By Rev. Kyle Norman
“You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” – James 5:8
I used to have the proverbial lead foot. Every journey was taken to be a race. I would zip around in my car, weaving in and out of traffic. Other drivers were mere obstacles in my way. I saw the estimated times of arrival on my GPS to be nothing more than a challenge; How many minutes could I shave off my time?
The outward effect of speeding was obvious; I received speeding tickets … a lot of speeding tickets. What I was unaware of, however, was the inward toll that such impatience was having. Internally, my spirit was never at peace. My heart and my mind were always projected onto a journey I had to rush into. I was time-bound, ruled by the clock. Thus, I was never present. I wasn’t present to others; I wasn’t present to myself. Nor was I ever fully or truly present to God. After all, it’s hard to be present to God when you are too busy speeding to the next thing.
I bet I’m not alone in this. We live in a fast-paced world, a world that continually tells us to maximize our time and increase our efficiency. And with the call of impatience playing in the background, we often find ourselves facing a rising discouragement with our spirits; we feel unmoored from that which can truly satisfy our restless hearts
The Bible continually calls us to patience. Patience is an unpopular discipline, particularly today. We are told that time not spent in activity is but a waste; Idle hands are the devil’s plaything, we hear.
Yet such frenzied rushing about dampens our spirits; we become irritable and easily frustrated. After exhorting the people to be patient, James follows up this call with the words, “Do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged.” Impatience and a complaining spirit are closely related. If we see others as simply obstacles to maneuver around it becomes easy to complain that they don’t do what we would like them to do or be what we would like them to be. And so, we criticize, judge, and condemn. It’s hard to “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,” (Colossians 3:12) when we are too busy rushing past our brothers and sisters.
Impatience flies in the face of the God who calls us to be still and know his presence. Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit because, in patience, we open ourselves to the Spirit’s work. We free ourselves from the oppressive demands of an overly packed schedule and thereby provide the opportunity to respond to the movement of God in the intricate moments of our lives. It may just be that the Lord calls us to some action, reflection, prayer, or ministry that may be left unexplored amid all our dashing about.
When I finally accepted the call to slow down, I began noticing the Spirit’s work all around me. I would notice the driver in the car next to me, wiping away tears from her eyes, and so a prayer for healing and comfort would rise within me. I found myself engaging in divine appointments; I would run into someone from the church in the grocery store; I found myself talking with people about faith in the local coffee shop. None of these experiences were forced or contrived; they happened as I allowed the Spirit to take control of my life, and my time.
Psalm 31 says, “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “you are my God” My times are in your hands.” See, ultimately, a patient spirit is about recognizing the Lordship of Jesus in our lives. Patience reminds us that we are not more important than the people around us. Our time is not more valuable, and our work not of higher quality. Patience helps us recognize that God’s plan for this moment is of more importance than our plans, and it may just be that God’s desire for us is to share, or receive, an expression of Christ’s love. What might the Lord be asking you at this moment?
Let us pray:
Gracious Lord, my heart can become easily overwhelmed by the busyness of my life. Please forgive me when the tasks of the day, and the demands of my schedule, crowd out the space needed to be still in your presence. I know your promise that I can do all things through you who strengthen me, but I can become so easily flustered as I try to muscle my way through life in my own effort.
I pray that you increase within me the capacity for patience. Lead me into times where I am called to rely not on my strength but yours; move me into places where I am called only to stop, to rest, to breath, or to listen. Help me be still and know you here, now.
More than anything, Jesus, help me to observe the hours and the minutes of my day as set firmly in your schedule. Give me the strength to step outside of my plans for this moment so that I can enter more deeply into your will. You are Lord of this time, and I lay before you as your servant.
I pray all of this in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.