When the people saw that Moses delayed to come
down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to
Aaron and said to him, "Up, make us gods who shall go before us.
As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt,
we do not know what has become of him." (Shemot / Exodus 32:1;
Years ago, I was talking to someone and said to them that I
suffered from a lack of faith. That's quite a confession for someone
who calls himself a "believer," seeing that biblically,
belief and faith are the same thing, as is trust. Whatever the correct
terminology, I was seeking to sum up my life struggles by
acknowledging unbelief. My friend said "No, your trouble is lack
of patience." I think they were right. It's not that I have never
struggled with faith; it's that my impatience has caused me
unnecessary trouble time and time again.
I hate waiting! I can't remember a time when I felt differently.
Whether I am suffering, dreading a potential problem, or even
anticipating something fun and exciting, I find the waiting process
awful. I remember the first time I met someone who found more pleasure
in the anticipation of an event than in the event itself, it was like
meeting a visitor from another planet. How can anyone enjoy
anticipation, when it makes me sick! It took me a while before I
realized that I had a problem, a big problem.
The people of Israel camping out at Mt. Sinai vividly demonstrate
for us how serious a lack of patience can be. Moses was away for over
a month meeting with God. Even though Moses, a person who had proved
to be so trustworthy, said he was coming back, they couldn't handle
what they took to be a delay in his return. I don't blame them for how
they felt. Of course I don't, I can so relate! Being in a hostile
environment, journeying into the unknown, having no clue when their
leader would return, they were likely overwhelmed by their uncertainty
and the waiting.
Patience is the ability to endure the pain of waiting, an ability
they certainly lacked. But that's not where they went wrong. Their sin
was not in the pain of waiting, but in their turning to other gods.
Their real problem was their lack of faith, which was exposed by their
The distinction between patience and faith is an important one. I
wonder how many people are like me, especially in thinking that we are
struggling with faith, not patience. Properly understanding this
distinction can help us overcome this problem.
Those of us who suffer from the pain of waiting need to come to
grips with the fact that so much of life is a process. Seeds are
planted a long time before the plants produce fruit. Babies and other
living creatures need a period of gestation before being born,
hatched, etc. Maturity takes time. Projects require design and
development. None of these common processes are due to sin. God
invented process. God created time. Getting used to the reality of
process over time is a first step in learning to be patient, to not
get offended when we experience delay, short- or long-term.
Where my friend may not have been quite correct by saying that my
problem was lack of patience, not lack of faith, is that they didn't
acknowledge how faith and patience are connected. While it has been
helpful for me to realize that I have difficulty waiting, at the root
of this is a lingering doubt over God's general inclination toward me.
For if we realize that God is in control of our lives, that he truly
loves us, and his intentions toward us are always good, then when we
experience delay, when we need to wait, when we cannot immediately see
how our problems will be resolved, we can take comfort in God.
Impatience therefore, serves the purpose at times to reveal
foundational flaws in our basic relationship to God.
Some people are afraid to pray for patience, thinking that God will
bring them into the kind of difficult situations that require it.
Whether or not we need to pray such a prayer, God will bring us into
those situations anyway. We, like the people of Israel, will find
ourselves where waiting a moment longer seems to be the most
impossible thing ever. Whether our problem is lack of faith or
patience, the solution is always the same. Don't give up on God;
because he will never give up on you.
leave a comment on TorahBlog.com.