Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. [Romans 12:12 (NLT)]
Back in his college days, my husband and several friends were on a lonely stretch of road in what seemed the middle of nowhere when they stopped for a red light. Although the average red light lasts from 90 to 120 seconds, that seemed like an eternity to the impatient driver. After looking around and seeing no other cars, he proceeded through the intersection. There was, however, one other vehicle nearby—and it was a police car! Although that driver’s impatience cost him time and money, other drivers’ impatience can take lives! A typical commuter train, for example, usually passes through an intersection in two to three minutes. But, when we lived in Illinois, at least one or two impatient drivers tried (and failed) to beat the local commuter train across the tracks every year.
Patience has been described as the quality we admire in the driver behind us but can’t stand in the driver ahead! As impatient as we are while waiting for a red light to turn green or a train to get through the crossing, I wonder at our patience when waiting for God. When we bring our concerns to Him, do we expect His answer in a New York minute (said to be the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn)? Encountering God’s version of red lights and crossing gates doesn’t mean we can’t make progress; they simply mean that it’s time to wait.
Rather than trusting God enough to wait for His timing, we frequently barge ahead only to face the consequences. Sarah’s impatience while waiting for Abraham’s promised heir led to an enduring hostility between the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac. Esau was so impatient for dinner that he traded his birthright for a bowl of stew. The Israelites’ impatience when waiting for Moses to return from Mt. Sinai led to the golden calf and a plague while their impatience with the long journey around Moab resulted in an infestation of poisonous snakes. Moses’ impatience with them at Meribah Kadesh barred him from entering the Promised Land and Saul’s impatience while waiting for Samuel’s arrival caused him to lose his kingdom. The prodigal son was so impatient that he asked for his inheritance early and he ended up squandering it all. Impatience is costly in more ways than one and the consequences can be long lasting. Let us remember that it is God’s timetable we are to fulfill, not ours!
Waiting on the Lord is the opposite of running ahead of the Lord, and it’s the opposite of bailing out on the Lord. It’s staying at your appointed place while he says stay, or it’s going at his appointed pace while he says go. It’s not impetuous, and it’s not despairing. [John Piper]