Patience is a virtue. Patience is also difficult to practice when you’re waiting. Have you ever been in a season of waiting?
I don’t mean waiting for restaurant seating or a package to arrive from Amazon. A season of waiting can mean variety of things: If you’re single, wondering if you’ll ever get married; if you’re trying to start a business, wondering if it will ever be successful; or having the desire to become parents but not yet able to conceive. A season of waiting for a dream to come to pass can be difficult but Scripture gives us principles to live by that can help us grow while we’re waiting.
Patience may feel like waiting for nothing but it does not have to be passive.
I saw an acronym for the word “wait” that signifies “What Am I Thinking.” It’s not a question to ask yourself like, “What are you thinking?” — it’s a statement. What Am I Thinking is an evaluation of the thoughts we experience while we wait. The truth is when we are waiting our thoughts can be potentially helpful or harmful.
I read recently about the neuroscience of breaking out of negative thinking. The article was not written from a faith perspective but from a research perspective on the complex functionality of our brains. Studies show that we have approximately 30 seconds before a thought that enters our mind settles into our heart and begins to influence our lives.
We might not be able to control a thought that comes into our minds but we can control whether we’re going to accept it or reject it. We can reject thoughts that are not helpful by replacing them with thoughts that are. The apostle Paul gave us instruction on how to do this when he wrote, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right and pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting this into practice and then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9, New Living Translation).
I have three teenagers, one in college and two in high school, and many times I get thoughts that come into my mind that question if I truly have what it takes to be the dad that they need me to be. Or a thought that questions if I have what it takes to be the provider that my family needs me to be. If I let these thoughts settle in my heart, it can lead to discouragement and feelings of inadequacy that can be detrimental. I try to remember that although I may not be able to control the thoughts that come into my mind, there is a window of time in which I can reject and replace those thoughts.
In those moments, I simply ask myself the question, “OK, Matt, what is true?” The truth is that I believe God entrusted our children to us to make me a dad and he will give me the ability to handle it.
When we make a decision to follow Jesus, place our faith in him and follow the instruction that Paul gave us about how to apply the teachings to our lives, we discover that it’s a way of a surrendered life that leads to something better on the other side.
If we follow this example of how Jesus prayed and lived, “Not my will but yours be done,” we will discover that it’s not our strength but God’s strength that will help us. It’s not our wisdom but God’s wisdom that will guide us. God offers a way of life that requires much more than we think but offers so much more than we can imagine.
So, when you wait, evaluate. We get at least a 30-second window to remove thoughts that are not true or honorable or pure, and to replace them with thoughts that are. My prayer for you is that if you’re in a season of waiting you discover that it’s so much more than practicing patience —\!q it’s discovering that God is with you, offering the strength and wisdom you need to handle what he’s entrusted to you.
Matt Mylin is a pastor at Worship Center, a Lancaster church. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.