PATIENCE IN WAITING
The world we live in is very fast paced. We demand
computers with clocks that are so fast we are running out of prefixes to
describe their speed. We are on the lookout for the internet service provider
that can offer speedy download rates, as well as lots of bandwidth. People
prefer cars with bigger and more powerful engines, so that they can get that
surge of acceleration when the traffic light goes from red to green. Delivery
services that offer one- or two-day shipping thrive in our society.
We have come to expect that things should be faster and
done according to specification. Naturally, with everything speeding up, we
have become progressively more impatient as people. While it may be acceptable
to expect our perception of time to escalate with the pace of today, this kind
of impatience cannot translate to our relationship with other people, and, in
particular, our relationship with God.
Even though communication through email and phone calls
have sped up the process of conveying information, the amount of time it takes
for a person to process that information in his/her brain remains relatively
constant. For instance, it takes the same amount of time for a person to burst
out in a smile while reading a joke, an email, or a handwritten letter.
With this in mind, we have to re-examine our attitude
towards patience in this fast-paced world. For starters, our ability to wait
for something to happen is not an attribute that is antiquated or left behind
in the dust.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING PATIENT
One question to consider is “Why is it better to be patient
than impatient?” First of all, impatience is a bit like being in denial of the
fact that some things take a set amount of time to occur and cannot be
For instance, in spite of genetic engineering, it still
takes fruit trees years to grow and a few months to bear ripe fruit. An
experienced farmer understands this and waits patiently for the fruit to ripen.
Someone less experienced may pick the fruit early and find not only that the
fruit is unripe and sour but also that he wasted his effort on harvesting a
crop that was not ready.
The Bible tells us that God makes all things beautiful in
His time. If we are unwilling to wait for a particular event in our lives to
come to fruition, we run the risk of ruining the beautiful plans God has for
Consider Abraham’s wait for his promised son. God promised
childless Abraham at the age of seventy-five that he would be the father of a
great nation (Gen 12:2). Abraham waited and waited until he was eighty-five,
and then he and his wife decided to take the matter into their own hands. The
result: Ishmael was born to Abraham through Sarah’s maidservant.
But according to God’s promise, Sarah gave birth to Isaac
when Abraham was one hundred years old. The situation soon became very
delicate, and Abraham had to make the decision to send Ishmael away because of
the rising conflict between Sarah and her maidservant.
Even though God did grant Abraham the son that He had
promised, the glorious anticipation of Isaac’s birth was clouded over with the
shame of sending away another child, and all because of Abraham’s impatience.
This serves as a reminder to us that when we “force” an
event to occur prematurely, the result is not as good as if we had waited for
the situation to mature on its own or take its natural course.
The Bible also gives us concrete reasons why patience
triumphs over impatience: “A patient man has great understanding, but a
quick-tempered man displays folly” (Prov 14:29).
An impatient person will rush through a matter in order to
achieve the end result sooner. A person who is patient gives himself time to
think a matter through before he acts. We know that when we think before we
act, our actions are more thorough and our speech more intelligent. Hasty actions
yield results of poor quality, and we end up spending more time fixing our
mistakes than if we had spent the extra time to think things through
beforehand. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of remedy.
Furthermore, patience is considered a virtue of the strong
in character and not a crutch of the weak-willed. This is an attitude that is
counterintuitive based on our experiences in society and merits a reminder from
time to time.
“Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls
his temper than one who takes a city” (Prov 16:32). Warriors are individuals
that are highly trained and very brave. They act only out of duty and do not
dabble in petty matters. Likewise, developing patience is a process that
requires self-discipline and constraint. One who is able to complete this
training is as strong in character as a warrior is skilled in battle.
THE FRUSTRATIONS OF THE ONE WHO WAITS
Even though being patient is more beneficial than being
impatient, it does not mean it isn’t frustrating to wait for something you
really want to happen to happen. It is discouraging when something we plan goes
awry and events fall out of our control, often forcing us to postpone, or even
cancel, our plans. We often pray to God for this and this to happen as soon as
possible or at a time we specify. When our prayers are not answered to our
expectation, we feel like God has left us out of His care. Let’s think about
this a little more, though.
Remember those stories from your childhood about a person
who rubs a lamp and this genie pops out and offers him three wishes? Of course,
the person thinks this is his lucky day and makes his demands. Wouldn’t it be
nice if God operated in a similar fashion and granted us everything we prayed
The answer is, of course, no. In those genie stories, what
almost always ends up happening is that the person making the wishes muddles up
the first two wishes and uses the third wish to undo his errors.
Also, consider a scenario in which a group of near-sighted
friends travel together to an unfamiliar place. Which person would most likely
be the designated navigator? Certainly not the most myopic person! The group
would pick the one with the sharpest vision to read all the signs and lead the
In comparison to God, our foresight is near blind. God has
the view of eternity; we can’t even see beyond the next second. God knows the
whole universe like the back of His almighty hand, and none of us can profess
to know the entire terrain of our earth. Given this, why would we insist on our
timetable and plans more than submitting to God’s timetable and plans?
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways
higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:9). This
being so, we may lay our frustrations to rest and patiently wait for God’s
timetable to play out its course. We need not feel discouraged that something
did not occur at the time we wanted it, because we know that God’s foresight
will ensure that everything will occur at the optimal time.
“We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those
who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Heb 6:12).
While we wait on God’s time, we should continue to abide in
the Lord by keeping His commands and remaining prayerful. Trusting in God’s
love and impeccable foresight is a source of joy during our time of watching
THE LINE WHERE THE WAITING ENDS
We may discover that even the most patient person has his
limits. At some point, the waiting period needs to end. How do we know at what
point we should just “give up” on waiting and move on without the object of our
Look at the question from another angle: what defines how
much patience we have? Answering this question will help us delineate where our
patience runs out.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” (Gal 5:22)
This verse tells us that patience is a fruit of the Holy
Spirit. In other words, it is something that is evident in a person who has the
Holy Spirit. We can gauge our fullness of the Spirit by how evident these
characteristics are in our lives. The more we allow the Spirit to guide us, the
more love, joy, peace and patience we have. In other words, the degree of our
patience is directly related to the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Our patience runs out when the movement of the Holy Spirit
weakens. If upon self-examination we find that we lack in patience, this
finding also indicates that we are lacking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Chronic impatience is a symptom that calls our attention to a weakened
spirituality. This can be remedied with vigilant prayers and petition to God,
asking Him to fill us with His Spirit. Naturally, when we are filled with God’s
Spirit, the line at which our patience runs out disappears.
The extent to which we can endure and wait is most governed
by how much assurance we have that what we are waiting for will occur. To
illustrate, let’s consider the scenario where we are waiting for a bus to
arrive. Suppose the bus is running late, and you and the other would-be
passengers start to wonder, will it ever show up? Five minutes go by, ten
minutes go by, and one by one, passengers will leave, starting with those with
the least faith in the public transit system, ending with the person who has
the most faith that the bus will come.
The level of a person’s belief that the bus will come
dictates the amount of time he is willing to wait. Likewise, the amount of
faith we put in God’s provision is directly related to how long we are willing
to wait on His schedule. Why can we believe that God will grant us what we need
in a timely manner? Something to think about is all the times in the past when
God did not grant what we wanted at the time we wanted, and recall how He
guided us in a way we did not expect.
Do not be anxious
about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all
understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:
All of us, upon careful introspection, will find that God
very frequently provides for us in ways that exceed our expectation.
Furthermore, if we lovingly submit to God’s commands, we will always remain in
His careful protection. “And we know that in all things God works for the good
of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom
By recalling God’s blessings and remembering that He always
looks out for the benefit of His children, we have every assurance that
although He may not provide for us in the way we want, ultimately His provision
is the best. When God appears on the scene later than we expect, we should not
be the ones who gave up on Him, like the passengers who didn’t think the bus
would ever arrive. Instead, we are able to wait because we know He will come to
So the question we posed, “Where is the line where I can
stop waiting?” now becomes, “How do I push that line to the horizon, where I am
willing to submit to God’s will?”
In Hebrews 11, we read about the patriarchs and prophets,
whose faith knew no boundaries. They believed and lived by God’s promises to
the day they died. Some never saw the fulfillment of God’s promise to them in
their lifetimes, and yet they believed.
Our patience is bound by our faith in God’s promises. When
our patience runs out while waiting for God to show us His way, it means we
have lost faith in God. While it is not easy to endure the seemingly eternal
time it might take for something we want to happen, fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2), will give us the strength to
Basically, the length of time we are willing to wait for
God boils down to whether we truly believe in our hearts that God will fulfill
our requests, and whether our hearts are open to the fact that God may fulfill
our requests in an alternative way, and perhaps even at an alternative time.
Just because we eagerly anticipate the next technological
gadget does not mean we ought to apply this same sense of impatience to our
expectations from God. Some things just take time to come to maturity, and to
show restraint while waiting demonstrates strength of character and keen
To rush a matter is to invite trouble, and very often the
result is not optimal. God knows what the optimal time is, so we should not
presume to know more than He does by jumping the gun. Rather, we can rely
comfortably on His omniscience and omnipotence to provide us with all we need.
Since God will always provide for those who love Him, we will find the strength
to wait for His provision through the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
The only boundaries we have are the ones delineated by our
lack of faith and insufficient movement of the Holy Spirit. Through constant
prayer, we can invite the Holy Spirit to dwell in us more fully and cultivate a
life in which we have faith in God’s love for us.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in
prayer” (Rom 12:12). Let the world rush by, and let others chase after the
changing winds. Let the pace of life around us spin itself into a frenzy,
faster and faster, leading to a whirlpool that instead of propelling up, sucks
In a society where the demand for speed results in
unhealthy compromises, let us remember that when we patiently allow room in our
lives for our Lord, we will find our hopes fulfilled in His time.