Humans aren’t naturally patient. Some personalities are more inclined towards patience, but I don’t consider it to be a supernatural ability that we’re born with. Patience takes time and life experience.
If you were somehow gifted with the superpower of patience from birth, you honestly deserve your own Marvel movie.
There’s a lot to learn about patience, especially when it comes to the Bible. Countless verses and proverbs regarding patience fill Scripture, encouraging us to exercise patience in our lives. Not only this, but multiple people in the Bible were in situations where they had to be patient for a considerable amount of time. I can’t think of a better example than Abraham in waiting for the birth of his promised son.
I’ve always laughed at the lighthearted comments that Christians make regarding books like Leviticus and Numbers, as the majority of us know the struggle of staying focused when reading passages with countless details. Yet I’m always reminded through 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” If we believe that God is the ultimate author of the Bible, then every verse was included with a purpose. A couple of these seemingly insignificant details can be found in Abraham’s story, and it completely changed my perspective of him.
Beginning in Genesis 12, God establishes a covenant with Abraham, promising that he will be made into a great nation. A few chapters later (Genesis 15), God promises that Abraham will have a biological son, and by Genesis 21, we arrive at the anticipated birth of Isaac. As I just mentioned, it’s easy to skim over Bible verses that seem to offer insignificant details. But I encourage you to look at the following verses with me.
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran (Genesis 12:4).
Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael (Genesis 16:15).
Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him (Genesis 21:5).
Doing some quick math, if Abraham was 75 when God promised that he would be made into a great nation through his descendants, and shortly afterwards (Genesis 15) that he would have a biological son, we’re talking about a 25-year waiting period for Isaac. I’m sure that Abraham had hoped and prayed for children years before we reach this point in the Bible, but we can know for sure that he waited at least 25 years from the point that he was promised biological descendants.
I don’t know about you, but waiting 25 years for a promised child seems like it would be emotionally draining at moments. And for that, I greatly admire Abraham.
Can we also take a moment to remember that Abraham wasn’t the only one who had to be patient? Sarah had to wait the same 25 years that her husband waited for Isaac, and during this time, we see Sarah take matters into her own hands. But I’m not going to slam her. If we’re honest, how many times have we been so impatient with life’s circumstances that we try to rush God’s plans? And when we’ve made those decisions, I’m sure we can remember the negative consequences that may have resulted.
In a moment of fear and lack of patience, Sarah allowed her desires to rule her actions, leading her to give her servant to Abraham as a wife so that a son may be born through them. Abraham willingly agreed, which also shows his same attitude of distrust towards God’s promise. The end result? Years of anger, hurt, and jealously that eventually led to Abraham’s son, Ishmael, being sent away from the family.
How often do we find ourselves waiting for something? Maybe we’re waiting for our current semester of school to be over. Maybe we’re waiting for that next big career move. Maybe we’re waiting for a future spouse and family. Maybe we’re waiting for the miracle that we’ve been praying for over the span of many years.
Regardless of whether or not the thing we’re waiting for can be impacted by our actions, waiting brings out the best, and worst, in us. It allows us to show our trust in God, even in the most discouraging of moments, but it can also lead us to take matters into our own hands, oftentimes leading to less-than-ideal consequences. But even when we have acted outside of faith, God can still use us and our circumstances to glorify Himself.
In these seasons of life that require faith and patience, we can be strengthened in God’s promises. We are assured that God hears our prayers (Psalm 40:1 and Philippians 4:6); that He will guide us in His plans for us if we trust Him (Proverbs 3:5-6); that nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37); and that if our desires are not in His will for our lives, that He will give us the grace to endure through disappointment (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Whatever we’re waiting for, whether it’s a couple of days away or 25 years from now, let’s exercise an attitude and mentality of patience. Let’s encourage our brothers and sisters in faith during their seasons of waiting. Above all, let’s keep our eyes set on God and remember His unwavering faithfulness.