The virtue of patience is steadily being eaten away within our culture. As technology continues to improve and our lives continually become more immersed in the digital and social media worlds, being still and not having to be doing something for our own entertainment, work, or agenda, is becoming increasingly difficult.
We have access into other people’s lives more than ever before, and that makes it very easy to immerse ourselves into all kinds of different realities, drama, gossip, information, and emotions. Because we (most people living in the West, at least) are so connected to the world in these ways, and because of the constant influence of social media and technology further promoting mindsets of instant gratification, it becomes very difficult to be patient when we are not receiving the outcome we desire--especially in terms of our relationships with people, our own feelings, and, ultimately, our relationship with God.
To begin, the definition of patience/patient according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary is: “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; not hasty or impetuous.” When looking at the strict definition of the word from this perspective, bearing pains and trials without complaint sounds severely difficult. There are some days when something as simple as dropping your phone in the car can be the most infuriating thing to experience.
1) God is not working on our time
We are naturally passionate and emotional beings, and being patient with what happens in the outside world is one thing, but there is also an entire world within us that requires having patience with as well. In both of these worlds--the world that exists outside of us and despite us, and the inner world within us that makes up who we are--God is actively moving, working, and seeking to bring His own change. For us as humans, being patient revolves around waiting for the ideal outcome that we expect to arrive. However; most often, the way God is moving, working through, and seeking us, does not align with our own ideal outcomes, and does not come when we expect it to.
Have you ever ordered something off the internet? If you have not, then I am very impressed by your restraint/lack of connection to the modern world (slightly joking). But if you have, then you probably understand how it feels to wait for something you ordered, and just itch with anticipation for the moment it arrives. I am sure there are many other situations you can think of that make you squirm with impatience and anxiety… slow traffic when you are running late for work, waiting for test/grade results from school, waiting in line for a store or restaurant. These are simple, easy-to-understand situations that invoke impatience within us, but how do we understand more complex and serious situations that we encounter?
When we look at how God works, more often than not, it is incompatible with our mindset towards patience. Even the simple act Jesus mentions of knocking, and continuing to knock; seeking, and continuing to seek after God, is something a lot of people are not willing to do--and to a large degree, because it takes time and discipline (Matthew 7:7-8). For one, it requires effort towards a result that is not determined by us--contrary to the world we are comfortable in, which enables us to put in the time and the work toward something and expect our “deserved” result.
Why should I spend my time doing something that I’m not even sure pays off? If God loves me, why does He not just give me what I want right now, so I could then love Him? Why doesn’t God just show Himself to me so that I would know He’s real? We take our expected, ideal outcomes/perceptions and then project that onto God and what we believe He should do or should’ve done, and therefore, we confine who God is based on our circumstance.
2) Find patience in the pit by seeking God in it
Our perspective in the grand scheme of life (and the overall interconnection of the lives around us) is so limited compared to the viewpoint that God has. The passing of a family member or friend can create a moment in life of immense pain and suffering, seeming more like a curse from God then something He can work through. Life sometimes offers up moments of pain and suffering like this--when everything seems to fall apart instantaneously, as though we have stumbled and fallen into a pit.
When we fall into the pits of life, the enemy will go straight for our patience, attempting to dismantle our trust in God. In the pit, our patience with life can wear thin; we lose sight of where we are going, and only see the hole that we are in. Everything seems to become more difficult, and hope quickly fades--there seems to be no way out. These moments of trial and suffering can be critical because, oftentimes, we react in a way that we have in the past, and/or in a way that is natural for us: we use the moment to distance ourselves from God, rather than seek Him in it.
It can be so incomprehensible and difficult to process, but God wants us to be patient in the pit. When we feel as though we are stuck and have no way out from a certain situation, God is calling us into a place of patient suffering; of looking to Him in our darkest nights, and finding comfort there. And there is comfort with God when we seek Him in those moments--even joy--and though the situation may not change immediately, God is doing a greater work in us that we can’t see, and is preparing us for the next season. This is why Paul writes, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). We have to break away from our own mindset of patience, and learn to wait on God’s time.
3) There is breakthrough in the name of Jesus Christ
Whether it’s tied with our actions of love to one another, or how we deal with our feelings inside, the Bible has a lot to say on patience: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2), and “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Simply based on these two verses, we can see that patience must be exercised towards people and towards ourselves. When we run into the pits of life and its trials, the daily annoyances, and the sufferings of the day; our ability to be patient with others, and with ourselves, can easily wear thin.
Is there an exact formula to being patient during the difficult times in our lives? No, there is not. God does not just give us cookie-cutter ways to go about our lives--He isn’t a micromanager. God is a God that is entirely invested in your life and wants to empower you, and desires to give you the gifts of His heart, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).
Though some situations seem impossible to reconcile and are incredibly difficult to trust God in, He says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11). There IS breakthrough for our lives in the name of Jesus Christ, but it will come by God’s hand and on His time, if we can wait patiently on Him, “Still I am certain to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LORD; be strong and courageous. Wait patiently for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14).
4) Trust in the Lord with all your heart
When we struggle to see the bigger picture because of the pits in our lives, Jesus is there to help us get out of them. Everyone’s situations can differ, but one thing is true: God is who He says He is, and therefore we should be patient in trusting Him to get us out of the pits of life; “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Whatever state of mind we are walking in, God goes with us. He is not far off, looking down at our situation coldly--He is with us.
God is an intimate and loving God, seeking our attention in every moment of pain so that He can give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30). Sometimes it seems rest is nowhere to be found; that it has been something you have desired for so long, but it is nowhere to be seen. If you are sitting in a pit of your own, I challenge you to place your trust in God and be patient for His way out--despite the situation, despite the emotions inside you, despite the voice bringing doubts into your mind, and despite what the world may say about God. God wants our trust, and trust requires a relationship of love, and a relationship requires time and commitment, so “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5).
I do not know what you are going through or what place in life you are at, but I know that we all fall into our own pits sometimes. No matter what place you may be in; no matter what desert or valley you may be traveling through during these weird, uncertain times, God goes with you and He wants to fight for you.
Jesus Christ died on the Cross and rose again to take the burdens off of our shoulders, and to help us walk in a new light. Christ says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Blessings will come, joy will be found, peace will be restored, love will flourish, and the light will shine through when we wait on the Lord. And we will see His goodness in the land of the living.