Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
This has been one of those tough weeks! And one in which my patience has worn thin. It has never been one of my best virtues by any means. Regardless of the situation, waiting has always been a challenge as I get more and more anxious and impatient with the passage of time!
Webster’s original definition of patience is “the suffering of afflictions with a calm, unruffled temper or endurance, without murmuring or fretfulness, from a kind of heroic pride, or from a Christian submission to His divine will.” Calm endurance? Submission to His will? How I wish I could have those qualities. It seems the more I try, the more impatient I become!
We are told in Scripture that patience is a “fruit of the Spirit”. Obviously, I don’t call upon His power enough to give me the strength and patience I need, and sadly, I must not trust Him enough with my time and the circumstances in my life.
How much I can fret – especially when it comes to waiting and pain. That was a truth I learned about myself even more when I had open heart valve surgery two years ago. The faith I thought I had was deeply tested in those times of intense pain. It was so easy to become discouraged and lose hope in those long hours, days, and weeks. The pain became less as time passed, but the discomfort remained, and I found out how truly difficult it was – for me, anyway – to just trust in God’s perfect will and be patient.
I knew how blessed I was and that each day would bring strength and better health, but that made me feel even worse to think how ungrateful I was when so many others were suffering and even dying. I had the joyous hope of life and I still became disheartened. That was very humbling as I realized how easily I could have these emotions, and it gave me much more compassion for those who are going through challenging health situations. But even more, I so wanted to become more patient and trusting.
Yet, all this time later, I still “fret and murmur”. About a week and a half ago, I started having some discomfort with a tooth which eventually led to pain and a couple of sleepless nights. Earlier this week, I saw my dentist who set up an appointment with an endodonist to do a root canal, and the earliest he could see me was next week. As the pain increased and the pain pills made me feel even worse, I began to become really impatient, even panicking, as I wondered how I could endure the wait. I even found myself wondering why this was happening when I had tried to be so faithful and trusting the last few months when other difficult times and “afflictions” had arisen.
How easy it is to get to the place where you think you can pat yourself on the back and pride yourself on living a good Christian life, you think you are trying to live in His will, and you especially think you deserve His favor. How humbled I was to realize I had had these thoughts and how disappointed in myself I was, as I thought of how ready I was to question God – especially when He has always been so faithful to me.
Yes, in the last few months, there have been times of anxiety and uncertainty in my life and in the lives of those I love, but He was always there to carry us through. I have been through so much worse than this – with grief, pain, and despair. How could this one thing have shaken my resolve to trust in His love and grace? I realized that I could wait. It might be uncomfortable and an inconvenience, but in the scheme of things, it was such a small thing. All I needed to do was trust in Him. And in the stillness of those moments, I felt His strength.
After two more days, the pain became almost unbearable and I had to give in and call my dentist. Thankfully, his receptionist called several different endodonists and she found one who had had a cancellation. He was a really kind man, and he said that it was a good thing that I came because I had so much infection in the tooth that it would have been a long, miserable weekend. There’s still some discomfort and more work to be done, but the worst is over. I am so very grateful.
Even in this short amount of time, God had given me another opportunity to learn to grow in patience. As I was reading about the fruit of the Spirit and especially about this desired trait, I read this passage: “God is honored by our hope and trust in Him, especially when we rejoice in that hope. He is served, not only by working for Him, but by sitting still quietly, when He calls us to suffer. Patience for God’s sake is true piety. Be reconciled to the place God in His providence puts you, wherever it may be.”
What a work in progress I am. We are “to rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, and be prayerful always.” God, may I learn patience and trust in you.
Our most gracious and loving God, thank you for the hope we find in you and for the realization that we can call upon you and your Spirit within us to handle the cares of life. Amen