For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus – Romans 15:4-5
Paul’s words hold a tremendous truth: the word of God is the source of patience and comfort for our lives and upon this foundation we build the hope that will sustain us through the most difficult of times. Now for those of you whose lives are filled with nothing but peace and joy, you probably don’t need to read any further. But for the rest of us, we can also learn how to experience maximized peace from Paul’s simple declaration.
Have you ever heard someone give you the advice that you should never ask God for patience, because in doing so He’ll bring you plenty of opportunities to develop it? I must confess that I’ve spoken these words a time or two – usually at times when I was going through a period of stress and was pressing God for deliverance. Of course, such an idea is totally off base. For starters, there is nothing we shouldn’t bring before the Lord our God. If an extra measure of patience is needed, then ask for it. God is not waiting to zap us for asking, so don’t be fooled into avoiding Him. In truth, the issues that we experience in practicing patience have little to do with God and a whole lot to do with us.
A spiritual mentor of mine shared this thought regarding patience: “Patience is the thing you tell yourself while you’re waiting.” You see, for most people, patience is all about passively sitting back and being content while you do nothing. This approach will inaccurately make patience synonymous with helplessness. That is why so many people struggle with patience. Patience is not passive – it is an active work in our lives that we must diligently pursue in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. When we do this, we find that patience is not only attainable but ultimately more rewarding.
As I meditated on this, I couldn’t help but look at two elements in my life where I have succeeded and struggled with patience. My success is in my weight loss. I have managed to lose a tremendous amount of weight over the past few months and I am tremendously proud of this accomplishment. But over that time there have been several stretches where my weight plateaued. Despite staying true to my diet and exercise regimen, I wasn’t losing weight. At those times, Elder Randy was there reminding me (in ways that only he could get away with) that I wasn’t heading back to the couch with a bag of chips to put the weight back on, so I needed to be patient. In this context, patience meant to keep dieting, to keep exercising, to tweak a part of the regimen, and to continue to confess through my prayer life that the weight was going to come off. This is what I did and what I continue to do. It doesn’t make the process quicker, but my spirits are uplifted with the knowledge that God is blessing my diligence and doing amazing things in my life.
While I see this clearly in my health, there are other areas of my life where, despite my understanding of this, I still find myself struggling to demonstrate the patience I should. There are lots of reasons, explanations, or excuses I could give for this inconsistency in my approach. Finances are obviously important to life. Raising children is an important and demanding part of any parent’s life. Career goals play a tremendous role in our decision making today and into the future. Maintaining healthy relationships with our spouse or significant other are crucial.
For me, these areas are priorities, making it easier to be controlling and harder to be patient. Both approaches are active, but only one includes God. When I’m controlling it I say I want it done now, that I can’t wait until it’s over, that I dislike the process, that I’d give anything to get what I’m after. When I’m being patient I say (and believe) that God is guiding me in this process, that I’m learning the lessons I need along the way to sustain long term success, that I’m receiving exactly what God has desired for me to have and at the right time in my life to enjoy it the most.
By keeping these truths at the forefront of my mind, I learn to appreciate what God is doing in my life in totality. It also allows me the opportunity to resubmit myself to Him each day in worship and prayer as we keep working toward our ultimate goals inside of my kingdom destiny. Or as John Waller says in his song, While I’m Waiting…
“I will move ahead, bold and confident. Taking every step in obedience.”
The career I’ve desired, the home life I’ve sought, the security I’ve longed for, the woman of my dreams. I praise God everyday that I’m waiting with the sure knowledge that they’re coming according to His promises.