“I Waited Patiently for the Lord ”
By: Rev. Sam Harris
I have enjoyed reading through the Psalms until I came across Psalm 40:1, which reads: “I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.” I am not a patient person! I have difficulty with being patient. I pray for patience and all I seem to get are additional trials to test the patience I don’t seem to have. Therefore, I must confess that I don’t pray for patience much anymore. Can you help me?
I’m sorry that you ask this question! (Not really!) We all have problems with being patient as we live in an instant society. For example:
- I try not to have more than 12 items when I go through the grocery express line to save time. Unfortunately, the customers in front of me don’t know how to count or what “express” means!
- How often you do get your breakfast at a fast food restaurant on your way to work?
- We cook with microwave ovens
- “Snail mail” is too slow; we E-mail for faster results
- We get irritated waiting on a FAX
- We gulp down remedies that promise “fast, fast relief.”
I believe you’ve got the picture; that’s what makes Psalm 40:1 hard to take. It recalls a time in David’s life when he was forced to wait. As he looked back with a song in his heart, he saw that the wait was worth it. As you read this psalm of David, you come to understand that it is His personal experience of salvation—of what God had done in his life. As David waited patiently for the Lord, he was submitting himself to God’s sovereignty. In response to David’s waiting, God rescued him from past “pits of destruction” and “out of the miry clay.” The Lord placed him upon “the rock which made his footsteps sure.”
Someone once admitted: “The hardest task in my life is to sit down and wait for God to catch up with me!” Patience is part of God’s strategy for maturing us as Christians. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22 that one of the fruit of the Spirit is “patience.” The NASB and NIV both use the word “patience” while the KJV and the NKJV translates this fruit as “longsuffering.” I believe that’s more like what patience is in reality! The Greek word is makrothumia, meaning “to be long suffering, forebearing, self-restraint before proceeding to action, patient.”
The world offers us instant success or satisfaction, so there are many within the Christian community who would suggest that Christianity and faith can also be easy, with instant gratification. After all, didn’t Jesus say His burden was light and His yoke was easy? I believe that it is easy for us to let Jesus live in us, but there is an eternal struggle. Paul points out in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
In his last letter to Timothy, Paul admonished “Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of the cross.” As Jesus told Peter, “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.” It’s easy to understand “long suffering”—we’ve been there and done that!
Let’s get to the “Why” question: why is patience so hard? Is it really true that patience or longsuffering is one of God’s ways of maturing us? The answer is obviously “Yes.” I would suggest that there are three reasons why God permits “longsuffering” in our lives.
- Discipline: As a child and teenager (and often as an adult), I understood discipline and longsuffering went together for the things which I had done wrong. Being grounded was longsuffering. So was being unable to use the car. Forgiveness was always there, but punishment followed. Although God forgave David his sin, he suffered the consequences. Many a prophet warned Israel of the consequences of their sin and rebellion. God said to Samuel concerning David: “I will be a Father to him and he will be a son to Me, when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men” (2 Sam. 7:14). God corrects us to teach us holiness. A fruit tree will endure a great deal of pruning in order to produce good fruit.
- Development: Several years ago, I led a Bible study on Psalm 119. There are some great words in verse 71 which may seem strange at first: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.” An interesting paraphrased of this verse is found in The Living Bible: “The punishment you gave me was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to your laws.” Over the years, I have found that longsuffering has brought me much closer to the Lord and caused me to rely more fully on Him. Henry Ford was once asked to name his best friend. He replied, “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” If Jesus is our best friend, then He only wants to bring out the best in us. Translated in contemporary terms: The Lord continues to teach me patience in traffic and express lines, not to mention dealing with people.
- Direction: A young man goes to provide needs for his brothers, is thrown into a pit, sold to a caravan on its way to Egypt. He would endure a long and lonely exile, time in prison, and be betrayed by those he had helped. If Joseph had not been sold into slavery, a nation could not have been preserved. There is a hymn which has this line: “The way of the cross leads home.” God does not promised padded pews or carpeted racetracks. His promise is to those who overcome.
Paul writes: “For this momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond comparison.” Again, looking at the language of The Living Bible, “These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessings upon us for ever and ever.”
The Steinway piano is one of the most skillfully crafted instruments, producing a magnificent sound, and preferred by many of the great masters of the world. As a part of its quality control, it goes to the “Pounder Room” where each key is tested 10,000 times to insure quality and durability. Those of us who are committed to Jesus Christ are being “handcrafted” as He presses, forms, and shapes us to be more like Him. We are tested in the laboratory of everyday human experience. That’s not always easy, and we suffer at times, but as He polishes us, we begin to “glow” into His likeness reflecting His beauty and holiness.
I remember reading this thought several years ago: “Trials are intended not to provoke us but to prove us.” Hope this is helpful to you as you persevere.