A global computer system outage causes widespread flight cancellations, stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers at airports. During a winter storm, multiple auto accidents close major highways. The person who promised to send a reply “right away” has failed to do so. Delays can often produce anger and frustration, but as followers of Jesus, we have the privilege of looking to Him for help.
One of the Bible’s great examples of patience is Joseph, who was sold to slave traders by his jealous brothers, falsely accused by his employer’s wife, and imprisoned in Egypt. “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:20-21). Years later, when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he was made second in command in Egypt (Genesis 41).
The most remarkable fruit of his patience occurred when his brothers came to buy grain during a famine. “I am your brother Joseph,” he told them, “the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:4–5, 8).
In all our delays, brief or long, may we, like Joseph, gain patience, perspective, and peace as we trust in the Lord.
I couldn't take my actions back. A woman had parked her car and blocked my way of getting to the gas pump. She hopped out to drop off some recycling items, and I didn't feel like waiting, so I honked my horn at her. Irritated, I put my car in reverse and drove around another way. I immediately felt bad about being impatient and unwilling to wait 30 seconds (at the most) for her to move. I apologized to God. Yes, she should have parked in the designated area, but I could have spread kindness and patience instead of harshness. Unfortunately it was too late to apologize to her—she was gone.
Many of the Proverbs challenge us to think about how to respond when people get in the way of our plans. There’s the one that says, “Fools show their annoyance at once” (Prov. 12:16). And “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” (20:3). Then there’s this one that goes straight to the heart: “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end” (29:11).
Growing in patience and kindness seems pretty difficult sometimes. But the apostle Paul says it is the work of God, the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23). As we cooperate with Him and depend on Him, He produces that fruit in us. Please change us, Lord.
American swimmer Dara Torres had a remarkable career, appearing in five different Olympics from 1984 to 2008. Late in her career, Torres broke the US record for the 50-meter freestyle—25 years after she herself set that record. But it wasn’t always medals and records. Torres also encountered obstacles in her athletic career: injuries, surgery, as well as being almost twice the age of most other competitors. She said, “I've wanted to win at everything, every day, since I was a kid. . . . I’m also aware that setbacks have an upside; they fuel new dreams.”
“Setbacks have an upside” is a great life lesson. Torres’s struggles motivated her to reach for new heights. They have a spiritual benefit too. As James said, “Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3).
Adopting this perspective on the difficulties of life is not easy, but it is worthwhile. Trials provide opportunity to deepen our relationship with God. They also provide the opening to learn lessons that success cannot teach by developing in us the kind of patience that waits on God and trusts Him for the strength to endure.
The psalmist reminds us, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).
At the end of a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, our group traveled from the conference center to a guesthouse to prepare to fly back home the next morning. When we arrived, one person in our group reported that she had forgotten her luggage back at the conference center. After she left to retrieve it, our group leader (always meticulous on detail) criticized her sharply to us in her absence.
Cha Sa-soon, a 69-year-old Korean woman, finally received her driving license after 3 years of trying to pass the written test. She wanted the license so she could take her grandchildren to the zoo.
In the book God in the Dock, author C. S. Lewis describes the kind of people we have trouble getting along with. Selfishness, anger, jealousy, or other quirks often sabotage our relationship with them. We sometimes think, Life would be much easier if we didn’t have to contend with such difficult people.
While waiting for an eye examination, I was struck by a statement I saw in the optometrist’s office: “Eighty percent of everything children learn in their first 12 years is through their eyes.” I began thinking of all that children visually process through reading, television, film, events, surroundings, and observing the behavior of others, especially their families. On this Father’s Day, we often think about the powerful influence of a dad.
Waiting is hard. We wait in grocery lines, in traffic, in the doctor’s office. We twiddle our thumbs, stifle our yawns, and fret inwardly in frustration. On another level, we wait for a letter that doesn’t come, for a prodigal child to return, or for a spouse to change. We wait for a child we can hold in our arms. We wait for our heart’s desire.
A 2006 survey of more than 1,000 adults discovered that most people take an average of 17 minutes to lose their patience while waiting in line. Also, most people lose their patience in only 9 minutes while on hold on the phone. Impatience is a common trait.