I must confess that I am one of those people who is terribly impatient. Maybe you are one of those persons as well. In a world that moves at the speed of light, I suspect we may be rearing a generation of impatient people. One of the pervasive and astounding phrases in the Bible is “wait upon the Lord”. Why must we wait? With all the things in our modern life that require seemingly immediate attention, why would God fly in the face of our present reality and demand that we wait on Him?
I am one of those people who if faced with too long a line at a fast-food restaurant, I will leave and go somewhere else; I am one of those people who if faced with long lines of traffic, will drive 1oo miles out-of-the-way to avoid said traffic-jam; I am one of those people who have always felt that it is my American right to pursue what I want at a pace that MUST keep up with what I perceive to be the rate of progression of my peers. If Joe can do it in a year, then I must do the same thing in 6 months! If Bob can become successful in a decade out of college, then I must pursue that same success in 5 years! Unfortunately, I believe I was born this way…maybe I learned it from my parents who were both entrepreneurs, but there had to be some predisposition for this type of personality. How has this framework served me? Poorly! As a Christian, I have always run into road-blocks that prevent any type of “quick-fix” or rapid ascent into my “destiny”. At some point along the way (around 35 years old), I realized that impatience was a detriment to my spiritual well-being, that patience is indeed a virtue, and that “waiting on the Lord” is not some philosophical suggestion!
So the day finally arrived when the Lord prompted me to pray a prayer that opposed everything I was wired to be as a human. He led me to the prayer of patience. In retrospect, I hadn’t considered what His answer to this prayer would look like. In my weak and inexperienced existence, I really didn’t understand the repercussions of such a prayer. The problem with the prayer of patience is that God is MORE than happy to answer such a prayer! God help us all, this process is particularly painful. We are anxious to be an earthen vessel to carry His glory, but wonder why we spin on the “potter’s wheel” for so dang long! I mean seriously…I must admit this post is a confession of sin…sometimes I want to scream out, “For the love of Pete, am I not ready yet?!”
This prayer is a faith-tester as well. At some point along the way of learning patience, you look around and assess your life and think, “Man, what am I doing?” When the answer looks a lot like…well…”Nothing”, you begin to question your own sanity and dependence on God’s timing and wisdom. The people in your life I know look at you and think, “What are they waiting for?” When those internal and external voices begin to echo in your brain for long enough, you question the wisdom of praying the prayer to begin with! It smacks of the popular phrase, “Be careful what you wish for”…The Bible teaches much on this subject. Think about Abraham and all the “wasted” years he spent in a foreign land, think about Moses and all the “wasted” years away from his homeland of Egypt, think about poor Joseph who spent years as a slave and years “wasted” in prison, think of Nehemiah, think of Job, and think of poor old Noah! Can you imagine how Noah felt? I mean seriously, building a boat in a world where rain had never even been witnessed, taking for-e–e–ver to build such a behemoth of a vessel, and the whole time having the people mock and laugh and chastise you in the process! Heck, some people today are still giving Noah a hard time by doubting he even existed and built an ark!! So I read these stories in the past and said to myself, “Poor guys…I hope God doesn’t do that to me!” So now I read these stories and say, “I feel your pain!” So the point here is this: if one cannot live in faith, one cannot please God; the importance of hope is absolutely paramount; and to wait on God is an honor…yes, I said it, an honor!
Why is it an honor to wait on God and learn patience? Because the longer it takes, the more important the mission He has for you, the more crucial your destiny must be, and the more earnest He is about “getting you right”! Think about how all things that are considered precious take a great deal of time and effort. To refine a metal requires repeated firings, to have a precious stone requires not only natural processes but also meticulous mining, cleaning, and a hand to cut each facet. Most people I know that possess great character and godliness have literally “been through hell”. So why do we naturally run from the refining process let alone pray for it? The answer is quite simply that we cringe at the thought of pain, and for me, to have to wait is probably the most painful thing God could do to me! For someone who heeded the advice of my parents, my country, and the educational system to hit the ground running toward success, having to wait and come to terms that my future is not at all clear is frustrating and counterintuitive!
I know in some ways what the Lord has in store for me, but He never really reveals the whole “enchilada”. Why does He do this? I would venture to say that if He would reveal too much of His plans for us, we would run like Forest Gump through the corn fields! Considering the above Bible characters, what if Moses (the stuttering murderer) knew that he would lead the Israelites against the greatest army on the face of the planet? What if Joseph (the spoiled girly man) knew he would have to be thrown in a pit, become a slave, and sit in prison before rising to the second most powerful person on the planet? What if Gideon knew ahead of time that God would whittle an army of tens of thousands down to 300 to battle an entire legion? What if Joshua knew that to bring down Jericho, he would have to march around the most intimidating fortress in ancient Palestine and simply blow trumpets? Don’t you think that these “average men” would have laughed at God and then wept at the implications?
So I sit here today and write this post admitting to you that I am still in the process of refinement. Yes, God is doing much in my life, but I know where I am as well! I know I’m not there yet. I know that only in God’s time will He open the right door for me to step through. Maybe you are where I am too? Let us rejoice and remember that God is a personal and intimate and wise God. Let us edify each other and embrace such painful lessons of patience. One thing to consider: to “wait on the Lord” is not passive waiting…it is preparedness in anticipation. We should not get lethargic and stop pressing into Him and asking Him earnestly for His wisdom and discernment. Let us continue to pray and study His word and do what we can to be obedient. Let us rest in the knowledge that we are NOT alone! I feel your pain, I live in the refiner’s fire, and yes I am spinning on the potter’s wheel and getting quite dizzy!
The most important thing is that we are ready when He calls us out to be leaders, when He sends the “memo” down from the ranks of the angels to assign you to the front lines, and when He has chosen the perfect time to execute His orders. If we aren’t ready, then we will miss out and be forced into a “holding pattern” again! That is the point. God is very patient as well, in that, if you fail a test…He will let you re-take it until you pass! Oh the humanity! Let us be ready when He calls us so we don’t have to re-take the test of patience. And let us remember that the longer the process takes, if we are obedient, the more refined we will be in His kingdom…that is why it is an honor! To have a strong sword, the blacksmith must forge it and work it and hammer it out and sharpened it obsessively, all this process for one purpose and one purpose only: to serve the one that wields that sword! Do you want to be wielded by God to strike the enemy and stand for mercy, justice, hope, joy and love? If we do want this great honor, then we must come to grips with the fact that if not put through the proper process of refinement, then we would not be strong enough for the battle; and God loves us too much to allow us to be broken in battle!
As loving Christians, we should never underestimate the enemy; as a peculiar people called out to love our enemies and show justice and mercy, don’t think for a second that this is not a battle; we must understand that spiritual warfare is for keeps and the battle rages on! We must never lose sight of the fact that this is a war above all wars…if we think otherwise, we need to re-read our Bible.
So the prayer of patience is bitter-sweet. Bitter because it flies in the face of where and when we live; sweet because it is the precursor of something beautiful and beyond our imagination!
Bless you my friends and embrace the pain of learning patience,