Photo taken by Ian Tan
I’d just about had it. My heart was so heavy over these painful issues. What was the point of bringing them to God again and again, if nothing was going to change immediately?
God had been asking me to bring my pain to Him instead of suppressing it or trying to cope (unhealthily) with it on my own. When I had done that previously, His comforting presence was sometimes palpable. Other times, He showed me a helpful perspective or insight into my situation.
But tonight, none of that was happening. I was overwhelmed with a sense of futility. The pain was still there. I was still hurting.
In the midst of my hopelessness and frustration, God reminded me of James 5:7-8, which says, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”
God pointed out to me that when the farmer sows, the rain doesn’t come immediately. Rather, he has to wait for the rains to water the land. These autumn and spring rains would only come in certain—and not all—seasons.
In essence, patience as a virtue is a process of waiting on God and trusting in His timing, instead of being anxious about results that don’t appear immediately.
And James reminds us that we don’t have to wait indefinitely. The end point is “the Lord’s coming” (vv. 7–8), which “is near” (v. 8). I understand this in two ways. One, God can sovereignly come through for us in the situation we’re enduring, while we’re still on earth.
Two, even if He chooses not to do so on this side of eternity, He will certainly, at the end of history, “wipe every tear from [our] eyes” (Revelation 21:4a). As Christians, we can all eagerly look forward to the time when “[t]here will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4b)
What we sow now in tears will, like tiny seeds, be nothing compared to the abundant harvest of joy—the “valuable crop” (v. 7) He would have us reap. For in Christ, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
The passage acknowledges that waiting for God to deal with our pain can make us angsty and unhappy. But it also reminds us: “Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” (v. 9)
When we ourselves are anxious, fearful, angry or grappling in other ways with a longstanding difficult issue, we may project our own pain onto others and take out our frustrations on them. It may come out as envy or jealousy of people whom we perceive are having things better than us. We may be tempted to be impatient or irritable with them as we deal with our own inner turmoil.
We’ve to watch out that we don’t endure our pain in such a way that causes us to sow strife in our relationships. Such “grumblings” against our brothers and sisters isn’t pleasing to the Lord.
Instead, we are to persevere in this journey just as the Old Testament prophets did in theirs. James exhorts us, “Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered” (vv. 10-11a). It’s a blessing to endure suffering with perseverance because it ultimately produces an unshakeable hope in God’s love for us (Romans 5:3-5).
Finally, James tells us that it’s crucial that we remember who God is in this process of perseverance. He recalls how God came through for Job, and reminds us that God is for us: “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (v. 11).
Because God is compassionate and merciful toward us, we can totally count on Him to deal with what we have to endure in a way that leads us to a harvest of joy.
We just need to persevere in trusting His heart for us, and in waiting on Him to see us through.
—Raphael Zhang, Singapore
Questions for reflection
1. What are some areas in which you are experiencing suffering? What has helped you to be more patient in waiting on God in these areas?
2. Has the way you’ve been waiting on God caused tensions or frictions in your relationships with others? If so, what are some things you can do differently?
3. In enduring suffering, do you believe that God’s heart is for you and He will come through for you, just as He did for Job? If not, what do you think can help you to better align your view of God’s character to who Scriptures say He is?
Hand-lettering by Rachel Tu
Raphael enjoys reading and writing, and experiences them as means of connecting with the Word too beautiful for words. He believes there’s no such thing as having too many books. Having been led by Jehovah-Rapha to journey out of brokenness toward wholeness, he is passionate about bringing God’s healing to others, so that the brokenhearted can become wholehearted in loving God and people with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. He’s also crazy about cheeses, but his greatest love is still Jesus.