“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14 (ESV)
Do you remember that scene from Jurassic Park when the T-Rex escapes her pen and traps the kids in the car? Dr. Grant helps the young girl escape the upside down jeep and then turns to help her brother. She immediately lets out a piercing scream—there is a dinosaur out there, for goodness sake! Dr. Grant immediately clamps his hand over her mouth to quiet her. This is basically what went down between me and my almost 2-year-old in Lowe’s the other day. There was no dinosaur in the plumbing aisle, but she screamed nonetheless—because she could, because she thought it was funny, and because I didn’t want her to. Ever have to do time-out in a bathroom at Lowe’s? Well, now I have.
Dealing with a toddler requires more patience than I believe is humanly possible. I’m realizing, though, that my expectations have a lot to do with how patient I am with my daughter. She’s young. I shouldn’t expect her to act the way adults do. I can’t hurry her into a behavior she isn’t mature enough for just yet. I can’t force her to act a certain way by over-the-top consequences. Slow and steady lessons, with reasonable consequences, are more effective and result in fewer tears. Even when I’m feeling impatient, I have to remember just how important patience is to a developing child.
Sometimes when I read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, I am amazed at how often God’s people do the opposite of what He asked of them. He says move forward and they want to move back; He says cross the river and they say no thanks; He says don’t do XYZ and they do exactly that. I can’t help but feel impatience toward God’s people on behalf of God. Yet, the beautiful thing about the Bible is that it repeatedly reveals God’s love. He is patient with us because He loves us, despite the fact that we tend to do the opposite of what He asks of us.
Next time you feel God tugging at your heart to move to action, try doing what He asks. You will find that God is encouraging this good behavior for your own good. He loves us enough to offer a way out, so that we can avoid the consequences that occur when we disregard what our Father asked of us.
I’m a runner. Though I’m not fast, I am good at running a pace that allows me to save enough energy for the whole run. I’ve learned over the years that not everyone has this skill. If you do find someone who has this skill, make them your running buddy immediately! You’ll be amazed at how much better your runs will go.
When you run, patience helps. If you run too fast, you won’t have enough energy to make it to the end of the run. If you get in a hurry to finish, you also miss the point of running—disconnecting your brain, getting in touch with your body, and enjoying the fresh air. From my experience, there’s always a moment where most runners start to hate the run. They just want it to be over. The phrase “everything hurts and I’m dying” is something I’ve said more than once on a run. I especially feel this way when I’m not sticking to the pace I know I need.
God’s timing is perfect. He is the best at helping us pace our lives. If you try to rush through life, forcing certain situations or relationships to happen, you may find yourself exhausted and defeated. Many of us push ourselves to the point that we experience pain and suffering. It’s hard to trust someone else to set the pace for everything in your life, but God knows what you can endure and for how long. He knows who and what you need. He understands, more than you do, the grand plan for your life. Make God your running buddy, the Pacer, the Person in charge of your life. You’ll grow more, be more at peace, and develop the fruit of patience with the people and circumstances around you. You will also finish your race better than you ever imagined.
Think about your last few days or weeks. What (or who) has tested your patience? Was it your job or boss? Was it family or friends? Was it your kids or spouse? What about traffic? How many of those situations were things you could control?
So many times we grow impatient in situations because we weren’t expecting anything to happen outside of our control. We had everything planned, right down to the minute. “We don’t have time for you to take your shoes off 12 times before school, son. We’re going to be late.” “You just said you didn’t care where we ate tonight, honey, so why did you just reject my last four suggestions?” “Why is everyone driving so slow… oh look, an accident up ahead is causing I77 to be a parking lot… again!” “Oh, really? This is now an emergency, so I have to drop all my plans and projects because you didn’t plan ahead? I guess I’m going to have to stay late to finish my work, then.”
We feel so out of control when the situation doesn’t go exactly as we have planned, and therefore we grow more impatient by the moment. Suddenly, our whole day is ruined. The amazing thing is that God is always in control. Even if you feel completely out of control, God knows exactly what He’s doing. That wreck that is causing traffic to back up? That could have been you, had your son not taken his shoes off 12 times, making you late. Can’t get a consensus about what to eat for dinner? Maybe God is growing your relationship through communication and empathy. That crisis thrown at you at work? Perhaps that was God, giving you an opportunity to come through and shine for your boss. Regardless, these situations offer an opportunity for you to exercise patience.
More than just trusting that God has a plan, we can trust that God also wants to grow us. If you never found yourself in situations where you had to learn and practice patience, how would you ever mature? A child isn’t born with the ability to be patient. They have to learn. We’re all still learning. Paul tells us to be “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” Colossians 1:11 (NIV). When you feel yourself growing impatient, remember that God is in control and that, if you will allow Him, He will use this moment to grow you.
Anxiety is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it for themselves. It’s overwhelming and often irrational. It’s also something that you have no control over. I’ve dealt with anxiety off and on for most of my adult life, but it has recently become something I can’t muscle through on my own. When people around you don’t experience this intense level of stress and worry, you feel alone, which ironically makes you more anxious. My Life Group has made all the difference at this season of my life.
I’ve learned that there is a connection between patience and managing my anxiety. First, I need my loved ones to be patient with me. I don’t feel like myself when I have anxiety, but I know these moments will eventually pass. In the meantime, I need love, understanding, time, and support, rather than being told that I need to “put on my big girl panties” about the situation. Someone saying, “Well, just don’t be anxious” doesn’t help. It even hurts...a lot.
Next, I need to be patient with myself. Every time I have anxiety, I want it to immediately go away. I get frustrated with myself because I can’t just snap my fingers to make the pressure in my chest disappear. I know I’m overreacting and worrying for no reason, but I just can’t stop the thoughts on my own. Rather than getting upset with myself, I need to take time to let my body process the situation. I need to breathe and focus on Jesus and His ability to redeem this and every situation.
Over the last several months at The Cove, we’ve been learning about anxiety and depression. I’ve also heard people talking about it on KLove on my drive into Charlotte. I’ve read so many devotionals about it. It just keeps coming up in my day-to-day life. This isn’t by accident. God often taps us on the shoulder as a reminder that He knows exactly what we’re going through. He wants to use my anxiety to turn me more toward Him. I understand that now. He is equipping me with friends, family, and also doctors who are supportive of my situation. And I’ve realized more and more that I also need to refocus on His Word and His plan for my life. This combination is how I’ve chosen to come to peace with anxiety.
Your troubles may not go away overnight. My anxiety certainly won’t; but God is trying to show us how both community and His Word can help. All we have to do is be open to hear what is being said...and learn to trust and really depend upon His Word for comfort and direction when times of anxiety and fear threaten.
Have you ever prayed to God for something over and over again...only to have Him say, “no” or “wait”? It’s hard to understand why God answers “no” to things we desperately want. I find it equally hard to understand His command to “wait.”
God’s memory is perfect. He hasn’t forgotten your request. He may wait weeks, months, or even years to answer that prayer with a “yes!” But, if it is God’s will, it will happen in His timing. The important thing to remember throughout the time of waiting is that God’s answer is always given with love.
This happened with Zechariah, who prayed for a child. Years later, when his wife was beyond normal child-bearing age, his prayers were answered. Not only was he given a child, but this child would grow up to announce the arrival of the Messiah and prepare the people’s hearts for the message of salvation. Though I’m sure Zechariah had all but given up on his dream of one day being a father, God was good. He was faithful to Zechariah.
We find similar stories throughout the Bible, but Zechariah’s experience is an especially good example for us of the importance of patience and of God’s faithful love. Though God’s timing is rarely our own, it is always worth waiting on.