The Holy Bible, the book of all seasons, teaches us patience. Take the case of Abraham. At age 75, he was given God’s promise of a son. Ten years later, he was still waiting. Fifteen years passed, then 20, and still no son. Finally, when Abraham was 100, a quarter-century after God had made the promise, baby Isaac was born. "Surely Abraham had times of doubt during those 25 years," commented Dr. Charles Stanley, an inspirational author. "Yet he continued to trust God and kept watching for the fulfillment of His promise."
Examples from the Bible abound. As a young man, Jacob met the girl of his dreams, but he worked many years before making her his bride. Joseph had a God-given vision of blessing at age 17 but languished 13 years in slavery and prison before receiving the reward. David was anointed King of Israel as a teenager but spent the next 14 years or so running for his life before taking the throne.
Those stories, related to me when I was still a little boy, came into my mind. But then the words of Paul Sweeney also haunted me. "How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?" he wondered.
"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time," reminded Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. "Patience," said a Turkish proverb, "is the key to paradise." And Mahatma Gandhi reiterated, "To lose patience is to lose the battle."
Men of science themselves value patience. Thomas A. Edison said, "Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits." And Albert Einstein once admitted, "I think and think for months and years, ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right."
"He that can have patience can have what he will," American statesman Benjamin Franklin said. A young man presented himself to the local expert on gems and said he wanted to become a gemologist. The expert brushed him off because he feared that the youth would not have the patience to learn. The young man pleaded for a chance. Finally, the expert consented and told the youth, "Be here tomorrow."
The next morning, the expert put a jade stone in the boy’s hand and told him to hold it. The expert then went about his work: cutting, weighing, and setting gems. The boy sat quietly and waited.
The following morning, the expert again placed the jade stone in the youth’s hand and told him to hold it. On the third, fourth, and fifth day, the expert repeated the exercise and the instructions.
On the sixth day, the youth held the jade stone, but could no longer stand the silence. "Sir," he asked, "when am I going to learn something?" The expert answered, "You’ll learn."
Several more days went by and the youth’s frustration mounted. One morning, as the expert approached and beckoned for him to hold out his hand, he was about to blurt out that he could go on no longer. But as the expert placed the stone in the youth’s hand, the young man exclaimed without looking at his hand, "This is not the same jade stone!"
"You have begun to learn," the expert told him.
"Patience can’t be acquired overnight," said Eknath Easwaran. "It is just like building up a muscle. Every day you need to work on it." The description of Epictetus was even more picturesque: "No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen."
"The key to everything is patience," reminded Arnold H. Glasgow. "You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it." But on second thought, "We smile at the ignorance of the savage who cuts down the tree in order to reach its fruit; but the same blunder is made by every person who is over eager and impatient in the pursuit of pleasure." Those words come from the pen of William Channing.
But do people still wait today? Even in the past as it is today, there is no such thing as sudden results. Listen to the words of Jacob Riis: "When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at a hundredth and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it — but all that had gone before."
"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves," Rainer Maria Rilke advises. "Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
Wait and be patient. "Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials," George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon pointed out. "Hold on; hold fast; hold out. Patience is genius."
As Dr. Stanley puts it: "This is clearly how most of us act, even if we don’t express it. Perhaps that’s why Scripture includes so many examples of godly patience and reward. Over and over, we see the Father making promises to His children, only to have them wait years, sometimes decades, for the promise to be fulfilled. But the result of that patience is always blessing."
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