One of the most difficult things we must do is to wait for something. Whether it’s Amazon’s new “next-month delivery” promise (I jest) or a webpage that takes an extra half-second to load (ugh) or not being able to meet together until who-knows-when (seriously! when!?), we often find waiting difficult. It is difficult to wait for something we long for and it is even more difficult to wait through suffering, yet that is exactly what the Lord calls us to do. His brother James wrote a letter and in it he exhorts us in this way:
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.James 5:7–11 ESV
Notice the number of times James refers to the nearness of the Lord’s return: “until the coming of the Lord”; “for the coming of the Lord is at hand”; “the Judge is standing at the door”. It is the nearness of his coming that compels our patience. But when is that, exactly? James wrote this over 1,900 years ago!
James tells us to look to the prophets as examples of suffering and patience. They were often persecuted for their message, and the fullness of their prophetic message was often hundreds of years after they proclaimed it! The prophet Isaiah prophesied about the coming of Jesus 700 years before Jesus’ birth!
James also points us to the real reason for our patience even in the midst of suffering: “you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” The word “purpose” is a word that means end or conclusion. James says the end or the conclusion is the Lord’s mercy and compassion. Whatever lies at the end of our suffering is none other than the Lord himself. This is why he began this paragraph by saying, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.” When the Lord returns there will be no more need for patience, for all of the Lord’s promises will be here in their fullness.
Let’s spend time in prayer today, praying for one another and for our patience. Pray for our growth in spiritual maturity as each one of us learns how to be patient in suffering, even as we wait—however long it may be—for the coming of the Lord. As James says, his coming is at hand. It is near. “Near” is, of course, relative, but when we’ve been there 10,000 years, we will look back on this life and recognize just how short it really was. We can endure, because God is forever.