Yes, my eight year old had been doing homework since she got home from school around 4:15, and at almost nine o’clock was still working on it. Too much homework? Not at all. The first thing she had to do was write one paragraph. I’m not even sure exactly how long that one took with mini breaks all over the place, and of course dinner. It consisted of listening to her ideas, telling her that “I collect rocks” is not, as the assignment called for, “a topic sentence that draws in your reader.” It was helping her with words she’s known how to spell since Kindergarten, and reminding her that her teacher wants a lot of description. “The rocks are gray.” End of description. Gah! Okay. I went to fold laundry while she finished her paragraph. I didn’t want it to be my work, so I let her do what she felt was good.
Moving on to math. Math. Fractions to be exact, and if you want to be even more exact, fractions on a number line and mixed fractions. She sat there hoping my husband and I would give her the answers so she could just finish her homework and be done with it. Of course that was not going to happen, so we wracked our brains trying to figure out how to get her to understand even the simplest of problems. That was not an easy task. Our frustrations rose, and our patience waned. She stared at the paper, possibly thinking about what the answer was (since I can’t read minds), and time and time again would say something completely off the wall, even if we had just blatantly hinted at the answer. Third grade math with a third grader is not my favorite way to spend an evening no matter how much I love my daughter.
Do you think God ever gets frustrated with us? How many times do we read what He wants us to do, how He wants us to act, but we whoops. We sit there staring at the page waiting for someone else to give us the answer, and when they do we still don’t get it? Or how about when we do get it but forget it at the first opportunity we have to really use it? I know it happens with me a lot. I apologize to God in my prayers about the way I acted in this situation, or with that person, or even just the fact that I wasn’t focusing on Him as much as I knew I should that day. I ask His help to make me better and help me to work on those areas, but then the time comes again and I fail yet again. Back to my prayers. Over and over again.
In the Bible Paul tells us that “Love is patient, love is kind. […] It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor 13:4, 7) We know that God is love, and therefore He is patient, kind, always protects, hopes and perseveres. In Exodus God Himself says as He passes in front of Moses, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Ex 34:6) Slow to anger. Something that we all need to work on, but God has already perfected (of course, He is perfect).
Reading the Old Testament I’m going to say that the patience God has came in pretty handy. The Israelites were His chosen people, and at every step of the way they failed left and right. They wandered in the desert for forty years, a trek that, had they listened, would only have taken around eleven days. But they didn’t trust God enough to take on the “giants’ of the land, and therefore were forced to wander until all that first generation had died out. God provided them with manna and water, set them up with camps, made sure that their clothes and sandals never wore out, and so much more. But, they continued to “mess up.” They would go against the laws He spoke to Moses, they complained, they turned gold into a calf which they proceeded to worship (Aaron playing the whole, “I had no idea what was going on right in front of my eyes that I helped with” act). Even Moses and Aaron failed to follow everything God told them along the way.
David is another prime example of God’s patience coming forth. He was “a man after God’s own heart,” and yet he failed time and time again.
And yet they continued to be His chosen people, even though God knew that they would continue to fall away from Him. In Deuteronomy God tells Moses before his death, “When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their forefathers, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant.” (Dt 31:20) He knew they were going to do that, but still He patiently waits for all of them to come to Him again. He patiently waits for all us to come to Him, to repent of our sins, and to accept Him as He accepts us.
No matter what we do, no matter where we go; how far away from Him we wander, He is patient with us and waits for our return. So if we have a bad day here and there, or even a bad week, He understands. But no matter what happens, He wants us back. He will never leave us or forsake us. (Jos 1:5) He is patient, He is kind. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. He is slow to anger.
Whenever we start to stray and feel we have angered Him and that He is through with us, May we remember the words we find in the Bible that tell us just how gentle and patient our God is. And may we strive to take just a bit of that patience and share it with the people in our lives, for God is good, and what He does is something to be followed.