Patience and God’s Plans
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Suppose you … simply don’t know what God wants you to do here and now. Don’t give up on yourself or God. God is answering you, but his answer for now is: Wait. God will fulfill all his promises, but in his time. He gave us promises, not timetables. He’s a lover, not a train.
Patience is the art of waiting. It is not necessarily the art of waiting patiently. Job is a famous example of patience, and of the distinction between patient waiting and waiting patiently. Poor Job cannot discern the meaning of his sufferings. He does not know what he has done (to provoke God to let him suffer so), nor what he can do (to find God or to understand his situation). He searches for thirty-seven agonizing chapters, without finding God, or answers, or comfort. Yet he holds on, and hopes. That is his patience.
I used to think that only those who never read his book could call Job patient. I thought Job was the most impatient man in the Bible. But then I realized that the Bible itself calls Job patient,1 so I had to rethink what patience meant. I concluded that it did not necessarily mean a calm emotional state, for Job certainly didn’t have that, yet Job had patience, according to James. So patience has to be something deeper than an emotional state.
I think patience is simply waiting, enduring, holding on. This is all some of us can do. But it is enough. When you can do nothing but hang on and keep trying and losing, or suffering and dying, know that that is something more precious than winning—that is patience.
God had patience with us. He stuck it out with us. He stayed with us, even after we rejected him. It’s the least we can do for him when he seems to forsake us, as he seemed to reject Job, because he has promised us that he will never leave us or forsake us, no matter how much our situation seems to tell us that he has. Faith believes God’s promises, beyond appearances. Faith holds on, like an anchor, even in the murky depths, even when discernment and light are not possible. Discernment is not always necessary, but faith is.
On the last day, when God calls the rolls, when he gets to your name he will ask, like your old grade school teachers, Present? Are you still here? Are you still with me? If you can honestly answer yes, if you are “present,” if you are still seeking God and his righteousness, then you will have all other things added unto you, including the gift of discernment. All the things you failed to discern during your time on earth, you will discern in the light of eternity. In this life, discernment sheds a little light on the future; in the next life, it will shine Godlight on the past.—Peter Kreeft2
Waiting and learning patience
Look at the examples in the Bible of patience: Job, Moses, and David!
Job lost everything: his family, fortune, and finally his health! But he just kept on believing and obeying, saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”3 He hung on and would not give up. “The patience of Job”4 served as an inspiring example for generations to come.
When Moses was in a hurry to deliver the children of Israel, he killed an Egyptian and had to flee alone for his own life. But after 40 years of patiently, humbly tending sheep in the wilderness, with time to listen to the voice of God instead of his own impulses, he was finally ready for the slow, laborious, patient work of the Exodus—slow, but sure!
David spent 17 years working under King Saul, and the Lord taught him important lessons as he watched how Saul tried to do things in his own strength, without waiting on the Lord, and he found he wasn’t strong enough. David learned that you have to wait for God.
Learning patience is one of God’s most frequent lessons to us all. So “let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.”5—David Brandt Berg
His master plans
In 2007, the Netherlands instituted a two-hundred-year plan for adapting to and preparing for climate change. With two-thirds of the Dutch population living below sea level, changes in climate can have a drastic and tragic effect on this nation—hence the extreme caution. The plan, from my understanding, consists of 20 billion dollars being put toward the research and construction of better water defenses along their shoreline—the scope of this plan reaches till the year 2200. Their reason for this elaborate plan is simple: without it, due to changes in climate—and greater risk of floods—there is no guarantee that the Netherlands will continue to exist in 200 years unless such measures are taken now.
There is someone else, though, who leaves all other plans and planners in the dust. In Acts 17:26 the apostle Paul talks about a plan that encompasses every plan ever made. He said, “From one man, [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”6 In other words, from the very beginning, God had a plan: the act of creation wasn’t haphazard. God wasn’t in need of something to do on a Sunday afternoon, so bang—the earth! There is an overarching plan that is being played out every day of mankind’s existence on planet earth.
But there’s something even more personally awesome in this for you and me: every human put on earth was an intentional act of creation. God is a planner; He has plans for everyone. King David affirms about God, “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”7 And in a talk Job gives describing God’s nature, Job says to God, “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.”8
Imagine God planning out Moses’ life. Chapter One doesn’t have Moses parting the Red Sea; it actually doesn’t even start with Moses receiving God’s directives at the burning bush on Mount Horeb. There are roughly 80 years’ worth of chapters and pages that come before either of those events. When studying Moses’ life it’s easy to marvel at the 40 years Moses spent tending sheep—we think of how patient he must have been at the end of that ordeal. I’m realizing now that it was really God who exercised patience in this story. Imagine creating a character and knowing that he’d only be ready to do what you wanted him to do 80 years after his creation.
Somehow, I’m comforted at the realization of God as a planner. Here’s why: even if you feel like nothing is happening for you right now, and it’s hard to wait, it could be that you’re only at the beginning pages of God’s plan for your life and the really great stuff is on page 492. Or perhaps your “awesome” is a life simply filled with days lived well and to God’s glory. Whatever the case may be, the great thing about God’s plans for you is that even when nothing seems to be happening on the surface, God has all these intricate plans going on. His Spirit is at work even on ordinary days. His Spirit is working in your life toward you reaching page 492 of your book, and beyond that page as well.
In a letter to the Romans, Paul calls God “the God of patience.”9 God is described as patient and longsuffering in the Bible; it’s one of the characteristics attributed to Him. If God was that patient with His plan for Moses, and His plans for all of mankind, I’m thinking it’s not a far stretch to imagine that God wants us to also be patient with what He is doing in our lives. If God believes we’re worth the wait, then we should believe that, too.—T.M.
Published on Anchor August 2017. Read by Carol Andrews. Music by John Listen.
1 James 5:10–11.
2 Peter Kreeft, Making Choices (Servant Books, 1990).
3 Job 13:15.
4 James 5:11.
5 James 1:4.
7 Psalm 139:16 NIV.
8 Job 14:5 NLT.
9 Romans 15:5.