-Rev Paul Appleby-
Be still before the LORD, and wait for him. Don’t get upset when someone gets ahead— someone who invents evil schemes. Let go of anger and leave rage behind! Don’t get upset—it will only lead to evil. Because evildoers will be eliminated, but those who hope in the LORD, they will possess the land.
Psalm 37:7-9 CEB
I was once advised never to pray for patience. In a funny way it makes sense, especially when you think about how we become patient. Patience is learned through delayed gratification. Patience is learned through sustained low-grade suffering. Patience is, somewhat ironically, something we long to have but hate to learn.
Patience is a virtue, it's true
I recall a stand-up comic lamenting a lack of patience in our society. He recalled standing next to his microwave waiting for popcorn and thinking, "How much time is left! Come on, I don't have all minute!"
As aggravating as it can be, waiting for a snack, the patience of Psalm 37 is of a much higher order than that. In Psalm 37 the psalmist is addressing someone who sees the world as a place where the wicked are rewarded and the righteous suffer. This person sees those who are evil and unjust living high on the hog while they are stuck subsisting on the snout, the tail and the oink.
Where is God in a world like ours? Where is the justice? How can the psalmist advise one suffering such moral outrage, "Don't get upset… Let go of anger… Don't get upset—it will only lead to evil"? The Psalmist can give such counsel, because the Psalmist has faith. Faith that evil does not get the last word. Faith that God is just, and that God's purposes cannot, ultimately, be thwarted.
The patience of the Psalmist is not a patience that comes from being really good at waiting, it is a patience borne of faith. When we trust in God, when we share God's vision of the future, we can act in a way that displays a quiet confidence in God's control. In this way the patience to which the Psalmist calls us is the patience of lived faithfulness- fidelity to the God with whom we walk.
When the time of trial comes, when we suffer unjustly, when we see the wicked prosper, may we take heed of this advice. May we practice godly patience, and may we all be found faithful.
Dear Lord, give us faith in the face of evil. Help us find patience even when all seems lost. Amen.
Rev Paul Appleby: Raised in the Church, the teachings of Jesus came alive to Paul in a new and exciting way after studying the Sermon on the Mount, and rediscovering the brilliant, simple, and profound way Jesus encourages his followers to live and love. Along with his amazing wife Sage, he serves a loving Christ-centered congregation in Killeen, Texas.