Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 NASB
It is perhaps a mark of faith to have the audacity to pray for patience. It is definitely an act of stupidity to pray for patience a second time.
I know that from experience.
Because God rarely, if ever, just offers anyone something as complex as patience on a silver platter. God grows patience in us by giving us situations, often trials, that make us wait.
Despite my stupid requests for patience, I'm still not as patient as I'd like to be. I'm not about to pray for more patience, though. I don't think I'm ready for more painful situations that make me wait. In fact, I still think I'm still dealing with some waiting from the LAST time I prayed for patience.
Which, for the record, was over ten years ago.
Ah. There. Now you're getting it.
About six or seven years ago, when I was definitely in the midst of a painful waiting period, I said something that made my friends roll their eyes. They thought I was being cute or stupid, but I was serious. I was very serious. And at the time, I couldn't find anyone who could understand what I meant.
This is what I said:
"It's not that I'm impatient; I've just gotten really tired of waiting."
I got some condescending head nods and, "Riiiiight"s in response, and I can understand why. In their experiences, impatience was just an unwillingness to wait. But when someone has been patiently waiting for something for awhile, is hard to persevere.
I couldn't find counsel. I just found people who thought I was being ridiculous-not worthy of being taken seriously. And, you know, that's okay, because even then I realized that being relatively alone in my struggle was part of the ordeal God wanted me to endure.
But in the middle of that waiting, I came up with a cheesy acronym. It helped me through the really hard times, and it has served as a reminder over the years.
Waiting always involves trust.
It's never easy to wait, whatever it is we're waiting for. Whether it's one of my preschoolers waiting for me to give him a cracker or it's me waiting to get some direction career-wise. But if my preschooler knows I love him and want the best for him, then he should trust that I'll give him what he needs. And if I believe God loves me and wants the best for me, then I should trust Him to provide for me.
The thing is, it's one thing for me to say something like that in a blog. Readers can nod their heads and agree that God is good and we should trust Him. Hooray! Everything is wonderful.
Except...sometimes it's not.
Because sometimes saints pray, and results aren't easy or quick to see. Sometimes young women pray for God to bring them a husband and children, children they desperately want and don't feel quite complete without, and yet those women grow old without seeing dreams fulfilled. Sometimes young men pray that temptations will be taken from them, yet they still struggle. Sometimes single moms pray that God will provide jobs and living situations that will give their children some kind of stability, and yet things don't work out. Sometimes beautiful people want to get out and serve others, but their health won't allow them to, even after they have prayed and prayed for healing. Sometimes a mother earnestly prays for salvation for her prodigal child, enduring every act of rebellion with a new crashing wave of pain, and never sees any sign of change.
And the world, even the Christian world, sometimes ESPECIALLY the Christian world, looks at these people and say, "They must be doing something wrong. God must be punishing them," or "They must not have much faith."
Or they just ignore them completely.
The fact is, I know a lot of patient people who have grown tired of being patient. They aren't impatient; they're EXHAUSTED. And a pithy word of "encouragement" isn't going to bring healing. It seems that Christians just want to slap Spiritual band-aids on wounds that require extensive healing.
If a person has been praying, waiting for a fulfilled hope, a healed illness or injury, a solution to a serious problem, then believe me, a platitude or Scripture reference isn't going to do anything but frustrate. The person who has waited doesn't need you to tell him or her to be more patient or trusting or godly or whatever.
He or she needs rest.
And there is only so much that we can do for those who have been waiting. We can fill some practical needs, but we can't fix everything.
Sometimes we think we have to fix everything. So we say things to cheer people up, things that don't work and often have the opposite effect. We try to downplay problems. We try to act like everything will be okay, when we really don't have a clue what the other person is going through.
Honestly, sometimes there just isn't anything we can do. We can just pray. We can just wait. We can just let the person who has been waiting and praying that he or she isn't praying and waiting alone. We can let him or her know it's okay to hurt, it's okay to be angry sometimes, it's okay to even doubt a little.
Because patience is hard, and it's even harder when you have to go through it alone.
Sometimes all people need is a hand to hold in the darkness--not a hand that will lead them, but just to let them know they're not in the darkness alone . You don't have to have all the answers; you just have to be there.
And sometimes when you come beside someone in the darkness, God will show up, too. All the problems might not be solved, deep pain might continue.
But for that moment, there is rest. There is a chance for the waiting person to breathe, to remember in Whom he or she places trust...
And there is strength and grace to wait again.
Be slow to judge, quick to listen, eager to love.
And keep your Spiritual band-aids in your pocket. Chances are, they won't be needed.
Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda,
Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart.
Proverbs 25:20 NASB