Christmas may be long past, but the One who gave us His Son wrapped in strips of cloth that day is the Giver who keeps on giving. He gives the gift of patience to His people day-in and day-out. Patience is intertwined with hope These gifts are hard to hang onto. Nonetheless, trusting in Christ’s promise of new life and deliverance pours patience and hope into the way we think and the way we experience life.
When we think we are in control of our corner of the world, we cannot understand why what we want is not immediately available and at hand. Infants have this problem, and they exercise their ability to protest the absence of the objects of their desires with the fullness of their lungs. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had everything at hand and no unmet needs. They were never impatient. The necessity of patience in our lives indicates something went wrong, either with the way we think about our situations and interpret them or about the way the world works in response to what we estimate as indispensable. In fact, both our estimation of what makes life good and the systems of God’s creation which supplied all good to Adam and Eve have both ceased to function properly. False expectations and broken structures of life both contribute to our restlessness and feelings of deprivation. For even our proper expectations and the functioning structures God implanted in human life do not always fit into the schedules we prescribe for them.
North Americans no longer view patience as the virtue it once was regarded to be. The pace of life created by technologies which construct and deconstruct our possessions and habits quickly breeds in us the expectation that new things should appear now or sooner. The rich supplies of so many necessities and luxuries create the illusion that the delivery of the good things of life will always move fast. When what we want does not appear immediately, we demand to know why. The rapid growth of what we think we know has cultivated an expectation that there must be answers to all our questions and solutions to every challenge if we just know how to search the internet for those answers and solutions. The expansion of possibilities set before us in the bombardment of advertisements acquainting us with endless possibilities of new toys entices us to think that some new, intriguing device should be at hand at every moment.
Patience develops from the perspective of sensing God as the source and center of life and all its blessings. Patience springs from the trust that our Creator governs history and our own lives with a sure hand and a deep concern for our welfare. Patience rests on our trust that Jesus Christ has claimed lordship over His world through His death that swallowed death itself and put to death every effort to deprive us of what is most important for human life: The presence of God and our total dependence on Him, our absolute confidence in Him.
Patience springs from the trust that our Creator governs history and our own lives with a sure hand and a deep concern for our welfare.
In some instances, patience can seem like the virtue of the indifferent. How can we be patient when we are witnessing about our Savior and our conversation partner is struggling to ponder and believe but has not yet come to faith in Christ? How can we not be impatient when the medicine is not taking hold as the child lies in pain before us? Impatience in such instances also demonstrates an aspect of our faith in Christ. We wish for what we know to be the best, confident in our own judgment and estimation of the situations in which we find ourselves. A popular Christian song of a generation ago suggested God is, from our perspective today, so often late. But come to find out, God is always on time. God has reckoned our schedules from before time began and our loving Father has had plenty of time to reschedule what befalls us if it places us beyond His reach.
Patience brings with it persistence. It does not sit idly by and do nothing. It is active in taking care of those around us despite less-than-ideal conditions which frustrate our best efforts and make us long for speedy and fully effective improvements. Patience is ready to plant a tree whether Christ will return tomorrow or in the twenty-eighth century. Patience looks sharply toward the future but concentrates on the tasks God has assigned for today. Patience receives the gifts of the day in confidence that the Giver dispenses what we have with wisdom and concern for our welfare. Therefore, it accepts the possibilities of each day and finds them sufficient even they are not delightful. Patience perseveres with plans for another day, persisting in pursuing the possibilities God sets before us.
Believers persist even when living in the shadow of Sisyphus, when pushing the same stone up the mountain day after day seems to hardly be helping anyone very much. For they perceive how in the smallest of our tasks we provide a bit of what God is giving to others. Against the obstructions piled up by our own sins and the sins of others, against the structures of God’s world that seem to frustrate doing the good, believers persist with the little acts of kindness, gentleness, generosity, and hospitality which engulf lives around us in God’s love. Such persistence is possible within the rhythms of life that seem boring at best and insignificant or simply a waste of time at worst because believers recognize God’s providing hand working through them, delivering His love and care for today and perhaps even hope for tomorrow.
Patience is ready to plant a tree whether Christ will return tomorrow or in the twenty-eighth century.
Patience is an eschatological gift, the gift of naturally looking to a future that is guaranteed by a promise and contemplated in hope. The hope of believers moves from the sense of Immanuel’s presence with us in the darkest of our nights into the light which overcomes the darkness in the substance of things not seen but taken for granted. For God has granted us a sure future with His presence always enveloping us. This presence embraces our next moments and extends into the furthest reaches of eternity, with all the trials of the next days and all the blessings of the New Day, the Day of the Lord, that has already set in and claimed us as the bedrock of our thinking, acting now and in that ultimate future then.
Thus, patience grows out of suffering as well as enjoying God’s blessings and His presence. This patience recognizes our heavenly Father has restored our righteousness and given us peace by reconciling us to Himself through Christ’s death and resurrection. In that peace we patiently endure, letting God’s way with us shape us as His children so we live in the hope that never disappoints. For hope has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit as He came to transform our lives and our thinking with His love (Romans 5:1-5). This is not a casual hope that is little more than our strong wish. This is the hope patience breeds as it looks to the promise that Christ is and gives as He assures us nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). In that hope and love we patiently persist in bringing hope to His world.