- Dr. Gil Stieglitz
Viewing Patience as a Long Game
In every relationship, there are good, bad, irritating, and delightful elements about it. We revel in the good and delightful elements of a person, and we always want to change the bad or irritating things about them. Usually, we want the rough places of a relationship to change right away, but that is not often possible. That's when God asks us for patience. Last week, I wrote another article about patience that you can read by clicking HERE. But as I got to thinking, I really want to explain more that patience often has a long game version to it that God asks us to play. This is what this article is about and I hope you find it helpful.
I believe what God is asking us to do when He whispers patience is to think one year out, five years out, ten years out, or even longer. He wants us to ask ourselves, "How can I bring about a change in that irritating or bad thing over time?" "How can I cooperate with God so that the irritating or bad element would change or be removed at some point in the future?" "What forms of encouragement, experiences, or education could I introduce over the next five years to change the situation?" Too often we want to just confront a person with the things that we find unpleasant about them. We want to say, "Please change this right now!" but that causes a huge fight and a lot of tension. One fruit that God the Holy Spirit wants to grow in our life is patience. When God prompts us to be patient, He is asking us to allow Him, others, and even ourselves to have more time to bring about a needed change. I talk with parents all the time who want their children to change, but they are trying to do it all too quickly. Most of us change in five year time periods, so we can think of change in these terms and about how the relationship can be different at the end of five years.
Think about how God deals with us. He takes the long game approach and asks us by the end of our life to present to Him a heart of wisdom (Psalms 90:12). In other words, He asks us to grow into a better person over the course of our lives, rather than demanding change of everything all at once. He asks us to be in relationship with Him (Matt 22:37-39), and yet He does not immediately confront us with all of the things that irritate Him about us. He works with us over time. He steers us into an area of relational growth through a seminar, or causes us to notice a book or engage with a new person who grows us up in some way. God is steering, guiding, and directing us for our own benefit and the benefit of our relationship with Him. He has a "place" where He wants us to be in five years, and He will give us every opportunity to get there. He does at times demand us to change in some arena but that is not the regular nature of our relationship with Him. He is patient.
I know that my wife has been waiting for years and decades for me to realize certain things about myself that will allow me to be better and our relationship to improve. And I am just now catching up to her wisdom and patience! There have been conversations that I have waited 15 years to have with my children and when they finally came about, it was delightful and very helpful for them and me. We have become way too immediate in our relationships, and it is costing us greatly. I hear more and more people saying things like... "I just can't put up with a person who does this or that." I wonder whether our growing ability to declare very specifically our wants and desires has contributed to the number of people who live alone? I do not advocate that we put up with immorality or violence, but I do think that every relationship involves an imperfect person and, therefore, all our relationships need patience.
Let me finish by saying that this is not passive patience I'm talking about. Just as God's patience with us is not passive patience, this patience is active and seeks the best for the other person and is willing to push towards that for years. I am always actively arranging conversations, growth opportunities, new people, seminars, praise, and encouragement for steps toward a better relationship. Patience is not passive, but it lengthens the time line and is willing to move more slowly, almost imperceptibly slow, toward a beneficial goal.
When God whispers patience in your soul, it is usually about something that is irritating in a relationship. Ask yourself what you can do to foster change in the relationship over 5 years, and imagine what it could look like 5 years from now. Pray like mad that you recognize all the subtle things you could do that would bring about the changes over the course of the five years. Patience is a good thing, God uses it on us and aren't you glad (Romans 2:4)!
I look forward to interacting with you during your spiritual journey. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how God is working in and through your life. Your greatest life is just ahead.
In His service,
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