Do you struggle with patience? Are you impatient amid our present trial? Then, like me, be helped by the wisdom of Puritan pastor John Flavel: “If God waits for you with so much patience for your duties, well may you wait upon him for his mercies.” That’s much food for thought, truth to embrace, and a helpful perspective to keep before us, perhaps particularly in these days.
Flavel wrote this as he addressed our impatience with the providence of God. Though we believe that “none who wait for [the LORD] will be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3), nevertheless, we focus more on not being “put to shame” than on the call to “wait for” the Lord.
The waiting associated with God’s providence can be troublesome. We cry with the biblical authors, “How long, O Lord?!” (Psalm 13:1; Revelation 6:10). We know that all things work together for good for the Christian (Romans 8:28), but we are impatient with the when of that promised “good.” We are impatient because, at the risk of redundancy, we are in a hurry! We know that trials shape the Christian’s character. We understood that this is the “good” for which all things “work together” (see Romans 8:29–30) but our microwave, instantaneous culture feeds our impatience. We want the hardship to be over—now! Therefore, too often we are sinfully impatient with God.
But when we find ourselves in such a state, we should pause to consider the patience of God.
Flavel helpfully reminds us that God patiently waits for our righteous response to his commands, and this should motivate our patience. He writes, “How long has God waited for you to comply with his commands, to come up to your engagements and promises? … You have made God wait long for your reformation and obedience; and therefore you have no reason to think it much if God makes you wait long for your consolation. We have our ‘how longs,’ and has not God his?” Wow, how insightful. And—whoa and woe—how convicting.
The longer the pandemic continues the more we will be tempted to sinful, complaining, even despondent impatience. We will find ourselves at times wondering if we are wasting our time praying for a cure, praying for a vaccine, praying for a downturn in the various graphs. In such times, fellow pilgrim, remember the patience of God.
Think about his promise to bring Israel out of Egypt. When God gave the promise, he also provided a timetable: Israel would be enslaved for four hundred years (Genesis 15:12–16). Further, this promise was given two hundred years beforethe promised four hundred years. In other words, it would be six hundred years before fulfilment! Talk about God’spatience!
For six centuries the glory and fame of God’s name was at stake. “Where is this great Yahweh that you keep speaking of?” the enemies of Israel would taunt. The children of Israel cried out to God, “How long?” And yet, these same people were living idolatrously in Egypt. (Remember the golden calf?) God could have justly responded, “How long, indeed! When will you seek my face? When will you put away your idols? When will you love me with all of your heart, soul and mind?”
The patience of God proves his mercy. When God rescued the children of Israel, they did not deserve it. And as the book of Judges highlights, God would continue to mercifully, and patiently, deliver his people. Ah, the merciful patience of God!
Brothers and sisters, let us patiently pray for God’s rescue. Let us guard our hearts against sinful impatience with our sovereign Saviour. He is patient with us, sinners who deserve nothing. Let this truth humble us to patiently wait upon the sinless Saviour who makes us wait as a means to make us holy. That, my friend, is worth waiting for.
Waiting patiently (I pray) with you,