Pause for Thought

Patience, Prepositions and Perspective

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Patience is a virtue, Possess it if you can, Seldom found in women, And never in a man!” — Scottish Folk Wisdom

Patient endurance attained to all things; Whom God possesseth in nothing is wanting; Alone God sufficeth!” — Teresa of Avila

I grew up heartily annoyed by the little doggerel at the top! I am blessed with patience and always have been. From time to time some have mistaken that for laziness or procrastination and I will admit to tendencies in those directions, but in general I am content to wait until action is appropriate. I am happy to pray the supplication written by Reinhold Niebuhr, often referred to as the “serenity” prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

I often counsel people not to pray for patience because, by definition, you will have to wait!

It is interesting to take note of prepositions in scripture, because they clarify the meaning in unobvious ways. For example:

But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” [Psalm 1:2 KJV emphasis mine]

Prepositions change your point of view. Meditating in the law is quite different from meditating on the law. One position is from the inside looking out, whereas the other is from the outside looking in. It is so much better to be in the will of God and relating outside circumstances from that position than the reverse. Being in the will of God allows us to enjoy the perspective that He is actively working everything together for our good on a timescale which maximizes our benefit and His glory. [see Romans 8:28]

The opposite of patience is worry. Worry imagines outcomes which might happen, but seldom do, and just serves to divert our faith from the certainties of God’s sovereign will. Any time we start to worry it is useful to read Psalm 46, to remind us that God is both our refuge and strength and he will accomplish what he plans. Take special note of Psalm 46:10,

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

Know” here means to be absolutely certain from experience that God has the circumstances under control despite any appearance to the contrary.

This is a constant theme in David’s Psalms:

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” [Psalm 37:7 NIV emphasis mine]

So patience is just a willingness to wait for God to work out His plan in the circumstances rather than imploring Him to adopt ours. There is no contest about whose plan is better!

So God’s words for today are “be still”, “don’t fret”, “wait patiently”.

If you can have your perspective from the center of God’s will, you will indeed have serenity knowing that everything that can be done is being done, and what you can’t influence will be to your advantage.

On the other hand, if there is instruction for us to do something, the advice of Jesus’ mother Mary is applicable:

Do whatever he tells you.” [John 2:5 NIV]

Thus both our doing and our waiting will be productive. At least that’s my perspective!

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

Sunday January 2nd, 2022
Sunday December 19th, 2021