Numerous news outlets, as well as the President’s own Coronavirus Task Force, report that the American people are becoming increasingly frustrated and impatient with the social distancing guidelines. Protests have even erupted in Michigan in defiance of the Governor’s guidelines.
The President has often said that people are “chompin’ at the bit to get back to work.” To attend ball games. Eat out at restaurants. And get this country open again.
I’m reminded of a story about the 19th century New England Preacher Phillips Brooks. He was known for his poise. Patience. And quiet manner. However, like all of us, the pressure of his work caused him to suffer from periods of frustration.
One day a friend saw the minister feverishly pacing the floor. Back and forth. Back and forth. Like a caged lion. Finally, he said, “What’s the trouble, Mr. Brooks?” His reply was classic.
“The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!”
How many of us can relate to that feeling? Especially at a time like this.
Patience, however, is a virtue that is always needed in our lives, but more than ever during this current crisis.
Paul wrote that the fruit of the spirit is not only love, joy and peace, but patience (Gal. 5:23). James, Jesus’ brother, echoes the importance of patience.
“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (Jas 5:7-8)
Thayer says patience is “forbearance, slowness in avenging wrongs.” The word is translated longsuffering. It literally means “long tempered.” It has to do with fortitude. Endurance. And resilience.
Various anonymous sources have defined patience in this way. “Patience is the ability to accept delay or disappointment graciously.”” Patience is the powerful attribute that enables a man or a woman to remain steadfast under strain and continue pressing on.” “Patience is a calm endurance based on the certain knowledge that God is in control.”
Why is Patience so Difficult?
(1) It Goes Against Human Nature. We are born impatient. When a baby wakes up and is wet or hungry, he doesn’t think, I’ll wait until morning and not bother mom! We’re often like the little 4-year-old boy who was traveling with his mother and constantly asking again and again” “When are we going to get there? Finally, the mother got so irritated that she said, “We still have 90 more miles to go. So don’t ask me again when we’re going to get there.” The boy was silent for a long time. Then he timidly asked, “Mom, will I still be four when we get there?”
(2) It is contrary to our culture. We live on the fast track. We live in a world of fast food. One hour printing. Express lunches. Microwaves. Instant internet communication. Like the kids’ commercial advertising the cell phone says, “fast is better.” I even heard of one church in Florida that advertises 22 minute services!
(3) We have even elevated impatience to a virtue! We admire the type A business person. Hard charging people. Choleric personalities. You hear it said, “Well I may be impatient but I get things done.
However, God calls us to patience. The wise man wrote “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick tempered man displays folly” (Prov. 14:9).
HOW DO WE DEVELOP PATIENCE?
(1) Abide in Christ (Jn. 15:5). He is the perfect example of patience. In his work. In dealing with difficult people. In training the apostles. In suffering. Being more Christ-like will produce greater patience.
(2) Grow in Love. The great love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love is patient.” The more we love, the greater we love, the deeper we love, the more patient we become. Got a problem being patient with people? Problems? Circumstances? Situations? Orders from authorities? Brethren? Revisit the two great commandments. Love God and your fellow man more.
(3) Pray. In Colossians 1:9-11 Paul prayed for several things, including patience. Want patience? Pray! Just don’t be like the fellow who prayed, “Lord give me more patience….and right now!” While we’re praying for this current crisis to end, let’s also pray for patience, endurance and faithfulness.
(4) Embrace the opportunity to slow down. There’s no need to fight it. Accept it. Use this time to work on a project. Read a book. Enjoy your family. Do good for others. Let your light shine. And maybe work on developing your patience.
(5) Wait on the Lord. The Psalmist said, “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart Wait, I say, on the Lord!”( Ps. 27:14).
Like Brooks, sometimes we’re in a hurry. But God isn’t. God knows our hearts. Feels our frustration. Hears our pleas. And He will answer our prayers. In. His. Time. Until then, be patient.
Finally, remember that patience is more than just waiting. It’s the ability to maintain a good attitude, a spiritual focus and live righteously while we wait.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman