Reading: Psalm 40
I will wait patiently for the Lord…
I wonder if you’ve heard of the marshmallow test. Researchers put kids in a room with a marshmallow and told them that they could eat it right away if they wanted. But if they waited a few minutes, they would get a second one. As predicted, most of the kids ate the marshmallow right away. But some managed to wait.
How would you have done? I would not have gotten a second marshmallow.
Patience is the fruit of the spirit and a Christian virtue. It is also the character of God (2 Peter 3:9). And when we show patience, we reflect the values of God and we point toward the Holy Spirit.
But patience is not a virtue of our society. The more technologically integrated we become and the more powerful our machines and connections, the higher our expectations for how fast things should move. More than that, we have a sense that we should be up to speed on everything all at once. We feel like we’re perpetually falling behind, always chasing what’s just around the corner. And so our strategy is not to be patient, but to hurry up.
So how do we grow our patience in the Lord?
Some of us would think that the solution is to assert our will-power. “I just need to be more patient.” If you’ve tried that, you know it doesn’t really work. Others of us go deeper by trying to change some of our spiritual habits. “I need to be reading my Bible more. I need to pray more. I need to do a better job of getting to church on time.” But religious practices can only take you so far.
The reality is, the solution to our patience problem is much simpler than all that. We only need to ask for it. Ask God for more patience.
For some folks, that will sound too easy. “Shouldn’t I have to do something?” But that would be to go back to the way of changing behavior or performance, and that’s not really what God wants (see v. 6). Besides, asking God for patience isn’t as easy as it may sound. In fact, in involves giving up a lot.
When you ask for patience, it means you have to give up your own time-table for change. Instead of plotting your own course, you have to let God design the program. Asking the Lord for more patience means giving up some control over the process. And it requires faith as well—you really do have to believe that the Lord will act. All this is summed up by saying, in order to grow in patience, you have to wait upon the Lord.
Now, that sounds circular. “If you want to be patient, you need to learn to wait.” In a sense, that’s true. But here’s the difference: Simply trying to wait better will only lead you to more impatience in the end. But waiting on the Lord will produce the fruit of the Spirit, including patience. In other words, it’s the object of your waiting, it’s who you’re waiting that makes a difference.
In short, we grow in patience by waiting on the One who grows patience in us.
Father, thank you for being patient with me when I am terribly impatient. I admit that I can’t simply grow more patient on my own. I need you to grow patience in me. Please, Holy Spirit, for the sake of the name of Jesus, grow such patience in me.
We wait on you, Lord.