“Don’t pray for patience, or God will give you many exasperating circumstances!”
Doubtless you have heard versions of that adage. As true as it is, the one who utters it seems to do so with a tone of frustration and resignation as though having to wait were a curse.
A quote by William Gurnall, 17th century English pastor, recently arrested my attention and transformed my view of the fruit of patience.
Here’s the context for Gurnall’s teaching on the value of patience: What are we to think when God is silent after we pray earnestly an ‘acceptable’ prayer?
(Gurnall qualifies prayers as acceptable those tied to one of God’s promises and those that are offered from a ‘clean’ heart, that is a heart that has repented of known sin among other qualities.)
This pastor labored to persuade readers (or listeners to his sermons) to appreciate God’s delay in answering our prayers.
“Be patient, and thou shalt find, the longer a mercy goes before its delivery, the more perfect it will come forth at last…(then giving an example from Abraham’s long wait for a son)….when the date of God’s bond was near expiring, and the time of the promise drew night, then God paid interest for his stay. None gain more at the throne of grace than those who trade for tie, and can forbear the payment of a mercy longest.”
Reading that quote the other day flipped my heart 180 degrees. All of a sudden I saw this onerous, groan-worthy quality trait as a priceless treasure God desires and wills to give us. But not as in, cut open my heart and pour in high-octane patience. Were it that easy!
No, instead, He sets out to offer me many, many occasions to wait on Him. Whether:
- at the grocery store or
- for someone laboriously telling a story to get to their point or
- the arrival of a job offer after multiple interviews or
- for rain or
- for a diet to work or
- for a publisher finally to say YES!
Considering the payoff for this kind of inner strength, I now see the KINDNESS of God in giving us multiple opportunities to practice the skill of waiting on Him. For what else are delays but God’s sovereign schedule of life’s events? And what else is Biblical faith, but a treasuring of all that God is for us and all He promises to be in the future? Doesn’t that kind of faith require PATIENCE since we don’t physically SEE what is promised?
Does this kind of waiting on something in the future seem vague and like a discipline involving self-denial? Then maybe shifting the focus to the reward will help. Here are just a few of the many payoffs? Consider some staggering promises of reward:
- face-to-face seeing God (Rev 22:4)
- renewed strength (Is 40:31)
- compassion from God (Is 30:18)
- food and satisfaction for all our desires(Ps 145:15-16)
- all the gifts from God due us (1 Cor 1:7)
- adoption by God the Father (Rom 8:23)
- help and protection (Ps 33:20)
- salvation from many dangers (Gen 49:18)
- grace that is promised when Jesus comes back (1 Peter 1:13)
And if reflecting on some of these pledges of future blessing were not enough to help one see the payoff for patience, God brought to mind James’ motto for the ‘Saints Club’. Consider it PURE JOY my brothers when you face trials of various kinds….(James 1: 2-4). Why? because, as this apostle explains, trials grow patient, cheerful endurance in us. The Greek term for that character quality is hypomone. Literally it means to STAY UNDER.
I take that counsel to instruct me NOT to fight the trying circumstance but to practice patient waiting, praying for God to resolve it or for it to resolve itself or for my God-dependent efforts to have their effect. Whatever the outward action, the inner state of a follower of Christ is calm, patient, cheerful trust in God who ordained this particular trial and circumstance.
What is ‘driving you nuts’ that God is allowing or bringing back time and time again in different forms to GIFT you with patience?