Our American culture fails in the area of patience. Yesterday I was in line at a grocery store. I had a few small things so I went to the self-check-out area. Every one of the do-it-yourself scanners were busy so I waited by the one that looked like it would be free the soonest. The gentleman at this scanner was wrapping up his purchase. He pulled a few dollar bills out of his front jean pocket began to feed them into the machine. To his frustration, the machine didn’t like the bills and it quickly rejected them. Each time one of the bills was rejected, he took the bill and smoothed it across his knee and tried again, only to have the machine spit them out again. As I watched, the look on this man’s face was not only growing more impatient with the machine, but he also began to show signs of anxiety. He didn’t look at me directly, but he knew I was there waiting. I decided I was not going to add to his angst.
“Don’t you hate it when that happens?” I said, trying to let him know I wasn’t getting uptight with him.
“I’m sorry this is taking so long,” he said, with an apologetic tone.
“That’s ok. I’ve had that happen to me a few times, too.”
A moment later, the last bill was finally received by the machine. A small smile of relief came over his face. He grabbed his receipt and bag of groceries and turned to me.
“Again, I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”
Living in a country where everything is instantaneous, we have lost the timeless quality of patient waiting, and for believers today this includes answers to our prayers. As military wives and mothers, we have plenty to pray over: transfer orders, new duty stations, the upcoming deployment, spousal jobs, financial matters, getting out or staying in the military, children’s concerns, and other prayer needs.
There have been times where I have been impatient with the Lord, frustrated that He’s taking too long with the important matters of my heart. And I’m guilty of influencing circumstances hoping it would hurry God along in bringing about the answer I desperately wanted. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I hoped He would welcome my efforts being the backseat driver. God’s lateness seemed like He didn’t appreciate my sense of urgency. However, it took awhile, but God eventually showed me that I was getting into my own way. I wasn’t trusting God for my prayer needs. I began to take a look at why I sometimes jumped ahead of God. It came down to one word: fear. I asked myself a series of questions regarding my prayer requests, and the resulting gut feeling was always fear. I was afraid God wouldn’t understand what I deeply needed. I feared I wouldn’t like the way He changed things, or I feared He’d never change things. But deep down, the number one fear was that I didn’t trust God in coming through for me. Not long after this realization, I read an article about what the Christian’s posture ought to be while waiting for answered prayer. While reading the article, I came upon the words something like this, “My dear child, why won’t you allow me to do my job of working it out and you do your job of trusting me?” Wow! those words stuck like Velcro on my heart. Now whenever I become impatient with God’s timing, I remind myself of who’s job it is to change things.
God created all things and that includes time. He numbered the days in a year, hours in a day, and the minutes and moments of our lives. The concept of time, when you think about it, influences every aspect of life. Because God controls time, we can’t assume He isn’t hard at work in the background. This is the nuts and bolts of what “walking by faith and not by sight” is all about. The problem with humanity is that we always want proof. We base everything on whether or not we can see it, touch it, or hear it. But when there isn’t anything evident yet, we start the doubting process. Doubt leads us to question God’s faithfulness. (See my 3-part article series: Doubt, Disillusionment, and discouragement here) To overcome this tendency, it’s imperative to keep our focus on God and His many attributes: loving, good, patient, Omni-present, omniscient, just, merciful, and faithful, among others. God’s faithfulness includes His guidance and answered prayer, but sometimes He waits for us to get out of the driver’s seat. There’s only one steering wheel for a reason. Picture yourself sitting on the teeter-totter in the graphic above. Which side are you leaning towards- the trust side in red, or the fear side in gray? Then ask yourself, “Am I trusting God for that?”