A quick Google search will show that in 2006, the average person spent 45 to 62 minutes a day waiting. That means for a person who’s 70 years old, they’ve spent approximately 3 years waiting! But in a world that seems to be moving faster and faster every day—especially with the advent of smartphones and the advancement of social media outlets—we’ve become more productive and efficient with our time. We can now text our close friends, chat with old friends, and email our work schedules in 10 minutes and still have time to call a boyfriend or girlfriend for a quick conversation. In fact, we now need laws that hold our productivity at bay: California passed a ban on texting (or using your smartphone) while driving that went into effect January 1, 2011. We’ve become so good at manipulating our time that we almost feel guilty for not doing something, anything with our time.
It’s no wonder that more and more Christians struggle with this idea of patience. Issues with contentment, peace, joy—all of these can be summed up in a misunderstanding of what it means to be patient. Our impatience is all rooted in this desire to get what we want now with utter disregard for God’s ultimate plan. We’re more shortsighted now than ever, and it’s a disease that will continue to plague us if we don’t have the proper perspective. We forget that Moses worked for over 40 years as a shepherd before he returned to Egypt to deliver Israel; and Abraham waited over 25 years before his promised son, Isaac, was finally born. Instead, our fast-paced lives have taught us that waiting is a “waste of time,” so we complain out of discontentment without realizing that what we’re really telling God that he made a mistake in how he planned out the timeline of our existence.
Well, Mark 5:21-43 draws our attention to God’s timing and how it supersedes our impatience. In this passage we see a ruler who pleads with Jesus to heal his daughter who was “at the point of death.” He scrambles before Jesus and kneels, evidence of both his faith that Jesus is divine and his utter desperation for the life of his daughter. He’s frantic and Jesus is his only option. This man of great reputation is on his knees before the Great Healer, pleading for help. Jesus agrees and they’re quickly on their way.
But a funny thing happens on their way to save this little girl. A woman, “who had struggled with a discharge of blood for twelve years” drew near. The book of Mark indicates that this woman had spent all of her money and time looking for doctors that could help her condition, but to no avail. In fact, the cures that those doctors conjured up made her worse. She was out of options but was compelled by faith—“If I only touch his garment, I will be made well,” she says to herself—to reach out and touch the Savior. “Instantly,” the bible says, “the woman was made well.”
And with the divine awareness that only Christ could have for his children, he turns and talks to this woman. Not exactly your ideal picture of productivity and efficiency. Now, you can imagine this ruler going bazerk in the background. They were on their way to save his daughter’s life, but Jesus decided to take detour and chat with a peasant woman! How inconsiderate! How frustrating! How inconceivably painful to wait around while his daughter lies dying in his house! But the agony doesn’t end there. While Jesus is occupied with this once-bleeding woman, a member from the ruler’s house approaches and delivers horrible news: His daughter has died.
Jesus seems to be the only calm person in this entire scene. The woman who was healed is ecstatic about her clean bill of health, but the ruler and his family are devastated. The disciples are around trying to keep the crowds at bay, all while processing what just happened. Did Jesus just let this girl die? What would have happened if Jesus didn’t stop for this poor woman? Things definitely aren’t going the way this ruler planned.
But Christ’s timing is perfect timing. What seems like a chaotic situation, when things aren’t going the way we plan them, we have to trust in Christ’s perfect timing. Christ would reply with the timeless words, “Do not fear, only believe.” Still, people laughed at him when he got to the house! My thoughts would have sounded something like this: Man, Jesus really messed up. He wasted his time with that bleeding woman! He could have just come here really quickly, saved this girl, and gone back for that lady later! That would have been so much more efficient! Well, Jesus would save the ruler’s daughter, but not before he gives the ruler, and us a very valuable lesson on what we perceive as patience.
Jesus didn’t stop to heal the bleeding woman on accident, nothing in Scripture is an accident. Jesus did that in order to show us that he is in control, that he is the one who dictates the happenings of this world (just read Haggai)—he’s showing that he wants us to have a faithful patience. In fact, Christ himself is our example of patience: he could have entered this world with a thunderous bang, with clouds raging and an army of angels behind him to draw all the attention to himself. But instead he took the form of a man, grew up and waited 33 years before he would be glorified—being nailed to a cross. And even to this day, Christ remains patient with us: we’re sinners who expect God to be a magical genie who grants us the desires of our hearts, and yet he is patient with our misplaced priorities and continues to provide for our basic needs; we’re men and women who reject the gospel and seek our own selfish desires and agendas, and yet he is patient with our ignorance of truth and gradually transforms our hearts. Thus, patience is not merely a virtue, it is an obligation for Christians who wish to be Christ-like.
There is so much more to say on this topic, but I hope this post whets your appetite for considering patience a blessing rather than a curse. Many of you might be in a season of life that is undesirable or tumultuous, but consider Christ and his perfect love for you. Or even if you’ve been trying to share the gospel with someone you love and care deeply about, consider that God’s timing will make the wait even more worthwhile. Consider that God’s plan is always on time, that if you are faithfully following the Lord, he will be sure to bless you. In the bible, Romans 8:28 says that all things are working for the good of those who love the Lord, and as believers we know that this promise holds true until we meet our Maker.
“Patience is love for the long haul; it is bearing up under difficult circumstances, without giving up or giving in to bitterness. Patience means working when gratification is delayed. It means taking what life offers—even if it means suffering—without lashing out.”
– Timothy Keller