The two sides of patience
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
And now, another devotional from nature. Our topic: patience!
You see here a batch of photos I took with my iPhone during friendly encounters with flighty monarchs. To capture such closeups with this limited lens, I must get quite close to these finicky little guys – something most butterflies avoid if at all possible. I obtained these photos by first standing still for minutes at a time beside a bush or flower patch my targets favored. This helps fickle monarchs get used to my presence, heightening the chance they’ll stick around as I make slow, steady movements toward the flower they light on. It’s a chance situation, with far more fruitless efforts than successes, for I must get within inches of the jittery creatures to get closeups like these. That requires a whole lot of patience... on both our parts.
We often forget the two-sided nature of patience, if we employ patience at all. The speed of this complex age encourages us to stay aggressive... step on toes... seek short-term solutions rather than wait for opportunities that may never arise. After all, time is money… a limited resource heightened by peer pressure and society’s eagerness to criticize mistakes or missed chances.
Scripture acknowledges how much these forces weigh on a human heart. “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes,” as James 4:14 reminds us. Our response often is to cloak ourselves with phony confidence… something Proverbs 27:1 warns us against. “Do not boast about tomorrow,” it says, “for you do not know what a day may bring.”
God’s word embraces patience, recommending it as much as any virtue. Just before 1st Corinthians 13:13 tells us that love is the greatest of spiritual gifts, Paul defines love as patient and kind. Indeed, 1st John 4:7 tells us God IS love… i.e., patient.
Scripture applies patience to both sides in our relationship with God. This reflects His omnipotence. “His understanding is beyond measure,” as Psalm 147:5 says of our creator. Job 28:24 notes how God pays attention to everything under the heavens and upon the earth. Our Lord numbers not only each star, as Psalm 147:4 tells us, but every hair on your head, as noted in Luke 12:7. God knew us in the womb, as Isaiah 44:24 reveals, and tracks us throughout our lives. “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether,” says Psalm 139:4.
This hits home because the Lord loves us. That’s why He pays attention to our hairs, our thoughts. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
This translates into the loving hopes and actions of a Father for his children. Jeremiah 29:11 reassures us of this: ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” And yet, God does not force us down this path, or even to love Him. “For you were called to freedom, brothers,” as Galatians 5:13 tells us. It also cautions us, “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
That’s why Scripture urges us to value patience, even in the face of success by others. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him,” Psalm 37:7 tells us, “fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.” 1st Peter 2:16 echoes this from a different direction: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”
Scripture also urges us to embrace patience because God is patient with us! As 2 Peter 3:9 shares, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” For understanding the pressures of this world as both Father and Son, our Lord patiently waits for us to choose Him, and is ever ready to forgive. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” Christ tells us in Revelation 3:20. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”