her story, another friend, reflecting on the timeless wisdom of that verse, circumspectly added that: “faith was for the destination and patience was for the journey”. Elsewhere in Hebrews, the author defines faith as: ”the assurance of things hoped for…” [Hebrews 11:1]. Contemporary wisdom says: “It’s the hope that kills you”, but in God’s kingdom, where we walk by faith, that verse implies we cannot obtain anything without hope. However, there’s usually a gap between the present and the manifestation of things hoped for. Unfortunately, we often don’t know how long that wait will be, which amplifies the temptation to despise our hope and to take matters into our own hands.
I know a little about waiting for God. In those seasons, it can feel like He doesn’t exist, or if He does, He is either incapable or unwilling to answer your prayers. Additionally, the mind becomes a battlefield as reason questions your faith and tempts you to doubt God’s faithfulness. The world may also mock you and question your commitment to integrity and righteousness, while the devil lays snare after snare and finds different ways to ask: “Did God really say..?” just as he did to Eve in the Garden. Occasionally, it will feel unrelenting, and ungodly alternatives, even those you swore you’d never consider, may become irresistibly appealing. Very few, if any, would make it through these seasons without help. If Abraham could succumb [Genesis 16], then it’d be foolhardy for us to navigate our trials in our finite wisdom and strength.
I learnt three noteworthy lessons from my friend’s experience we’d do well to imbibe in a season of waiting. First, resolve in your heart that God is trustworthy [Romans 3:4]. So, if you can find a corresponding promise in His word for what you desire, you have evidence to support your hope and a guarantee, underwritten by God’s integrity, that your story won’t end in shame [Romans 10:11]. Second, saturate yourself with God’s word. God and His word are one [John 1:1-3]. Therefore, let God’s word dwell in you richly [Colossians 3:16], and you’ll invariably experience the fruit of the indwelling presence of His Spirit, which includes patience and temperance [Galatians 5:22-23]. Third, surround yourself with like-minded people who will encourage you and pray with you. Every believer is part of the Body of Christ, and God has placed our supply in that Body [Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 1:18]. Don’t neglect yours.
Ultimately, God supplies the patience we need for the journey of faith [Psalm 27:1]. Therefore, we can be confident of success because we aren’t reliant on our wit or abilities [2 Corinthians 3:4-5]. So, don’t let impatience rob you of God’s best. Instead, when the going gets tough, obtain grace from His throne to wait patiently to see God come through for you [Hebrews 4:14-16, Luke 2:30]. When He does, your testimony will make the ears of those who hear it tingle [1 Samuel 3:11].