“At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness” (Psalm 69:13b ESV).
I am not naturally inclined toward patience. My wife begins to share with me the trials of her day, and I leap into offering ready solutions—not the response she wants, not by a long shot. Then there is punctuality. I believe it is important to be on time for appointments or events, and chafe at traffic delays (this is probably most vexing when en route to a Saints game). On some occasions, I even find myself finishing sentences for others (again, sadly, my wife is all too familiar with this shortcoming), as if those speaking are struggling somehow to get to the point.
I know I am not alone; comedians make a lot of money telling jokes about human impatience, thereby giving witness to its prevalence. Even our inventions are telling: microwaves, cars, trains, planes, and search engines. I traded in a computer once because it took too long to boot up.
Even the saints in heaven and godly figures in the Bible have expressed impatience. In Revelation 6:10 we read that those who had been slain for their faithfulness to God cry out, “How long before you judge and avenge our blood?” echoing the questions of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:2) and the Psalmist (Psalm 13:1). The joke, “Hurry up and wait,” irks us; apparently the saints seeking justice in heaven share the complaint.
So when a problem comes my way at work (now here is a time where delay would have been nice), I quickly set about to solve it. I am well trained, I have my own plentiful experiences to draw upon, and I have learned to seek advice and counsel from others. Getting started is not difficult. But what is difficult is learning to pause long enough to allow God to act on my behalf. It is not that I don’t offer issues to God in prayer—I do. The problem is not stopping long enough to hear an answer.
Such behavior, such impatience, is foolish. Although the dictionary today has softened the implications of being a “fool,” the Bible, most particularly the Book of Proverbs, is rock hard in its use of that appellation.
I do not recall when it occurred, but the moment I first heard the phrase, “He does not suffer fools gladly,” I wanted to be that guy. It’s possible (probable) some self-righteous side of me coveted the implication of wisdom and superiority, but the attraction had more to do with thinking such a person had to have discernment, and that was a character trait I hoped to attain. The Bible urges us to strive for wisdom and discernment, the source of which is God. James reminds us that God gives wisdom generously (James 1:5), we merely have to ask and believe—the believing part is where patience comes into play.
Impatience is foolish and leads to doubt; doubt, in turn, leads to trouble.
This may surprise you—the Bible does not suffer fools gladly, either. Paul used the phrase in a rebuke of the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:19). Sometimes I see myself standing in a very long line of persons, impatiently waiting to hear the rebuke we deserve for our impatience with God.
God has given me some wisdom and discernment; I know that apart from Jesus I can do nothing. Yet the fool in me persists in trying to go it alone. It is no wonder that such impatience delivers the rewards a fool deserves to receive.
My prayer today (and if I am clever enough to remember it every day until I am part of eternity) is for God to increase my patience to wait in anticipation of His goodness moving in my life at an acceptable time. Please O God, let me not suffer my foolish impatience with you gladly. Turn my mind toward wisdom as I wait on you.