I have been reflecting lately on the general attitude that I see by which people interpret patience as a sign of weakness. I would venture rather, that knee-jerk reactions to events are the real sign of weakness. When we react without stopping to pray, ponder and consider and then pray again, all we are doing is trying to control the situation ourselves. And that is the real sign of weakness, and an even bigger sign of fear.
When I look to God as my example I see an abundance of patience. Thankfully that abundance is directed toward us and the messes we get into by our knee-jerk reactions and our outright sin. More importantly however, that abundance of patience was directed at the redeeming of creation and the salvation of his people.
For many long years God promised a Messiah, a savior who would come and redeem his people. In the face of taunts the likes of, “Where is your God now”, and “your God does not care about you”, or even “your God is powerless to help” God waited patiently for the right time and the right place and the right people through whom to bring his plan for salvation to fruition.
In these weeks of Advent we see the quiet, patient unfolding of that plan. We also see the signs that God is acting in a big way, as there are angels greeting maidens and portents in the sky. We also see the warnings to those who don’t believe God will come, as John the Baptist shouts, “repent and be baptized”, and even “flee from the coming destruction.”
As people who belong to God, it seems to me that we need also to have patience. God’s timing is not our timing. Now I know that if you have been faithfully reading my blog these past weeks, you’ll know that I am having a struggle. That struggle isn’t just in my personal present circumstances…but also in the deep love and concern I have for good friends in similar circumstances and in a whole other kind of distress altogether. And I am not able to promise that my own distress, discouragement, and doubt won’t again be a topic for discussion, after all I notice that they are greatly affecting my focus and concentration when I pray….. But that doesn’t change my faith in God. Granted that faith appears a little harder to tap into some days, but it has not changed. And as a child of a patient God, I believe that I need to be patient as I wait for his plan to unfold.
A few weeks ago some friends were talking about a country song in which the devil and God are playing cards and the devil is cheating. (duh) I am not a fan of country music, so I have never heard this song, but I loved the image that was evoked in my mind. And that image reminds me that God’s patience is not weakness but actually great power and great strength.
Imagine this. God and the devil are seated at the poker table. On the green felt between them is the pot for which they are gambling…. All of creation–the Heavens and the Earth and the souls of all people, past, present and future. God begins to play his winning hand. Slowly, one by one he lays them down on the table….
Impatiently, the devil stops him and throws down his winning hand comprised of cards he had hidden up his sleeve. The perfect full house to play against a weak and powerless opponent….
DEATH, DEATH, HELL, HELL, HELL, HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY
and with that the devil takes the pot and pulls it toward himself.
Not so fast says God, I haven’t finished playing my hand….
He picks up the three cards already played, puts them back into his hand and begins again with deliberation and patience to play his winning cards….
ETERNAL LIFE FOR ALL BELIEVERS
Whatever it is that we are facing, and I know that some of us are facing monumental problems, but whatever it is, God has not yet played the final card. And God will always win the entire pot on the table. So while it may seem as if the game is being lost, we need to remember that it is not yet over. God still has cards to play. God still has cards to play.