Tag Archives: Patience

What I’m Learning From Unanswered Prayer

For 62 years, prayer has been an indispensable part of my life. Admittedly, it has often been either formal or hurried, weak or stumbling. I’m no model of a praying Christian. But like many believers I’ve often pondered the mystery of unanswered prayer.

After all, Jesus said, “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24). But Lord, why didn’t you answer my plea for X’s salvation or my healing? Oh, I know the standard answer; “God always answers, either yes, no, or wait awhile.” I believe there is at least another reason.

Let me give you some personal background that has led me to this conclusion. Five or six months ago the date was set for my knee surgery. We immediately began to pray for results that did not include complications, as surgery on the other knee had been accompanied by problems. The surgery took place. The surgeon was pleased. Everything seemed good. But shortly we realized that it was infected. Dealing with the infection delayed healing for some time. Why Lord did this happen? Was the answer to our prayers a simple, no? And why did you not answer our plea?

In the months that followed, prayer for ability to sleep at night was also put on the unanswered prayer pile. What’s going on Lord? Do you not want my joy to be full?

Let me be clear. As a couple, Mary Helen and I have no right to complain to God. He has blessed us in abundant and unusual ways. And my quibble about pain and sleeplessness is minor compared to those who suffer with cancer or debilitating diseases or deal with a tragedy. I’m just trying to understand the many invitations in Scripture to bring our requests to our heavenly Father with the assurance of an answer. So what am I learning?

PATIENCE: God has laid bare my impatience. Why do I have to keep relearning lessons about patience? Have I taken my supposed maturity for granted? Unfortunately, for most of us, patience is something we have to keep relearning. And we can’t develop it without going through trying situations. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:3).

EMPATHY: I’m also learning empathy for others, especially those who suffer. This will be a hard lesson. I’m not a very empathetic person. I don’t like hospitals. I don’t even want to go near them. But many in my age group have to visit doctors and hospitals often. And each of us need encouragement, comfort and love. I’ve got a lot to learn about compassion and without it I’m not much use in the kingdom. Paul reminds us of a related reason God sends tribulations into our lives. “The Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3). We face troubles so we can understand and empathize with the troubles of others.

WHERE TO GO FOR HELP: I’m also trying to remember that I should lean on God for help more than on my own grit, experience, gifts, and abilities. During my missionary and pastoral career, I often faced tasks beyond my ability. During those years several key verses encouraged me to believe that the very unlikely could happen. One was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). Another pointed me to the source of help. “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God has worked in wonderful ways down through the years. But I wonder today, how much was His work and how much was me trying to accentuate my own efforts and abilities. I’m realizing more clearly, that when Jesus says, “you can do nothing,” He really means it. We may be able to build a chicken coop or send a man to the moon, but we cannot accomplish anything positive for the Kingdom without His help. And before we realize that we have face to situations where nothing we do works.

FAITH: Christians know that faith is foundational. In the case of a leper and a centurion (in Matthew 8) who came to Jesus, their faith led them to trust him for healing. But faith, as in the case of Paul’s thorn in the flesh, does not always lead to healing. Abraham and the other patriarchs trusted God’s promises of a glorious future—not for them but their descendants. I wonder if for many of us today, faith requires us to trust God in the dark. Trusting God even when our requests are not met. Walking with God in apparent darkness, sure of our ultimate destination. We are to, “walk by faith not by sight.” We need to be able to say, “though He slay me, [doesn’t answer my prayer] yet will I trust him.”

Trusting God during periods when He seems distant or silent is not something unusual. Think of slaves trusting God in their misery. Think of Christians wallowing in foxholes during wartime. Think of Christians waiting for healing in cancer wards.

Why doesn’t God always answer our prayers? Often it is because He knows that we will learn more about Christian living and walking by faith if He doesn’t respond to our every request. When He seems silent, He is probably working to make us more Christ-like in patience, faith, compassion, and a host of other godly characteristics. Lord, help me to learn more and grumble less. Help me to accept these tough but necessary lessons in discipleship.

How do you respond to this blog? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have something to add to this meditation?

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Smiling In Adversity

Winter arrived late this year. But inevitably, the temperature plunged and light snow began to fall. After the weather cleared, knowing it might be the last for some time, we headed out for a walk through our park. I was struck by the hardiness of the ornamental cabbage that had been carefully planted by town gardeners. The ornamentals seemed to smile up at me in spite of the nippy temperature.

They reminded me of the cheerful countenance of those who endure severe Ornamental cabbagetrials. Scripture exhorts us to face difficulties with patience and good cheer. However, I’ve often had to rebuke myself for complaining about some difficulty or trial. A sleepless night throws me into a bad mood. Creaky joints make me grumpy. And yet I see so many saints who endure cancer or some debilitating illness or loss with confidence and faith. Currently, our church lists nine people dealing with sickness or surgery plus another five dealing with cancer.

How could James urge us to “consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). That seems so unnatural, so impossible. How can we wring joy out of pain, loss, or persecution? This kind of joy is not happiness which depends on circumstances or some kind of masochistic delight in pain.

James explains how this impossible attitude is possible in the following verses. “Consider it joy…BECAUSE you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). The joy comes from knowing that the trial is not wasted but contributes to character development. We are urged to embrace a settled assurance that “all things work together for good”.

Becoming a cheerful person in the face of tribulation takes time and grace. I doubt if Paul enjoyed his thorn in the flesh any more than he did being shipwrecked or beaten. He pleaded with the Lord three times to take away his thorn. God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Learning about the sufficiency of grace enabled Paul to gladly accept his weaknesses so that Christ might be glorified in his character development.

Finding joy in adversity require a revolutionary change in what we value in life. As Paul teaches in Romans five, “We rejoice in our sufferings BECAUSE we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:3-5). Joy in suffering must bubble up from a hopeful, love-filled heart.

Cobourg SunsetWhen we value these qualities that are elsewhere called, the fruit of the Spirit, more than we value pleasant circumstances, good health, and freedom from trouble, then we have a head start on becoming cheerful in trials. This revolution in thinking and values takes place in the heart. Hopeful, patient people are usually joyful people.

Sadly, too often I allow my feelings and circumstances to dictate my attitude. Not good. It shows I have a long way to go on this journey to heaven.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine Job smiling during his excruciating trial. God doesn’t expect us to be hypocritically cheerful. Since Jesus knew pain, He understands if sometimes all we can do is grimace and weep. But, praise God, He helps us to become more joyful and less grumpy and complaining.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Sometimes Life Is Like A Swamp

Sometimes life is like a swamp: boggy, muddy, wet, full of biting insects. Can any good come out of these times of distress?

??????????????????????Swamps may appear pretty in the spring when clothed in marsh marigolds. But many consider swamps as useless land, good for nothing. And so, for centuries we have been draining swamps and bogs to create more tillable land or to enable buildings to be erected. Millions and millions of acres have been reclaimed to gratify our human view of progress. For example, the Florida Everglades have been reduced from eight million acres to just two million.

Like much else in our created world we have failed to understand the importance of conservation. In this case, in losing wetlands, we lose their incredible capacity to act as sponges filtering out harmful pollutants. We also lose their effect in absorbing flood waters. And so we harm ourselves.

We also disrupt the balance of creation by destroying the habitat for algae, zooplankton and all the higher creatures that feed on them. Wetlands create OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAan ideal environment for a host of creatures from snails to salamanders, frogs and lizards. Swamps create an ideal home for many birds and mammals: herons, ospreys, rabbits, otters, bobcats, deer, beavers, raccoons, and black bears.

Admittedly, swamps also harbor insects such as mosquitoes…but these feed a wealth of birds as well as annoy us.

Swamps can be viewed as a metaphor for difficult times in our lives. We’re journeying through sunlit fields of ripening grain, singing as we hike along shady forest paths and then suddenly we plunge ??????????????????????into a swamp. The ooze sucks at our shoes. Mosquitoes feast on our face and necks. A snake slithers across our boggy path.

Life has been good. We’re healthy and strong. Our children act like cherubs. Our pay cheque swells. We holiday in Rome and Venice. Friends multiply. Then suddenly the climate changes.

A child falls sick with a life-threatening illness. We are demoted at work. The catalytic converter on our car needs to be replaced. The washing machine packs it in. We develop headaches. Sleep eludes us at night. The doctor is mystified. The chiropractor can’t help.

Why Lord? Why so much all at once? What have we done to merit a swampy experience? The whys reverberate in our minds. The heavens are as brass. Silence from above. We suffer anguish without understanding purpose or cause.
We may need to remind ourselves that, like swamps, there may be a myriad of good effects hidden from our superficial sight.???????????????????????????????

Painful swamp experiences bring to the surface the pollutants that lurk unacknowledged in our characters: impatience, arrogance, doubt, laziness, aimlessness, tenuous grasp of God’s purposes, and self-confidence in place of trust in the Master. Trials and suffering give us a chance to acknowledge our terrible flaws and sins and bring them to the only one who can forgive and heal us.

Swamp experiences teach us to empathize with others in similar circumstances. God is the one “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”(2 Cor. 1:4).

???????????????????????????????Swamp experiences, if we bow to Christ in submission, give the Holy Spirit opportunity to reform our character into the image of Christ. Out of bad, even evil, He makes a host of good to arise. “We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”(Romans 5:3-5).

But Lord, we are frail. Help us to remember you are always with us and help us to be a blessing to others for your glory.

Such A Long Wait!

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Crocuses

Throughout this long, long winter we’ve been waiting impatiently for the first sight of green, the first peek of a crocus.

Waiting, like temptation, is common to all of us. Waiting to catch a bus. Waiting for traffic congestion to ease. Waiting in a doctor’s office. Waiting in line at the post office or the check-out line in the grocery store. Waiting for a diagnosis. Waiting for a sick friend to smile again. Waiting for a grandchild to find a godly life-partner. And yes, waiting for God to answer a decade’s old prayer for the conversion of a friend or relative.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe know that our heavenly Father wants us to learn patience while maintaining hope for the future—especially as it relates to the return of Christ. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains”(James 5:7). But we ask the Lord, do we need so much practice? Our natures cry out, we can’t wait—whatever it is we think we need, we want now—whether it be justice for the oppressed or relief from our own sufferings.

And Lord, two thousand years have gone by since the promise of Christ’s return. Just as we wondered this year why spring was delayed we wonder why the Lord’s return is so delayed. For as we gaze out on a hurting world through the medium of television, it seems apparent that Jesus should return so that justice and peace might roll down like a river. Suffering in Syria. Kidnapped school girls in Nigeria. Human trafficking. Sabre-rattling from Russia. Suicide amonOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAg our teens. We cry out in agony, how long Lord?

Although we have not doubts about Christ’s return, we are perplexed and impatient. And so we do what we always do when perplexed, we return to the Word and read again the promises. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God”(1 Thess4:16).

The Scriptures remind us that all God’s promises are fulfilled, though often delayed. The judgment on Israel, the destruction of first, Samaria then Jerusalem was delayed for centuries as the prophets sought to arouse the people to repentance. Perhaps we forget that it is God’s comp???????????????????????????????assion and mercy that delays judgment. “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?”(Rom. 2:4). His delayed judgment on our age is really an expression of his mercy giving time for every tribe and tongue and nation to respond to the invitation of the gospel.

A delayed spring gives us practice in waiting for many things, but especially the return of Christ. After all, Paul did say, “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” when Christ returns in glory and power. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time…we ourselves…groan inwardly was we wait eagerly” for the consummation of all things.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And so as we see leaves finally unfurling and flowers finally lifting their faces to the sun, we are reminded that even a long wait is worth it. Our wait for the new heaven and new earth will be worth it.

Fallen Leaves and Learning Patience

November winds and rain have torn most of the leaves off our trees. The maples and aspens, the ash and ironwood stand stark and bare. Only the oak, beech and, of course, all the evergreens cling to their leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fallen leaves will increase the humus that enriches the forest soil in the years ahead. A wise neighbour has a sign by the road, Leaves Wanted. He obviously understands the potential that too many of us waste. He must be a patient man.

The production of humus and compost takes time, lots and lots of time. The production of character takes even more time—and patience. Sometimes we are too impatient with our children or with ourselves. Why am I making the same mistake again? Why haven’t I yet learned to trust God, to stop being anxious, to give thanks in every circumstance, or to know unshakeable peace?

Our impatience is understandable. We no longer have to churn our own butter or knit our own sweaters. We have fast food, lightning fast Internet, smart phones, and twitter. We want things and we want them yesterday. Could this omnipresent pressure to speed things up be one component that leads to failures in so many marriages and the low level of social discourse?

As someone has said, almost everything comes to those who wait. But we don’t want to wait. We want things to happen now, fast…including the development of our children’s character and the change in our partner.

However, Scripture is clear. “The fruit of the Spirit is…patience”(Gal 5:22) and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApatience is a crucial component of character. We don’t learn patience without going through difficulties over a period of time. And patience expressed over a long period of time is called, perseverance. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:3-5). We’ll never see God’s love poured through our lives without developing character and that doesn’t come without persevering through trials.

Which of God’s promises do we want? More faith? More peace? More joy? “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised”(Heb. 10:36). “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

05-07-2007-10-12-28-171Patience is needed in every sphere of human endeavour and in every relationship. As we develop character marked by “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” we are able to “bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another”(Col. 3:12,13). Isn’t that one of our great desires, to live in a community where we all get along?

Humus takes time to develop, so does patience. Let’s give each other time.

THE WAITING SEASON-Acquiring patience in unsettled weather

Some months should be accepted as months dedicated to acquiring patience. In northern climes, during March and April we wait—often impatiently. We wait for winter to leave and for the temperature to climb. The sun shines brightly for a few days, then snow flurries come again, as they have today. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur crocuses and snowdrops valiantly try to bloom. This year has tried the patience of most of us.

November and part of December are waiting months too. Waiting for winter, the real winter with snow. Waiting. Whether in the early spring or late fall we are often found waiting for perfect weather. Fortunately, we have the Easter holidays to distract us in the spring and Christmas to look forward to in the late fall. Otherwise, there’s not much to do outside in these shoulder seasons.

However, if we approach these prolonged in-between seasons with the right kind of attitude, we may come out of them with a healthy dose of patience! And without patience and perseverance we’ll spend much of our lives being frustrated. Consider how much we need these qualities: waiting for a bus, driving through traffic, bringing up children, getting through school, finding a job, developing a strong marriage, writing a book, painting a picture, or playing monopoly. We’ll never succeed in completing tedious and detail-oriented tasks without buckets of the stuff. Nor will we live a meaningful life.

No wonder the biblical writers say a lot about this character quality. In the parable of the sower and the soils, “the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop”(Luke 8:15).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJesus urges believers during the chaos coming near the end of the age; “in patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19, KJV). This implies that without patience our souls are like unmanageable animals—wild mustangs who know nothing of saddle and bridle.

Both Romans 5 and James 1 affirm that, under the hand of God, suffering and tribulation help us develop the perseverance and patience we need to live victorious and fruitful lives. (See Rom 5:1-5; James 1:2-5). The writer of Hebrews urges us to “run with patience the race that is set before us”(Heb. 12:1).

The Scriptures were written “so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”(Rom. 15:4). It is interesting to note here that the wisdom and encouragement we acquire from the Scriptures enables us to endure unpleasant circumstances productively. The Scriptures give us the big picture, the long view. Without them we might find both the present and the future dark and foreboding.

Sitting still and lamenting our situation—or the weather—will not create the Narcissuspatience we need to press ahead with life. “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”(Heb. 6:12). An active lifestyle helps to banish discouragement and depression.

I’ve gone far afield from talking about the uncertainty of April weather. And yet, I contend that there seems to be a relationship between cheerfully accepting whatever weather comes our way, and developing the patience and hope we need to live satisfying and productive lives.