Our generation has been raised to have an “entitled” mindset. What I mean by this, as Kevin DeYoung puts it, is, “We expect people to affirm us for everything, criticize us for nothing, and pay us for anything we do.” We were raised during the time when parenting’s buzzword was “self-esteem.” Showing children unconditional love and the idea of being valued simply because “you are you” reigned in schools and homes. Children were constantly praised while criticized for very little. At the end of basketball games, everyone received an award, and no one lost. Teachers curved grades to make a “C” the new “F” (Aspen Education). Growing up was less about learning (growth?), and became more about feeling good about yourself. This has lead a common thinking of our generation to expect things handed to us without working for them (this is not true for everyone, but an overall generalization). So when we hear verses such as Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” we want God to perfectly lead us to arrive at the end of His plan instead of having to walk through it ourselves.
So what does it look like to have Godly patience in the dark room? Well, let’s take a look at the life of David. Here is a “man after God’s own heart.” A man who wrote many of the Psalms. And a man God chose to be king of His people. But what we can very easily overlook is David’s process of coming to the throne. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel walks into the house of Jesse, and God anoints David to be the king of Israel at the age of 17. For some of us, this is around the same age when God revealed our calling to us. But here’s the key to the story. It took David 20 years to finally come to the throne. David was anointed at the age of 17, but was not appointed until he was 37. During the years in between, he had experiences that ranged from being loved by Saul, the king, and living in his palace all the way to being pursued by Saul and was in fear of losing his life. He went through trials and tribulations which lead to many of the sorrowful Psalms we read today. But in the end, God placed him on the throne with a life full of experiences that taught him to fear the Lord and lead a nation.
For many of us, we don’t want to have to go through the process. We just want to arrive at the end destination. Even more, we think it is unfair that we have to wait. We feel God is being slow to fulfill His plan in our life. But hears a Biblical truth that combats that thinking: “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9). We may think we know what we want, but God knows what we need. If our life went according to our plan and our timing, we would be placed in a position that would destroy us. We would not have the experience and ability to fulfill our role. In David’s circumstance, the throne would have destroyed him, or even more, he would have lead Israel to destruction. So the definition of patience states, “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” I think to understand God’s definition we have to add to that James 1:4 which says, “And let patience have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The goal of our patience is to make us more and more like Christ which enables God to use us most effectively for His work.
Progress in the Midst of Waiting
So God’s plan is a process. We never get to the end goal without taking steps that prepare us along the way. Some of those steps are going to end in failure, but they will teach us. Something to remember in this is that “progress is progress, no matter how small. Sometimes progress is your efforts, not your results.” So as you are looking towards your calling, don’t see the process as something you are just getting through. It is God’s plan for you. The process is just as much your calling as is the end. So take the smaller jobs. Take the internships where you are just simply observing. You are not high up in management or calling the shots, but you are learning. You are going to learn what works, and what does not work which can be painful. But as C.S. Lewis says, “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.” You will look back years from now and remember those tough jobs and thank God for what you learned through them. But no one wants to sit and wait and learn. We want to do and lead and teach. The same goes for athletes. No one wants to practice while everyone wants the spotlight. But without practice, there is no greatness on the field. During practice is where we teach our body muscle memory, so when we are in the heat of the game, we don’t think about what to do. It just happens. This is exactly what God is doing with us now. Don’t think of it as waiting. Think of it as God’s training. He’s preparing your heart with muscle memory to glorify Him and love Him. So let’s put in the effort, so we can give glory to God with our lives.
Holiness is the End Goal
So what’s the point of the dark room? It’s to produce a beautiful picture. Its the same with Godly patience. The goal of our waiting is to produce the beautiful image of Christ on our hearts. Slowly, the image will be made clearer and clearer, but it is through endurance in the faith. As 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “It is God’s will that you should be holy.” This means that no matter if you are in the beginning stages of the process, or the end, there is a purpose for it all: to pursue God and glorify Him. So no matter where you are, your pursuit of the Lord should be constant.