Learning Patience from the Big-Time Operator
- 2010 20 Aug
Yes, I know God's conception of time varies greatly from mine. Yes, I know the verse that says with the Lord a thousand years is as a day. Yes, I know God takes the long-term view of temporal events, and my view is necessarily limited.
Sure, I know all that; I just don't like it very much.
As I've looked over my prayers in recent days, time plays a big role. I ask God to do something for me or for someone else. Once in a while I receive a wonderful sense of assurance that it's going to happen. Then what?
Right. The waiting starts. The waiting goes on ... and on.
When I pause to think about it, I'm right in line with the saints of old. Here are four examples.
First, when Abraham is seventy-five, God promises him a son. The man waits twenty-five years.
Second, Joseph receives dreams from God that assure him he's going to be the head man and his family will bow to him. From the time his big brothers throw him into a pit until the promise unfolds, something like twenty years transpires.
Third, Samuel secretly anoints David as the new king of Israel. The secrecy - or so it seems to me - implies haste. About forty years later, David finally receives his crown over Jerusalem. Then he waits another seven years until he becomes king of the entire nation.
Fourth, God tells Paul at his conversion that he will speak to kings. Nice wait for Paul. For three years he goes into the desert to get himself theologically straight. Then he waits another dozen years before he speaks to his first king.
Even knowing those examples, I've still begged, pleaded, and sometimes all but demanded that God do something now. However, it doesn't seem to have speeded up the divine time frame.
Over the years, I've learned a little about waiting, but not much. I still want God to answer my prayers, if not instantly, at least quickly.
Occasionally I've asked God to do things and said, "And please, do it by January 28." A few times God honored that request; most of the time, the Maker of Time has ignored my deadlines.
I've tried to connect with the Big-Time Operator on this issue. But we can't seem to find a point of agreement. I've tried every form of persuasion and manipulation I'm capable of. None of my methods work.
I'm finally learning - still in the beginning stage - to accept temporal things under the direction of the Big-Time Operator.
Here's one incident. One day I felt overwhelmed with more things to do than I could possibly get done within the next twenty-four hours. "Help me, God," I asked. "I have to figure out some way to juggle all these time demands."
Then, just as clear as if an audible voice had spoken, the Big-Time Operator whispered, "You have time to do everything you need to do."
How could I argue with that voice? The emphasis was on the word need. And that's where I focused.
I hear people who complain about "the tyranny of the urgent." That's how I had felt. Urgent things crowded all around me. Many of them weren't important; some I could choose to put off a day or two. I made a few decisions about how to respond to the screaming demands, and I actually did have enough time to do what I really had to accomplish that day. I felt better at the end of the day.
The urgent cries often creep up on me. The louder they get, the more I'm convinced I need to obey the frenzied cries and obey now From time to time I still need to remind myself of that statement: "You have time to do everything you need to do."
Another area the Big-Time Operator and I wrestle with is God's slow counting, or so it seems to me. A preacher once told me, "God is never in a hurry, but he's always on time." Great answer, but not very comforting when I'm praying, "Hurry up, God, hurry up." I struggle to accept God's concept of "on time."
Whenever I approach the Big-Time Operator, I have my watch and calendar firmly in mind. I want dates and times, but God refuses to be pinned down.
So what do I do?
I know what Abraham did. He waited twelve years, didn't see God's fulfillment take place, so he took Hagar as a concubine, a kind of second-class wife, impregnated her and got his son that way. But God said, "Sorry, Abe, that's not the son I meant. You have to wait a little longer." Another twelve years passed before the birth of Isaac.
So I know I don't want to take things into my own hands-at least not anymore. My mistake has been rushing ahead of God, and it has caused me a lot of problems. I'm a little more cautious than I used to be. I'm willing to wait, but it's a matter of ongoing prayer for me.
The other day I got really anxious about a personal matter for which I had been praying since 1985. I remembered a friend once said, "You know, in ten thousand years, you won't even remember this." The principle she wanted me to get, I think, was that the things I sweat today are soon forgotten.
I got a glimpse of this by reading through my old journals. I've been keeping yearly journals since 1972. It's painful to read pages of overwrought anxiety and concern. I agonized over one item in particular in my journal for over two weeks, every day. I had to laugh as I read it.
First, I had long forgotten the situation. Second, in 1978 it had seemed to be a life-or-death decision. Now it seems rather trivial. I felt embarrassed that I had allowed myself to get so worked up about a situation that I couldn't remember twenty years later.
As I review my past, I see how the Big-Time Operator worked in me, trying to teach me patience. When I was sixteen and wanted to date Lois, who turned me down, I had no way of knowing that I'd find the perfect wife years later after I had turned to Jesus Christ. When I felt God speak to me about going to Africa, I couldn't know that I would wait four years. My list is virtually endless. Unfortunately, I catch on slowly.
For me, the time factor comes down to two things. First, it's all right to ask. In many ways, I'm still the little kid who talks to Big Daddy, the Abba Father. I have no way of knowing how granting my request will affect anything else. How would I know that Abba Father has too much wisdom to give me what I want, or to give it to me then? But I still ask.
Second, it really is a matter of trust. A few times when I've asked and not received, especially when I had a calendar deadline, my spirits have plummeted. Many times I never did see a reason for something turning out the way it did, especially when I ended up getting a big no from God.
But my faith says, "God loves me; God loves the whole world; God does what is right and at the right time." I may not always like the way the Big-Time Operator functions in my world, but I love God enough that I'm learning to accept it with gratitude.
But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." My times are in Your hand. --PSALMS 31:14-15, NKJV
when I try to think of all the timing you're involved in
every hour of every day around the universe,
it goes beyond my comprehension.
When it comes to temporal matters,
I don't understand your timetable.
I do understand, though,
that you love me, and you don't withhold what I need.
That's enough for me to understand. Amen.
Cecil Murphey has written more than one hundred books on a variety of topics with an emphasis on Spiritual Growth, Christian Living, Caregiving, and Heaven. He enjoys preaching in churches and speaking and teaching at conferences around the world. To book Cec for your next event, please contact Twila Belk at 563-332-1622.
Original publication date: August 19, 2009