It seems that all the creativity of man and all the energy we possess is focused on one thing in our day and age: to eradicate from the face of the earth any need to be patient. We are bent on making sure we don’t have to wait for anything… ever.
And yet the faster things get, the more perpetually impatient we actually are—precisely because we have lost the ability to wait well. I bet that in the last month there has been at least one moment when you were downloading a document, a picture, or something else, and then gave up or grew annoyed because it wasn’t moving fast enough: “This isn’t fast enough. This isn’t happening quickly enough. This is frustrating me.” We’re perpetually impatient these days.
Everything is built for speed, as our technological brilliance focuses in so many ways on us not having to wait. And that hasn’t been good for our souls—because the Christian life calls for patience. Not just the kind of patience that means that we don’t yell at our screen or scream at our spouse or snap at our children. God cares about those things, and he speaks into those things, but God is serious about patience because persevering faith and gladness in God requires it. We Christians are by definition a waiting people, and that requires patience—especially when life brings trials, hardships, or pain.
You Can Wait: Your Father is Coming
Jesus’ brother James wrote to suffering Christians in the first century, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7). For two millennia, the church has been waiting for Christ to return and make all things new. For the Christian, history is linear. We are moving toward something—to the day Christ returns and consummates all he accomplished in his cross and his resurrection. Our Father is coming to get us.
I remember playing in the backyard with my youngest two, Reid and Norah, several years ago and throwing the football with Reid. Honestly, I was throwing it at him. It just bounced off. He couldn’t catch well quite yet. We’re tossing the ball in the back, and Norah had snuck off. I lost sight of her. Judge me if you want. It happens. She’s alive.
So I heard this whimper and a cry of “Daaaaad…” I came around the side of the house, and she had climbed up our fence. After she got up there she had apparently enjoyed it for five or six minutes, and then thought, “I don’t know how to get down.”
Stuck on the fence, she began to cry out for me, and she was there until I got to grab her, kiss her, and put her down on the ground. She’d had to wait, but she’d known I would come. This is the Christian hope: “My Dad is coming. My Dad is coming, and I’m getting closer to him getting here.”
You are closer to seeing Jesus than you were when you started reading this blog. This is a reality, not a vague hope. And that helps you wait patiently, as well as eagerly (Romans 8:23,25). That helps you wait with hope, even when life doesn’t go the route you’d planned or expected.
So be patient. Hold tight. The plan is not off-track. God didn’t take his eye off the ball. Just because he’s not here yet doesn’t mean he’s not coming. Every bit of difficulty, suffering, crawling, weariness, depression, anxiety, sin will be over one day, on that day. God will lift us off the fence. Hang in there. The Lord is coming. But you are going to need to wait.
You Can Wait: Your Father is Working
Not only that, be patient in suffering because God is accomplishing something in you. If you are a child of God, he is at work to make you like the Son of God. He is now sanctifying us, making us more and more like Jesus. And God uses both joys and sorrows to do that.
If you’re a Christian, difficulty is not punitive. You’re not being punished for not having a long enough quiet time or for messing up again. That’s not how this works. If you trust Christ, you are a fully loved, fully accepted son or daughter of God.
But that doesn’t mean the Lord doesn’t have work to do in you. He’s our Father.
I love my son. He’s a 13-year-old boy. There’s nothing he could do to make me not love him, but we have some work to do. Part of that work is rewarding what is good and right, and part of that is disciplining what is wrong. And that’s how God treats us: “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives … God is treating you as sons” (Hebrews 12:6-7). Our difficulties as we walk home to see Jesus is not God punishing his children, but God shaping and molding his children.
God is producing in you “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v 11). Be patient; the Lord is at work in your struggle. He is at work in your joy. He is at work in your losses. He is at work in your fight. He is at work as he tears some things in you down in order to build you back up. Don’t lose hope. Be patient. God is accomplishing things.
Waiting in Your Struggles
You may be in a season of struggle right now. If you’re not, then you can know that, at some point between now and the day you see Jesus, you will be. And our world is telling you that when that suffering comes, you need to get it fixed right now. You should demand a solution—from God if you can’t find it in yourself—right now. But God doesn’t work like that. God’s got a longer gameplan than that. The Bible’s full of people who learned that God’s road is longer, and it has bumps in it, but it’s always better. Joseph, Ruth, David, Job, and supremely Jesus… all of them had struggles, and waited patiently through them, knowing that their Father was coming and their Father was working.
So we need to learn to be patient. We need to learn to do the one thing our world won’t do: to wait. That’s how we can suffer well, with hope, with joy, with faith. Be patient; the Lord is at work in your struggles. Be patient; the Lord is coming and he will put an end to your struggles. Be patient; his return is closer now than it was when you got up this morning.
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