Throughout my university years, I worked a little in the hospitality industry. I used to say that nothing made people more impatient than hunger. For some reason, it really brings out the beast in us- we get rude, we wonder why we were kept waiting those extra few minutes… and where is that waiter with my drink! I read once that we head out to restaurants hungry and so expect food immediately and if we don’t order in time, receive our meal in time (as we ordered) and are able to enjoy it, we get impatient, rude and our sense of entitlement rears its ugly head.
Patience is something I have always felt I struggled with. Before going into teaching, I use to wonder how I would cope with helping students; but the motivation of being paid to be patient certainly did the trick! I have also wondered if it is because I am a fairly efficient person that I like things done to schedule. I’ve seen this same trait in my children- they have been brought up to value routine. For example, a few mornings a week, my two little kids know straight after breakfast comes the ‘Washing Train,’ (the main washing basket coming by each of their rooms to get their dirty washing). This has real benefits and a routine is a really positive thing, but sometimes I wonder if I bring this sense of ‘routine’ and apply it to God.
You see, since my miscarriage earlier in the year, I have been coming to realise that often I approach God with my list of wants and my personal preparations, and if He doesn’t answer in right way, in the timing I have set Him, I get frustrated. I question where God is. I wonder if He has indeed heard my prayers. And sometimes I wonder if this is turning God into a pseudo-Santa Clause. I present Him with my list and expect Him to come through by delivering my requests by Christmastime.
Today, as I was thinking about these things, I thought of Sarah (Abraham’s Sarah). I thought of how Peter called her a holy woman (1 Peter 3:5) and I thought of how God sees the big picture, while we just see the current pixel. Most of the time things look blurry and out of focus, but occasionally God shows us a tiny little snippet of the picture, to show that He is faithful, He is working and He can be trusted.
For Sarah, each monthly cycle would have been a reminder that God had not fulfilled His promise. And as the years moved into decades and still there was no child, Sarah would have been wondering if God was indeed faithful (and we see where Sarah’s impatience caused her to take matters into her own hands). As she went through menopause, she must have wondered if she missed something. If she was meant to do more to see God’s plan come about. But throughout all this time, God was faithful and had not forgotten His promise. 25 years later (!) God’s promise comes true and Sarah bears a child. It wasn’t so that Sarah got the glory for her wonderful womb, or Abraham got the glory for some fantastic father-making skills; no all was impossible with man BUT with God it was possible. God received the glory and in the process, God worked in Sarah’s life, making her more righteous, more patient and deepening her dependence on Him.
Isaiah 40 is a fantastic chapter for reminding us just Who this God is that we serve. This chapter was written for the Israelites in captivity in Babylon, who would have been wondering if God had forsaken them. Here, Isaiah writes to comfort God’s people and remind them who God is.
Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
or what man shows him his counsel?
14 Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
…Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
25 To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
-Isaiah 40:9-15, 21-26
Who are we to demand things from this great God? Who are we to be impatient? We are but dust. Yet in this state of dust, God has rescued, He has redeemed, He has restored and one day He will completely reconcile us to be with Him. Whatever our passing concerns are today, they are simply that- passing. He is not slow in keeping His promise, He is mercifully patient (2 Peter 3:9a). One day His promise of a new heaven and new earth will come true and we will be with Him for eternity. And in the meantime, as we struggle… as I struggle… with being patient in the little things, may we remember that patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), so that as we seek God and pursue Him more and more, prayerfully seeking Him, He will make us more like Himself and in this, more patient.