Pam is truly a compassionate person. When she sees another person in pain or suffering, it’s as if she can feel it herself. There have been many times when we have been watching television and a news report comes on about some tragedy somewhere in the world, and she feels the sorrow so badly she starts crying. The desire to alleviate human suffering is behind her involvement over the years in the medical field, her work as a volunteer EMT at the Walkersville Rescue Squad, and her leadership in our fledgling Stephen Ministry.
And as far as patience goes, if you were to look the word up in the dictionary...you wouldn’t find Pam’s picture anywhere near it! Now, Pam is fully aware of the fact that she is quite patience-challenged, so she said to Austin, “I get the compassion part, but how have you learned patience from me?”
He said, “Well, Mom, I’ve had to learn to be really patient with you!”
Patience is the kind of thing that can’t be easily learned. It’s only needed during times when things get under our skin, when we are anxious about something, when our circumstances really need changing but they don’t. I don’t need patience waiting for my next dental appointment, unless I have a tooth that is really hurting and the dentist can’t see me for two weeks.
One of those Bible verses that always make it onto bookmarks and paintings in the Christian bookstore is Isaiah 40:3—“…but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Do we really understand what that verse is saying? Isaiah is writing to a people who keep trying to take matters into their own hands that rightly belong only to God. They anoint kings, raise an armies, enter into alliances with other nations so that they can defend themselves against their enemies, and all the while God is saying, “I am your defender.” They worship the fertility gods of other nations in an effort to ensure that their crops and their livestock will produce enough that they can feed themselves and live, and all the while God is saying, “Hey, don’t you remember when I gave you water and quail and even manna from heaven in the desert!”
But before we look down our noses at the Israelites, we need to fully grasp the extent of the waiting that is required. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for a few hundred years before the Lord sent a deliverer. At the time of Jesus they had been waiting for over 400 years for the Messiah to arrive; modern Jews have been waiting for more than 2,400 years for Messiah. It’s been almost 2,000 years since Jesus promised to return to earth, set the world to rights and bring to completion his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. I mean, c’mon. 2,000 years!
Maybe we’ve never really waited. It didn’t take Christianity that long before it started anointing kings, raising armies, forming alliances, judging sinners—you know, getting about the business of setting the world to rights for Jesus.
As if he needed the help. And as if we wouldn’t make a big mess out of it.
2,000 years does seem like a long time to wait for anything, until you consider this: the main thing waiting does is keep us from trying to do the things that only God can and should do. Trying to do God’s work for him is actually the Original Sin of Genesis. Waiting for God—letting God be God and accepting that we are not-God—is something we should always do. It’s the wait that never ends.
So why hasn’t God acted decisively to set the world to rights? Maybe he’s waiting for us to stop trying to do his job.