My Prayer for the New Year: Patience
"Patience, forbearance, long-suffering, slowness in avenging wrongs." What does this remind you of? Immediately the first thing that popped into my mind was Jonah.
Jonah was a man who was called by God to go to Nineveh and "call out against it, for their evil has come up before me." Jonah is famous for two things: running away from God and His calling and getting swallowed up by a large fish (traditionally a whale). Less than stellar reaction to God's call, don't you think?
Through much persuasion and the help of a large fish, Jonah came to his senses. Just like Jonah, we can't run away from what God has laid on our heart. His call is irrevocable. The easiest thing is simply to submit to His calling. Trust me, it's A LOT easier!
See, a few years ago (ok, maybe more than a few), God called me to be a pastor. Kind of like how God called Jonah to be a missionary. Like Jonah, I was focused on how I DID NOT want to become a pastor. I didn't feel qualified, I didn't feel good enough, I thought I was too young (man, I'm sounding a lot like Moses!). Long story short, after about a year, I finally submitted to God's calling. Within a matter of a few weeks, He had moved me across the country to be a youth pastor at a church. Talk about a whirlwind of emotion, nerves, and new beginnings!
Jonah would FINALLY submit to God's call and he would eventually end up in Nineveh. He didn't have such a great heart about speaking to the Ninevites. For one, he simply hated them. He went and spoke about God's coming destruction and when he was done, he went to another place to sit and watch what would happen to the city. He didn't go to watch God's goodness, no... he went to go watch Nineveh's destruction. How hard-hearted does one have to be to delight in the destruction of others?
Apparently pretty hard-hearted. The whole book of Jonah ends not with a change of heart for Jonah, but with a simple lesson from God about what's important. God didn't destroy Nineveh, he was so moved by the Ninevites repentance that He relented.
My favorite part of the whole book of Jonah was when Jonah was so angry with God for relenting. He tells God that he ran away because he KNEW "that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster." (Jonah 4:2)
Who was the patient one in this story? The patient one was God. God showed patience when Jonah ran away. God showed patience while Jonah was in the belly of the large fish. God waited for Jonah to come to his senses and to submit. God showed patience to the Ninevites by sending Jonah to speak on His behalf. God showed patience to Jonah while Jonah had a less than stellar attitude about God's decisions about the Ninevites.
I wonder how many times He just patiently waits for us to realize that His plan isn't SOLELY about us. It's not about me. Jonah's story wasn't about ONLY Jonah. Jonah's story was about Jonah AND the Ninevites. My story that I talked about at the beginning of this post wasn't just about me. It was about that community AND me. Our stories are about all those who are impacted by our obedience. Really, all our stories are less about all of us and more about Him. God created me. God has a plan and a purpose for my life. God uses my life to make Himself known not only to me but to those around me. My life just points to Him.
My prayer for this year is simply to apply the patience that God shows me on a constant basis to the world around me. In an angry world, we need people who are slow to anger!
Another thing I have noticed about patience is something that's talked about constantly in parenting circles (articles, magazines, etc). If you take the time to not react immediately in anger, you can usually respond with appropriate kindness. Isn't patience, followed by kindness, something our world needs more of?
God, I am so thankful for the patience you show me constantly. I'm thankful that you are slow to anger. I pray that this year you would prompt my heart whenever I am angry and you would bring your kindness to the forefront of my mind. Let me be a light in this world. In your name, amen.