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The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Three Pathways for Cultivating Patience

In the practice of patience is one of the times we most feel the burn of sanctification and the inward groans of the Spirit (Romans 8:23). At times it can seem we’re being conformed to Jesus almost effortlessly; the winds of the Spirit in our sails, as we feed the nourishment of self-forgetfulness. But part of waiting is the conscious hardship. We taste the bitter pill of patience and feel it slither ever so slowly down our throat. It’s not patience when we’re gloriously unaware of the waiting. And so when we feel the burn, we need divine promises in store and a plan of attack. Here are three biblical pathways for cultivating patience in the waiting.

1) Renew Faith and Hope

When you feel the first resistance, let it be a reminder to go Godward. Recalibrate the focus of your faith. Move the weight of your trust off self, where it keeps gravitating back, and consciously reorient on God. Whether it’s simply spare moments or seemingly endless days, waiting is no waste in God’s economy. It is in the delays and the pauses, and in becoming aware of our lack of patience, that he works to save us from self-reliance and revitalize our faith and hope in him.

“Waiting is no waste in God’s economy.” Tweet

Patience comes with faith (2 Timothy 3:10).

2) Pray and Give Thanks

Second, let the waiting prompt you to pray. The summons to “be patient in tribulation” is followed with the reminder to “be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). A healthy life of prayer doesn’t necessitate hours each day in the closet, but eyes to see the opportunities in, and a heart to seize upon, the unexpected moments and seasons of waiting.

And there is a remarkable role for thanksgiving in cultivating “patience with joy.” Paul prays for Christians, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:11-12).

How do we “put on … patience” (Colossians 3:12)? The apostle points us to thanksgiving not once or twice, but three times:

Be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:15-17).

Few things will pass the time as effectively and richly as counting your blessings and naming them to God.

3) Remember the Patience of God

Finally, the pain of waiting can point our hearts to the life-saving patience of God. We owe our everything to his kindness and patience with us. “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).

He was patient when the first man and woman sinned. His “patience waited in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20)?

Jesus himself is the climactic display of God’s perfect patience toward sinners (1 Timothy 1:16).

Perhaps Tom Petty is onto something better than he knows when he sings about waiting, “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart.” The unwelcome intrusions of waiting into our lives, whether weighty or seemingly trite, are powerful opportunities to welcome God into every moment and keep our hearts renewed in him.  

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david@churchleaders.com'
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.