Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12, ESV)
For many years I visited a monastery in Boston, where I had a spiritual advisor. His name was Tom. Our sessions always followed the same pattern. After sitting quietly for a few minutes, Tom would say a prayer and then he would ask, “Jim, what would Jesus like us to talk about today?”
I will never forget the session when I said, “Tom, I need God’s help with patience.” Instead of his usual quiet response, he immediately stood up and said, “Jim, stop right there. Do you have any idea what you are asking?”
I said, “Tom, why should I stop praying for patience?”
He said, “Don’t you understand that patience only comes through tribulation? Be really careful what you pray for.”
I remembered this session from 30 years ago last night when I was sleepless until 3. I think I had an unusually difficult night because my focus on Easter—even if it was really a different one this year—had given me a momentary reprieve from thinking about the “virus-existence” we have been living. Last night, though, as I anticipated another week of shut-down, I felt like my patience was wearing very thin.
I believe that today’s scripture—“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer”—speaks right to what I need today. If I fall into thinking that I have to live into these words by my own efforts, I just fall short and tumble into despair. But if I remember that what Easter proclaims is that we aren’t alone, that the risen Jesus is with us, then I am given the hope and patience I need to “keep on keeping on.”
What all those Alleluias that we said, sang, and prayed yesterday mean is that Easter isn’t just a day; no, Easter is the unfolding and ongoing risen life of Jesus in us. Our hope isn’t that we will become patient enough, strong enough, or good enough for Him, but that He helps us to become more patient, strong, and good. The Christian life isn’t about performing for Jesus; it is about Jesus working out His purposes in and with and through us.
There is no doubt that we are in a time of great tribulation. Again, what does the scripture commend us to do during such troubling times? Be patient. Patient as a country, state, city, and community. Patient with ourselves when are not at our most kind and resilient. Patient with others because none of us are at our best. Patient with those who are delivering our groceries, or those trying to help us on the phone, or with any of the systems we are using to conduct our lives and work.
Let me finish by returning to Tom’s question. What would Jesus like us to be asking for during these days? As we consider our long list, let’s not forget to include patience.
- How do you deal with tribulation?
- How is your own patience right now? What causes your patience to wear thin?
- What help do you need from Jesus so that you can carry on during this time with more patience, strength, and hope?