Patience is not always something I do well. I find it irritating when I have to wait, especially when I have no control over a situation. Slow moving traffic and long checkout lines are among the things I dislike the most. As much as I hate to admit it, waiting for God is also on that list. Here, too, I can get impatient to the point of exasperation. At various points in my career I’ve felt that God was not responding to me quickly enough, not giving me a sense of call or direction at the speed with which I wanted it and I became very agitated. (Ironically, I’ve even gotten impatient with God today as I wrestled with this blog post and found the writing to be slow going.) Maybe all of this is why the reading from Hebrews today struck a nerve with me.
“And we want each one of you to show the same diligence,” we read, “so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12). The writer of Hebrews presents us with a dichotomy between spiritual inactivity on the one hand, and diligence, faithfulness, and patience on the other. Put another way, those who, in the words of Isaiah 40, “wait for the Lord” will be sustained in their effort while those who do not are apt to fall away. As is so often the case in scripture, patience is shown to require effort because it is hard work which deserves our full attention.
When I become impatient with what God is doing, I risk turning away from the divine will for my life. I might take matters into my own hands, which is bad enough, but I also might fall into lazy spiritual practices. That doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything. I might be busy with all sorts of activities, but it is what I do to further my spiritual life that determines whether or not I am “sluggish” in the way that the writer of Hebrews uses the term. How do we avoid the trap of impatience with God? According to Hebrews, we work at it “diligently” which I believe could include fervent prayer, acts of generosity and compassion, the study of scripture, regular attendance in worship, participation in the community of faith, and the willingness to share the good news of the gospel just to name a few. This is what it means to actively wait. This is also how our spiritual patience is deepened and any tendency to become sluggish is turned back.
Yes, I get fed up by waiting. Yes, I want things to move more quickly. Yes, I would appreciate it if God moved with a little more urgency as well. But if I am to serve God faithfully I need to live with patience so as not to become sluggish.
Prayer: Almighty God, give us the strength to stand firm in the faith and to await your will to be done. In Jesus’ name. Amen.