First, before you ready any further go to this link and watch this video: Please Christmas Don’t Be Late
This post will wait the 65 seconds it takes you.
Thanks. I appreciate that. Read along now…
“Please Christmas don’t be late.”
The thought of pretty much every kid about now. My own included. I remember feeling this way too, hoping and waiting for that extra big Lego set I asked for.
Waiting, being patient, it can weigh on us parents. So we keep our kids busy. Help the time go by faster. Only 6 more sleeps until Christmas! We simply can’t help but look forward to something positive and good.
It turns out neuroscience has backed this up. There is a link between our patience (or lack of it) and our expectations for a particular event. In 2012 a study of tens of millions of users watching internet videos (like the one above) showed that viewers can lose patience in as little as two seconds. And those with a faster internet speed are less patient than those with a slower speed.
It turns out the rapid pace of technology is rewiring us to be less and less patient. And in the midst of all this we see today’s passage, James 5:7-11 in the NIV:
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
In case you didn’t catch that. Some form of the word “patient” is used 4 times in five verses there.
Here specifically James is telling the readers of the letter to be patient in waiting for Christ’s return. It’s taking longer than they thought and they’re starting to wonder. Here we are in Advent, a season with dual meanings in his past incarnation and his future return. 2000 years later and we still don’t have patience perfected.
It’s also important to note what was going on before this in the letter. He’s talking about the rich people and those in power lording it over those who have not. There are abuses and it’s only natural for those being abused to call out for vindication. They are waiting for Christ’s return and for things to be set right. Any of this sound familiar for today’s world?
And yet James’ answer is to tell them to be patient in the face of such suffering! He draws the parallel of prophets and Job. Now I don’t know anyone overly eager to be compared to them. It often doesn’t end well (death, persecution, loss of family and/or property). But you see, what those people knew, what they had in mind, as well as the saints of the church for the past two millennia, is this:
They didn’t focus on “What is happening to me?” Instead they focused on “What is God forming in me?”
When we shift from the first question to the second, it helps us view our problems in a new way. All of a sudden instead of counting down the days or the minutes until our terrible situation is over, we can learn to be present in the moment and grow in ways we never thought possible.
In a way we realize that frenzy is the enemy of patience. We see the futility of frenzy.
One author said “You’re trying to squirm out of the present into the future: Good luck with that.” (Amy Gross)
It just doesn’t work. The only thing we can learn to do is to be patient. To wait. Just like the farmer James mentions.
Now the farmer doesn’t just sit and do nothing, but the farmer does what he can do, realizing not everything is in his control. He chooses to focus on what he can do. While the rains only come from the sky he still has to fertilize and weed the fields.
That is the challenge for us all. Today I know the cry many of us feel on our lips, especially in light of everything that has happened recently, personally and national/internationally, is, “Come Lord Jesus.”
We might even say, “Please Jesus don’t be late.”
But we need to wait. We need to wait actively, not passively. Just like all those kids waiting for Christmas. They were on to something. We can do something while we wait. Something that matters.
Figure out a way to wait actively this week. Whatever it might be in the particular situation that makes you say “Please Jesus don’t be late.” Maybe that’s reading your Bible, praying, meditating, becoming an activist, donating, calling, visiting, budgeting, or something else entirely.
Ask God for the wisdom to know what you can and can’t affect. Then focus on what you can. Leave the rest to God.
Instead of asking, “What is happening to me?”
Ask, “What is God forming in me?”
May you learn to wait well.
May you learn patience.
And, of course, “Please Jesus don’t be late.”
Go in grace and peace.