Settling in for the Wait

By Scott James

Patience has never been my strong suit. More than just a general restlessness, I can usually trace my impatience back to a single, sinful root: frustration over a lack of control. Whatever the situation, if I’m the one calling the shots and setting the pace, then I am the epitome of long-suffering. But put me at the mercy of someone else’s timeline and you’ll see how quickly my foot starts tapping. Obviously, this trait doesn’t serve me well.

My children seem to have inherited this disposition, which is bad news for them because at their age they’re not in control of much. The funny thing is, seeing my impatience reflected in their lives has given me a perspective that I failed to grasp on my own. When my children are at their most impatient, I often see the folly of it because I know something about the situation that they don’t — some piece of information that, if they only knew it, would relieve their frustration. While they’re fretting over what’s for dinner, when they’re going to get to pick the family movie, or what’s wrapped up under the Christmas tree, all I want is for them to trust me. I have a plan, and everything’s going to be OK. When my children are bothered by not being in control, I want them to know that someone who loves them and wants what’s best for them is in control.

Yet, how often do I fail to trust God like that? I see the folly of my children’s impatience so easily, but then I turn around and act as if life would be better if I could step in and work everything out according to my timetable. But helping my children recognize and repent of impatience has helped me understand that true contentment arises out of a deep trust that God loves us, He wants what’s best for us, and — unlike me with my children — He is in perfect control. It does no good to watch for the promises of God and then fret over not being in control of their timing.

Waiting is hard, but God uses it to teach us to depend on Him. When we cry out with Habakkuk, “O Lord, how long?” (Habakkuk 1:2), God patiently reminds us that He acts according to His schedule, not ours. He will keep every one of His promises for our good and His glory. And if we’re prone to impatience along the way, He has a word for us just as He did for Habakkuk: “If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3). Give up the illusion of control, trust in God’s timing, and then settle in for the wait. It’ll be worth it.

Scott James is a pediatric doctor and a member of The Church at Brook Hills. He loves helping families grow together in Christ and is the author of several family worship devotionals and children’s books. He lives in Birmingham with his wife and four children.

This article appears in the December 2018 issue of ParentLife.

Dealing With the Unexpected

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Do you ever think about how much of life is spent dealing with the unexpected? I guess the question is "How do you deal with surprise?" Yesterday I surprised Christopher and Jonathan when I took them for a "treat" before church. They thought that a treat equaled a milkshake, but I took them to play some games at a famous mouse-themed pizza joint. They had no idea what was coming, were bewildered as we passed every place they thought we might be going, and asked me a half-million times what their suprise was going to be despite my assurances to be patient. I thought about how kids are not very good with surprises sometimes!

But after more reflections, this experience reminds me of how I find it difficult to wait whether in the doctor’s office, in traffic, or at a restaurant. I also act impatiently many times when I am waiting on God’s answer to a prayer concern or in the face of an unknown situation. I act this way despite God’s assurances to hear my prayers and answer them and the knowledge that God loves me and is good. When I think about my own behavior when faced with waiting, I can understand my children a little better! I realize that my reactions are often not that different from my kids, which makes me glad God is patient!

Do you find it hard to wait as parent? Where are the places you have the most difficult time being patient?