Patient waiting

 

 

“Be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:8 ESV

What does it mean to be patient in the midst of suffering and injustice? Does James, the brother of Jesus, intend for us to take mistreatment and abuse as a Christian virtue? No, that would be enabling evil to continue. In the case of abuse or assault, life-threatening situations, illegal activity, or other similar situations, being patient may mean engaging the justice system to work on your behalf while you refrain from taking matters into your own hands.
Let’s take a closer look at what the word “patience” means. The Greek word for patience means to show self-restraint when you are provoked; to show mercy and long suffering; to refrain from retaliating.

According to author Jerry Bridges, patience is the “ability to suffer . . . under the mistreatment of others without growing resentful or bitter.” Notice the emphasis is on a person’s attitude, not an endorsement of allowing someone to mistreat you. It is not considered “suffering for Jesus” to stay put and be used as a doormat or punching bag.

This goes against the grain of human nature—to restrain from retaliating and hurting the person who has hurt you. You may feel a rush of energy when you scheme and manipulate to get even with someone who has wronged you, especially if they aren’t sorry. But engaging in that kind of warfare quickly spirals out of control.

Ann Voskamp says, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves us all starving and groping in the dark.”

Restraint is the nature of Jesus who is our example. Peter writes about this in 1 Peter 2:21: “For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example so that you might follow in his steps.”

Jesus was betrayed by a friend, falsely accused, misunderstood by family and friends, stalked, set up by those who wanted to trap him, faced threats to his life, was unprotected by the religious and legal system, spat upon, and suffered verbal and physical abuse. Yet, even though he had the power to do so, he did not retaliate by trash talking or threatening to get even to those who mistreated him.

What did Jesus do? “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

Dr. David Jeremiah counsels, “Until Jesus comes and he rights all wrongs, the believer is to leave vengeance in the hands of God.” That’s easy to say but hard to do. It requires trust–relinquishing our rights into God’s hands and trusting he will handle it in the best way for all involved.

“Trusting ourselves to the Father’s hands doesn’t mean we will not fall into other hands along the way. What it means is that behind all of those hands are His hands. It will be His hands that will one day bring those other hands to justice. That is what Jesus believed. And that is what gave him the strength, while being reviled on the cross, not to revile in return.” (Ken Gire–The Work of His Hands)

Patience is not passive. It may be considered actively waiting—waiting for God to work in the heart of another. The apostle James was right—we should be patient and entrust our hearts to God in the midst of suffering and injustice. Seeking revenge and allowing bitterness to take root in your heart will only destroy you. Entrusting your heart to God allows him to accomplish forgiveness and peace in your heart and life.

There’s hope in this message from James: “the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Let this hope give you patience and courage in the midst of suffering—courage to act and take a stand against evil, and courage to surrender your need to retaliate.

My friend, Jason Gray, wrote a great song called “I will rise again.” He could have been writing my story in this song, and maybe your story too.

It was like somebody knew how to cripple me with the perfect plan to break my belief
Take me piece by piece till my faith was all but gone
It knocked me down so far that I couldn’t get up
But face down in the dirt I heard the voice of love
Saying do not fear, you won’t be here for long

I’m not who I was, You won’t recognize me
Love came down and redefined me
And piece by piece put me back together differently

And the perfect plan to try to bring me down
Has been put to shame it’s been turned around
As I come so alive that death is afraid of me

I will rise again, I will rise again
I believe I believe that I had to break
So love could make me whole
But I will rise again, stronger in the end
I believe I believe in a brand new day
A love that saves so I can say
I will rise again

Cause you’ve been here before
You’ve overcome the war
My life is found in yours
And you say I will rise again
You heal and you restore
You break down every door
My life is found in yours
And you say I will rise again

 

Copyright (c) 2016 Brenda Branson