Promises and Impatience

By Debbie Shope

“We are a people of promise in a world of impatience.”

I read this sentence in a blog recently, and was struck by how it seemed to touch a heartbeat of tension in the Christian life, at least for me.  We have the hope and promises of the very God of the universe, yet we are so impatient for all of the things that we personally think are important.  Sometimes the impatience of watching the clock is relatively harmless: I am impatient for the bell to ring at the end of a school day, or with a book that I think has far too much detail – can’t it just get to the point? And there are always computers!! But some are far more selfish: I am impatient in a conversation with someone I care about because I want to do something else, or sometimes I am expecting immediate sanctification in others when they are “challenging”.  In all of these situations, it is really my sin that is the issue, and my inability or unwillingness to hold on to the promises God has given that gets me into difficulty.

But other times we are impatient because we see instances where the world is not as it should be.  Someone we love is seriously ill, or is turning their back on Jesus.  We long for our own sanctification.  We look at the world and wonder how much longer it can go on in some of the directions it seems to be heading. These are times when our impatience is understandable.  It echoes familiar cries of the Old Testament.  In the Psalms, David pleads with God ,“How long, O Lord” when grieving his own troubles and the fate of Israel (Psalm 13:1, 79:5).  Habakkuk wonders how long before God moves to end the violence he sees (Habakkuk 1:2) and Isaiah questions how long God will allow Israel to remain in its suffering and ignorance (Isaiah 6:11).  I suspect even Jesus felt this when he looked at Jerusalem and longed to gather it under his wings (Matthew 23:37).

The difference between my early examples and the latter ones is this:  When we long for the wrong in the world to be undone, or for the hurt that we see in the lives of others, and even ourselves, to be healed, or when David and Habbakuk implored God to do something quickly, they are all impatient for God to do what He has promised.  Most of what I am impatient for is simply for my own comfort and convenience.  I pray that God will make me impatient for the things of God — for His glory to be revealed, and His Kingdom to come — and for the patience to wait for those things he has promised to be fulfilled.