We live in a fast paced culture. Smart phones have made the access to information immediate. Pictures used to take weeks to develop, now they are instantaneous. Packages that we order online ship to our house for free in two days or less. We can pre-order food to have it waiting for us when we arrive at the restaurant. Everything seems to be moving at faster and faster speeds.
While culture is speeding up, some things still take time. Nine months for a pregnancy is still nine months, no matter how you calculate the time. While interview processes are sometimes streamlined, job offers can still feel like they take an eternity to arrive. Watching a loved one slowly deteriorate over time due to Alzheimer’s or some other form of disease is still a process to be endured. Marriage struggles don’t get better immediately, mental health issues aren’t solved because you met one time with a counselor, and grief still takes time to process. We wait and long for new life to come, for the old broken reality to be dismantled, and God to bring about something new, but rarely does the new happen quickly enough. God has promised that all things would be made new, but at times it seems that those promises are so far in the future they will never take place.
It’s hard to live with the waiting.
James gives a solution in chapter 5 to living life during the waiting; patience.
Patience doesn’t seem like great advice. We all recognize we need patience, yet, patience doesn’t seem to help in the struggle. We want strategies or plans to end the waiting. We need full proof fixes for our relationships, or instant cures to our sickness. We need a friend to say, “here’s what helped me in a similar situation.” We need answers, and all James offers is patience. Patience, something we all need, yet none of us wants to take the time to master. Still, James offers patience
Look to the farmer, James says. The farmer plants a crop in the spring hoping for enough water and sunshine to produce crops in the summer and fall. This takes time and patience. It’s not instantaneous. Life is still happening in the months between planting and harvesting. There are times of worry. There are times of struggle. There are times when it appears nothing is happening. Growth, however, is taking place. Not in an instant, but slowly over time.
Look to the prophets, James says. During this time of year, the words of the prophets, especially prophecies speaking of the coming Christ, fill our times of devotional reading and Sunday Gatherings. The words seem to speak the future into existence. It’s only one short page flip in the Bible from the prophecies in the Old Testament to the birth of Christ. We often forget, these words were spoken 700 years before they were realized. The prophets never saw the promises fulfilled. They lived in the waiting.
Living in the in-between time is difficult. We sometimes get upset about waiting for slow internet, or waiting for food, but those are simply minor inconveniences. However, waiting for a marriage to improve. Waiting for improved health. Waiting for a new job offer. Waiting for clearer mental health. Those are difficult. It’s easy to feel abandoned by God during these times. It’s easy to want to give up. How do we live with waiting?
We often mark time through major events such as birthdays, graduations, or marriages. However, those days are not the norm. Normal time is ordinary. It’s day to day life, which is often filled with many times of waiting. James encourages us in these time to learn patience. Look to the farmer. Look to the prophets. They continued to labor even though they had to wait for the fruit to be produced.
Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting for Christmas morning, and waiting for the return of Christ. Waiting is hard, yet learning to wait during Advent gives us the strength to learn to wait in life. Christmas is coming. We are not there yet, but it’s coming soon. The Return of Christ is coming. It seems far off, but it is getting closer every day. In the middle, is normal time. Ordinary time. Waiting. In the waiting we meet God. God doesn’t abandon us. God shows up in the waiting. God meets us in our times of greatest struggle, and God is near.
Sadly, life is often characterized by waiting.Waiting for health. Waiting for relationships. Waiting for a job. Even waiting for God to have mercy on our loved ones. We must develop patience.
As we wait for Christmas, knowing it will come, we learn patience. We come to know that we are not abandoned. God is still with us. Our present struggle will have an end. The sickness will end. The relationship will be resolved. The pain will cease. We are not alone, God’s love is holding us, especially now…in the waiting.
Christ came! Christ is Coming! AMEN!