Patience with God
When I first encountered Tomas Halik’s Patience with God, I must admit that I was taken aback by the book’s title. I’ve always been familiar with the concept of God’s patience with us. I’ve heard it repeated that God’s mercy is unending, that He is always willing to forgive us again and again.
But of course, while the Scriptures are filled with God’s continual faithfulness to His people, it’s another thing to say that there weren’t frustrations along the way. The Psalms of lament attest to this fact. As Pete Enns expounds, “Psalm 88 is a cry for help to God, but God is a no-show… Right next door is Psalm 89, which in effect calls God a liar for failing to keep his promise that David’s line will continue forever (v. 36). The throne is empty now that Israel is in exile. God is, therefore, a promise-breaker.”
Many, including me, are uncomfortable with the idea of calling God a liar. After all, our deepest frustrations with God stem from our human frailty, our inability to understand what God is up to. Still, I cannot help but agree partly with Enns that Israel’s struggle with God is one that is forged by patience on both sides. I can relate to Israel’s frustrations because the majority of her time is spent waiting for God to deliver on His promises. That the most intimate relationships require much more from us is evident in our own lives: the people we care about most are people who require the most patience.
As Adel Bestavros writes, “Patience with others is Love, Patience with self is Hope, Patience with God is Faith.” What God is asking from us during this Lent may be more than we can give. That we hope God would step in and prevent this from worsening is obvious. But let us not be afraid to give God our frustrations as well, in whatever form they might look like. Our complaints, though they may be far from lovely, can also be counted as prayers.
Questions for reflection (I encourage you to journal your answers)
1. Have I been honest with God, and have I been vocal about my frustrations with Him?
2. Who are the people closest to me that require all my patience? Can I say that I am giving God just as much?
3. How can I personally trust that God’s promises will be delivered?