Time is an enigma to me. There is no escaping it. It never stops. It marks births, deaths, celebrations and tragedies. Sometimes time moves too fast, and sometimes it seems to move too slowly, though it actually always moves at the same pace. I can think of times when I was waiting in a line and wondering to myself (actually, probably out loud), “Why is this taking so long?” However, have you sat and watched a sunset and remarked to yourself (actually, probably out loud), “Wow, look how fast the sun is disappearing.” Like I said, time is an enigma to me.
God has given us a wonderful tool to help manage our time and its effect on us, and it is not what you think. It’s not even that efficient, like a calendar, or some great app or notebook. The tool God has given us is patience. Patience protects us from time’s ability to get into our head. Patience allows me to see things differently, to see things the way God sees them. Patience is closely tethered to other God-given tools and gifts, such as gratefulness, wisdom and joy. One of my favorite quotes is, “patience is a weapon that forces deception to reveal itself.” I love this quote because it takes patience from being a bother to actually being a friend.
We live in a fast world and the general narrative is that if we don’t hurry up, life will pass us by. The proverbial salesman saying to me, “if you don’t buy this today, you will miss the special. I can’t promise you that we can do the same tomorrow.” We do this with relationships. We do this with experiences. We do this with our careers, and we do this with God.
I can’t speak for you, but patience is not an attribute that comes naturally to me, and it certainly is not something that we typically honor or respect in our culture. I would actually argue that we sometimes consider it a weakness. I get frustrated with patient people. I say to myself (actually, probably out loud), “for goodness sakes, make a decision.” We pride ourselves in being able to multi-task, thin slice decisions and expedite efficiently. However, if we think of patience as this weapon that God gives us, everything looks different. God has a way of telling me, “I’ve got this. I have information you don’t have, and I keep my promises.”
Jesus demonstrated patience in so many profound ways. I would say that Jesus’ entire existence was a demonstration of God’s patience. Honestly, Jesus decided to come to earth at a time in history where living was difficult, highly inefficient, and somewhat barbaric compared to today’s standards. Jesus lived approximately 33 and half years. However, he created the Heavens and the Earth in seven days. Jesus took a really long time to get to the cross, and on His way there, He devoted His entire life to people who were remarkably less capable compared to Him. Can you imagine how many times He would say to Himself (actually probably out loud….when He prayed to His Father), “why do I have do put up with this?”
I have a friend who used to own a large commercial printing company. My friend had the opportunity to bid for a very large job for a division of a company that was run by a friend of his. The size of the project was significant, and because he knew his company was capable of doing the work at a good price, and he had a relationship with the CEO, my friend was confident he had a good chance of winning the bid. My friend and his team invested a lot of time preparing the bid and presentation. The day arrived, and my friend made a good and strong presentation to the decision makers. However, the CEO said to him, “Now is not the right time.” My friend was confused. Why would you ask us to present to you and then remark in this manner? This makes no sense. He wanted this project badly and was confused, disappointed and frankly angry. His feelings toward the CEO were varied, but a sense of betrayal could creep in once in a while. What kind of answer is, “Now is not the right time”? Several months later the division that was looking for the commercial printing contractor declared bankruptcy, meaning that all of its debts would be negotiated or wiped clean. Therefore, if my friend had won the contract and put forth the money and time to get up and running to service this client, he would never have been paid. He would have probably lost his entire company. The CEO knew that there was a significant probability that this division was going to declare bankruptcy. Therefore, thinking about the CEO’s remarks, “Now is not the right time” took on a whole new meaning. The CEO was actually protecting his friend, not betraying him.
I think of times when God has said to me, “No” or “Now is not the right time,” and I default to the notion that God has lost interest in me, is punishing me, does not want to bless me or is simply being mean. However, perhaps He is simply loving and protecting me. How would I ever know this? I think to myself (actually, probably out loud), “patience (God’s gift to me) is a weapon that forces deception to reveal itself. Thank you God.” Therefore, patience is a source of gratefulness, wisdom and joy.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.