I’ll start with a confession: I’m not really the most patient of people.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some things I’m willing to wait for: a good curry, my birthday, Christmas… But more often than not, I’d rather have that something now than have to wait for it. And if there’s one thing that God has been talking to me about recently, it’s been about patience. And it really grinds with me. Because I’m part of that generation that been taught to expect things instantaneously.
I mean, we see it everywhere, right? From ‘instant coffee’ and ‘fast food’, to ‘4 steps to instant beauty’, and even ‘two in one shampoo and conditioner’ – who wants to spend longer in the shower than necessary, right?! We’re not used to waiting.
It’s hard for me to not get frustrated with waiting. Even for good things. I mean, honestly, how many people have I seen turn to Christ in the past three years I’ve been in this country?! Two? Maybe three? I’m sick of waiting for people to realise the truth we speak to them. And you know what, that’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. There is an urgency to the message we bring. And a right place for that kind of longing. We should most certainly be expectant. But we also need to trust in God’s perfect timing, his authorship, his perfect plan.
A lot has been happening in the world recently (don’t know if you’ve noticed…?!). A lot of stuff that has had me really questioning God’s perfect plan. I won’t lie, when I woke up to the news that Trump had won the presidency, my first thought was, “so, Jesus, when are you coming back?!”
Nope, I’m not even joking.
I’ll say again: it’s good to be expectant and ready – it’s good to be awaiting his return. In fact, we probably need to be more expectant and more ready! But lets face it, when I woke up to that news and that was my thought, I wasn’t really patiently awaiting his return; I was being bitter about the world that we live in.
But I so understand that restless feeling. Because the truth is, there are many things that I’d like to do in my life before Jesus does return: marriage, a family, a job in politics, to name but a few… All good things to desire, too, I might add. But not to the detriment of my trust in God. And I do pray that while I wait, I wouldn’t become bitter.
And that’s my current concern for this generation the world over: we are becoming embittered. And that’s not good. Because bitterness is like the opposite to patience and trust. It causes us to fear and it causes us to hate. And that in turn causes us to make some pretty irrational decisions…
We do live in some interesting times, don’t we? Some interesting political times, at least… Not that I’m saying that every political decision made recently has been irrational, but I do think some votes have been cast that haven’t been entirely thought through (on all sides, I might add).
Do you ever just think, ‘what ever happened to Gordon Brown?’ Or, ‘remember that time we went through the “credit crunch” and everyone thought the world was ending?’ Or, my favourite, ‘did the millennium bug every really exist?!’
OK, I don’t want to make the crises of the past seem like less than they were. There was genuine panic at the time, I remember. But my point is that it is very easy to look back with rose-tinted spectacles, isn’t it? And say that things now are far worse than they used to be…
I mean, the world of ‘Bushisms’ now seems like a world away, doesn’t it? And it certainly doesn’t feel as bad now as it did at the time.
Case in point, I refer you to this, being one of my favourite quotes ever uttered from the lips of former President George W. Bush:
“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people – and neither do we.”
(Washington DC., August 5, 2004)
… OK, funny as that quote is – and I know he didn’t mean it literally – I think we may actually be doing exactly what George W. Bush said. I really do think we may be inadvertently destroying ourselves. (Wow, this took a turn, didn’t it?!)
And not just by the crazy outcomes of Brexit and the recent US presidential elections (amongst many other political outcomes I could mention, but won’t)… We have been becoming increasingly bitter for a while now. Although those two examples are wonderful examples of the culmination of our bitterness: in both of those circumstances, there was a country divided. Both are leaving a trail of very unhappy people in their wake. Both of the winning campaigns were fought on making things ‘great’ again, and not a whole lot of explanation was given as to how.
My worry is that we were never really that ‘great’ to begin with anyway. I mean, if you take both the UK and US as examples, does either country really have a history to be that proud of?! I really do think we’re becoming more bitter about the present and are viewing the past through rose-tinted specs.
Let me put it like this: we’re losing perspective.
The only really ‘great’ kingdom we belong to is the Kingdom of God. And until we’re living in such a time as when it is fully here on earth, we’re in a battle. We are living in a clash of kingdoms; in a game of thrones, if you will. This world is at war with its Master. It shouldn’t surprise us that things keep happening to embitter and enrage us. But we should not fall into the temptation to feel those things.
Here’s a great quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters:
My dear Wormwood,
Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure the patient continues to believe that the problem is ‘out there’ in the ‘broken system’ rather than recognising there is a problem with himself.
Keep up the good work,
Never a truer word spoken.
Friends, let’s not just blame the ‘broken system’ and become embittered. Let’s remember that we are in a clash of kingdoms, and while this world continues to fail and let us down, there is still a joy and a hope of a greater Kingdom to come. Let’s be a generation that goes against the grain of the instant satisfaction that’s thrown at us. Let’s step up and be patiently waiting – with an expectant urgency – for that greater Kingdom to come. That’s how we avoid becoming bitter. And that’s how we face the difficulties that this world throws at us.