Today’s post is written by Amanda Wen, a good friend whom I met while in worship ministry at our church. She is an amazing musician and I could listen to her play cello all day, I think! We have a lot of fun playing together. We have had all three of our children within months of each other, which made it even harder when they moved away from us. She was pregnant with her first when she came to visit me in the hospital after birthing my first. She asked if the labor (30+ hours!) was worth it, to which I think I replied, “Ask me in a couple of weeks.” She, too, is a wise and funny friend, which is a beautiful combination. If you want to read more of her writings, visit her blog: Life, The Universe, and Pachelbel at oucellogal.livejournal.com. You’ll have to ask for an invitation to read, but it’s well worth it!
There’s a joke that if you pray for patience, God will give you children. I don’t recall ever praying specifically for patience, but I have three children anyway: two boys, ages two and almost four, and a little girl due in January. (note from Elizabeth: Amanda had her baby, Selah Joy, on January 16. Mommy and Baby are both doing beautifully!) I see a lot of myself in both of my boys, but it is my older one who is most like me: stubborn, high-strung, and disinclined to tolerate change, disruption of a routine, and being told to wait. This conversation takes place frequently:
Him: When are we going to do (desirable activity)?
Me: At (time).
Him: But THAT’S TOO LONG. (He says this even if the aforementioned time is only ten minutes away).
Me: Then you’ll just have to be patient.
(Sorry, kid. You got some lousy genetic material from your mommy).
Right now, I feel stuck in a season of waiting. My musical career is currently taking a backseat to my children, one of whom I am not-so-patiently waiting to meet. As a freelancer, I have no guarantees from anyone that my job will be waiting for me when I resurface, so every time the phone rings with a job opportunity I must turn down, I wonder when they will eventually give up on me and stop calling. And I watch, and more than occasionally envy, the blossoming careers of some close friends and wonder if I will ever join their ranks.
So many others wait for things that are so much bigger, so much more important, than this. They wait for healing. They wait for relief from financial pressures. They wait for children, for a spouse, for someone they love dearly to come to know the Lord.
How are we to be patient in situations like these?
In recent weeks, I’ve been studying the life of Abraham in my Bible Study Fellowship class. Abraham was a guy with some pretty inspiring faith, faith I know I do not possess. He had a comfortable life in a wealthy, sophisticated city, with no reason to leave, except that God called him to do exactly that.
1The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Let’s take a closer look at that first part: God calls Abram to “a land I will show you.” Translation: Abram didn’t even know where he was going. Yet he obeyed.
God also promises that he will make Abram a great nation, yet at this point in his life, Abram was about seventy-five, his wife sixty-five, and they had no children. Yet he believed.
I appreciate that the Bible does not make it sound like Abram believed effortlessly, without mistakes or stumbles. In the course of the quarter-century he waited for God to fulfill this precious promise of a child, he lied out of fear, he took matters into his own hands and had a child with his wife’s servant, and he questioned God on many occasions. Genesis 15 records one of these conversations:
2But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Of course, we know the rest of the story. Abraham and Sarah eventually gave birth to Isaac, their long-awaited miracle child.
So how do we get this sort of patience?
We can’t do it on our own. That’s something I know for a fact, because I have tried, on numerous occasions, and failed. “Just be patient” is useless advice ( and something I’d do well to remember when dealing with my oldest)!
And the Bible makes this clear. In John 15:5, Jesus says, “…apart from me you can do nothing.”
But at the beginning of the verse, Jesus says something amazing and wonderful. “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.”
Fruit…like love, joy, peace…and patience.
Paul learned this lesson, as we see in the fourth chapter of Philippians.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Only by remaining steadfast in Jesus can we learn to wait for the things he has promised us. To be honest, I’m not entirely certain what that looks like, either, but if I am to learn how to be patient, how to teach my children to be patient, I am determined to find out. So I will endure, I will look to him when I struggle, I will ask him for help even before I find myself struggling, and I will trust his promise that his word will not return empty, that he does intend to fulfill the promises he has made to me, that he will enable me to do everything he has called me to do.