If you asked my parents about the biggest struggle they've seen me wrestle with, I'm pretty sure they'd say "patience." When I need it, it seems fleeting, and when I have it, it seems sparse. And this is especially true when I am waiting on God.
We read in Psalm 77 that Asaph is struggling with patience. He needs a response from God and yet he does not hear and see it. We read that he "cried out to God for help" because he knows God responds and yet here he sits and waits. "I know and remember you God--will you reject me forever?" Asaph is stuck in the remembrance of how God had continuously worked faithfully in the past and yet here, in this time of need, where is God? How could God work and respond then and not do so now?
Centuries later, Paul writes in Romans 12:12 that we are to "rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation." I'd like to shake my head at Paul and cry out, "Sorry Paul--those are good words but you aren't in my situation!" But the reality is that Paul got it. We read in 2 Corinthians 12:8 that on three different occasions Paul pleaded with God to remove "the thorn" from his flesh. Three different times he needed God to respond to his need, and the answer received was not what he wanted to hear. Paul knew that God was eventually going to remove the thorn, but it wouldn't be until he came into God's presence. So Paul had to be patient with God's work. These are good and challenging words from Paul for those of us who have an ailment. But what about those of us who are stuck in the "waiting" for a response from God?
It can be a struggle to reconcile our current situation with what God has done for other people. We might struggle with a failing marriage, and we've worked hard to reconcile that marriage, and yet our hopes and desires have yet to bear fruit. We might have a teenager who is going down a destructive and harmful path, and so we earnestly pray for them to return to God and for him to intervene. Yet their choices in life continue to lead them towards destructive behaviors. "Where are you God? Why haven't you responded to my prayers, my needs, my hope? Why hasn't my spouse returned home or my child turned to you?"
We easily see the beauty, truth, and glory of God in how he time and time again saved his people while they struggled to remain faithful to him, and then we see where WE are and wonder where is THAT God NOW? Why do you not relentlessly pursue me and my needs now like you did before? You sent people to turn your children back to you, you worked miracles in the lives of your flock, so where is my miracle? Where is my answer? Why don't you respond now as you have before? Why will you not take this pain away? Why will you not give me peace and rest from my distress? Why will you not respond and remove me from this place of despair to a place of peace and rest?
Often we struggle with reconciling the glory of God's work in the past while sitting in the waiting darkness of the present. And that taints our view of God. The very same God who pronounces glorious blessings to his people in their future is the same God who worked glorious wonders of his people in the past. But our future, while we know it is glorious and hopeful, often seems too far off from our "now" place. Isn’t 5 seconds from now technically the future? So we're left trying to reconcile God's time into our time.
We need to be patient with God's timing because we have no clue what God is doing in and outside of us. We must remember that the God of the past is the same as the God of the present and future. We must remember that God has moved mountains to bless us, not only now, but also died to give us a future and beyond. Instead of dwelling on why God doesn't respond now, we need to take hold of the truth that God always responds and always works all things for our good. We need to step away from asking "when" and step into remembering that he does. We need to find comfort in the hope of the God of the past, present, and future and not allow ourselves to become depressed today while we wait for the answer that comes. I appreciate what author Roger Ellsworth writes in that “When we are satisfied with God as he is, we will find ourselves no longer troubled by what he does."
Let us be patient in our tribulations as we wait for the hope and glory of the Lord to come. And may we find peace and comfort that his time is whole, holy, and perfect.