The Art of Active Patience

I’ve developed a habit over the years of getting my hopes up about things that I desire. Maybe it was a college I wanted to attend, a friendship I wanted to last, an opportunity to do something special. If I even had the slightest reason to believe that something could happen (whether it was probable or not), I latched on to that hope with all my strength. I was so motivated in all those different situations to get what I was waiting for that it often crashed and burned, and the hope I started with resulted in a lot of pain or disappointment when I couldn’t get what I wanted. So how do we get through situations like that? How, in the presence of such great disappointment, can we keep our heads held high and trust in God’s provision? It’s not easy. And that’s exactly why Satan continues to try and drag us down in these situations – because he knows they can break our hearts and crush our faith. However, when we strive towards a more active and engaging form of patience, we can begin to see the strength that these trials produce when we come out on the other side, praising God along the way.

Life Sucks, but God is Good

It’s a simple fact that everyone comes to grips with at one point or another – life can be really unpleasant sometimes. Perhaps it was a failed relationship, a pregnancy complication, maybe you lost your job. These things hurt, and they can cut deeply. However, the presence of difficult circumstances does not mean that God has forsaken us. He can still be a just and perfect God even if we do not understand how or why he is working in our lives in a certain way. Our task during trials, then, is to remember that God’s glory transcends our understanding. Let’s take a look at a passage that illustrates this clearly:

Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, ‘I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.’ . . . Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ (Rom. 9:14-15, 20, NLT)

And another verse from a book that has very good insight on the topic of suffering:

Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil? (Job 2:10, ESV)

God is not obligated to bless us with lives that are easy. God is not obligated to bless us with the absence of difficult circumstances. Growing up in the wealthiest nation the world has ever seen, we sometimes get this entitlement mentality that if anything goes wrong, God must be being unfair or must have forgotten us. But that’s not the case, and if we choose to believe that it is, our faith can be completely demolished. We will face hard times, but God’s faithfulness will not change in the slightest.

The Danger of Passive Patience

Often times, our only option in these hard times is to be patient. Yep, that one course of action that everybody loves and never struggles with. But patience can be approached in two very different ways, and each one has a totally different outcome. In his study The Letters of Peter and Jude, Scottish theologian William Barclay defines true patience:

The word never means the spirit which sits with folded hands and simply bears things. It is victorious endurance . . . Christian steadfastness, the brave and courageous acceptance of everything life can do to us, and the transmuting of even the worst into another step on the upward way. It is the courageous and triumphant ability to bear things, which enables a man to pass breaking point and not to break, and always to greet the unseen with a cheer.

Patience is, as stated here, an active attitude, a daily decision to trust in the fact that God will work things out according to our good. He calls it victorious endurance for a reason: because it takes a lot of fighting much of the time. We will reach these “breaking points” time after time, but the acknowledgment that God is in control is the only thing which can enable us to pass these points without truly breaking. Because of our right standing with God that is gained through faith, we have a foretaste of the future glory that we will receive – a day where our suffering will end and we will enjoy uninhibited communion with God. This is what gets us through. Patience is not passive. Patience is an active reliance on God’s faithfulness even when it is unseen or not understood. We’ve got to take small steps each day to show our complete dependence on God – giving our needs to him in prayer, confessing our times of wavering faith, letting down the walls that our quickly-changing emotions can so easily build up. It is in the times where the night seems darkest that we must, in faith, sing “great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me,” because we know it to be true even when we cannot see it at the moment. We will reach what we believe to be the end of the road, weary and beaten down by the things that this world can throw at us. But God will always be there waiting, ready to revive our tired souls.

You’ve brought me to the end of myself and this has been the longest road. Just when my hallelujah was tired, you gave me a new song. I’m letting go and falling into you.

Bethel Live – Letting Go

 

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