Most people want to have more patience, but how can we actually cultivate more serenity in our lives and families? Patience is not a grocery item I can pick up at the corner store or keep extra on my shelf--more likely it's the one item we are constantly running out of! Patience is a virtue we use every day--scripture describes it as a required wardrobe essential. Colossians 3:12 tells us to wear it like a garment: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Patience is difficult to cultivate within our selves, much less guide our families into it, but the irony of patience is that we can get more by giving away things we don't really need. If we can give away some control, we can have more patience. If we can lower our standards, we can have more patience. If we can let go and let God, we can have more patience. We are still works in progress, and God has it under control so we don't have to. We can let the Spirit do his work in our lives. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this, he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God will complete his work in us in his timing.
God's timing is rarely our own, yet we often try to dictate the schedule. We struggle with concerns that we want God to resolve now. We don't want to wait for answers, but that's the definition of impatience. Let God be in charge of the timetable and trust that he is working out what is best for us. Joni Eareckson Tada commented, “The times we find ourselves having to wait on others may be the perfect opportunities to train ourselves to wait on the Lord.” As Psalm 37:7 reminds us, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Waiting on God is not easy, but it will become easier as we trust that his timing is better than ours.
We often desire God to tune into our plans, to get with our program, but God has a plan for the greater good. Generally, it's wise to have plan, but even wiser to let it go easily and move on to plan B, C, and beyond. Can you put your plans aside and trust his lead? God redeems all of the broken pieces of our lives and uses them for his glory. Because God’s economy wastes nothing, we can even thank him for the broken pieces. God’s plan works all things for his glory even though at times it may feel very difficult. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
Our lack of patience springs from our demand for control, yet control is purely illusion, like yelling at Niagara Falls for being so loud and wet, as if it was up to you. We control so little, really, only our own choices, yet we struggle to trust the Lord of the Universe to be in charge. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Our plans are only scribbles in sand, often redirected by God into something that we never would have chosen. Follow God's control and hold your plans loosely.
There are blessings that flow from waiting patiently on God and allowing him to work out his plan. We can experience joy in the midst of difficulties if we allow God to transform us through our struggles. James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Eyes of faith are needed to see the joy amid the sorrow. We pray that you may have the patience and grace to delight in all God's gifts, especially the gift of his son. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”
Are we asking God for what we need and praying expectantly trusting God to answer? God promises to give generously to those who ask! I love the prayer of the father in Mark 9, “ I believe! Lord, help my unbelief.” I am thankful to see how Jesus answered that prayer and healed his son. God understand the weakness of our faith and longs to gives us the fruit of the Spirit. As we cultivate the gift of patience in our own life, it will spill over to others and enrich our families.
Pastor Peter Marshall prayed, “Teach us, O Lord, the discipline of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.” Waiting patiently is never easy, but in the waiting, God is working. When it feels like we have nothing left to give, then God can accomplish his work without us stealing the credit. God often does his best work when we are far outside of our comfort zone!