Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
– Psalm 25:5 (NKJV, emphasis mine)
Is there a worse word in any language?
Many, many articles have been written about our so-called recent inability to delay gratification, but this has always been a struggle. After all, the Apostle Paul wrote many centuries ago that patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit, something that we can’t manufacture on our own, and he did so as part of a list of contrasting character traits; sinful ones to the left, godly ones to the right. I can imagine that, in his day, people complained about the mail taking a month to arrive, while elders shook their heads and told stories about walking uphill in the snow, both ways.
Patience is hard. While it is true that some of us might have more of a bent toward handling the wait well, overall it’s just not something that humanity is good at. And so, as we walk with the Lord, part of His activity in our lives is to shape us into the people that He designed us to be. We become more like Him – millimeter by often screaming millimeter.
Frustratingly, this includes learning patience.
Pause and let this sink in: God teaches us to be patient because He is patient. Specifically, He is patient with us.
Patience is a God-trait, part of His nature. Looking at it from this angle helps us to realize that waiting is so much more than annoyed thumb-twiddling. God is ever-active, always working to draw the unsaved to Himself and to draw the saved into deeper relationship. In a mystery that none of us are fully equipped to explain, He, who could force anyone to do anything at any time, allows us the freedom to choose. If we don’t learn the lesson the first time, He’ll bring it up again. And again, until we’re ready to move forward in and with Him. He never gets tired and He never gives up.
The parallel does break down, because we, of course, are not God, and so we don’t see the whole picture. And unlike God, we have to submit ourselves to a higher authority. However, I believe that we can look at the character and activity of God and draw this conclusion: To wait is to engage in a robust activity.
For God: While He waits for us to get on board in a certain area, He keeps on working in another area, where we’re more receptive.
For us: Like a good physical workout, our spiritual muscles strain under the effort it takes to set aside our desire for right now and submit to His will and timing.
Waiting on the Lord is more than this, though. It isn’t as if we have to wonder if His response and work will be good for us. As we learn to depend on Him, we learn to anticipate His kindness. We learn to stay near and to be attentive. Like courtiers in a medieval court, we hover close to the King, ready to move when He moves and (learning to be) content to stay when He stays.
Yes, patience is hard. Waiting is challenge. Giving over the right to rule our own lives has to be done time and time again.
Ah, but as we are, bit by bit, transformed, there’s the prize!
Maybe not even what we were seeking, what we were asking for.
Maybe – God Himself.