Wednesday - May 20th
Today's Scripture to Read: James 5:7-11
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters,
until the Lord’s coming.
As our nation moves into late spring and anticipates summer, the tide of our impatience keeps growing. We want to get out. We want to be with other people. Being shut up in our homes for the final days of winter and most of the spring has gotten old. The prospect of doing any of this into the summer discourages us.
Our son, Jon, lives and works in Manhattan. Of course, New York City has taken the brunt of our country's battle with the coronavirus. He went out one evening last week and could walk right down the middle of several streets. No cars on them at all. No one was out. The weather over the weekend in the city was incredible. Flowers were blooming. Trees were turning green. Singing birds were building new nests. More people were out, and Jon said he could see people just getting outside and enjoying the beauty of spring fully emerging. People there and across our nation are weary of a virus, are tired of being confined to home, and are fearful of long term economic challenges they face.
Even as some restrictions begin to lift and life begins to take on some sense of normalcy (as limited as that may be), life will still require patience. We still need to extend grace to those around us, to those in government trying to make the best decisions for public health, and to those who still can't get out because they are at high risk.
James 5:7-11 encourages us to practice both patience and endurance. James used two different words in the original Greek language - just like we have before us in our English translation. The word translated patience in the passage carries two ideas. One is "long" or "extended," and the other is "suffering" or trial." Verse seven tells us to be willing to suffer for a long time ("be patient"). The emphasis is on the length of the period of time in which we experience hardship.
James uses the example of a farmer waiting over time for the rains to come. It would be easy to get impatient as the rains were delayed. But what good would it do? Being irritated and impatient would not remove the need for the farmer to wait. The rain would come when God sent it. Waiting is not easy. As God's children, we should be displaying to our families, neighbors, and friends a patience that is willing to be uncomfortable over time. Have those online and those around you every day seen a Christlike willingness in you to wait out the stay-at-home order - even though it isn't easy? Or, have they seen impatience?
A willingness to wait over time when it is uncomfortable represents one aspect of patience in our Bible text today. The other element of patience is found in verse 11 and is the word "endurance." "Endurance" is the second word used by James for putting up with an uncomfortable situation. In the Greek, this word translated in English as "endurance" means to "remain under." While the first word emphasized the length of our suffering, this word emphasizes the extent and heaviness of our suffering. That which is required of us moves from being uncomfortable over time to being nearly unbearable in the moment.
Maybe the psychological, emotional, and even financial toll of being under lockdown as we battle the coronavirus becomes seemingly unbearable for you at times. I get it. The Lord really gets it. James knows that endurance can be overwhelmingly hard. That's why he uses the example of Job. He says Job was a patient man who endured indescribable hardship. Even our secular culture knows Job had it bad, really bad. They may not know the whole story. But they know he suffered, and that he displayed endurance in that suffering. As you think about your experience living under the stay-at-home order, has it been nearly unbearable at times? Seek out the Lord's compassion and mercy. He can give us relief for the day, for the hour, for the moment. He will walk with us on the long road ahead too!
The passage that began with "Be patient" ends by reminding us that "the Lord is full of compassion and mercy." When you think you can't be uncomfortable any longer, seek out the compassion and mercy that only God can give you over time. He will empower you to be patient. When you think you can't bear one more moment of the hardship, look to the One full of compassion and mercy. He will infuse you with endurance.
Twice, the passage connects our being patient with the coming of the Lord. Once, the text says we should not grumble and be divisive within God's family because the judge will arrive soon. Like the farmer who patiently does what he can do while waiting for the rain to come on his fields, we should be patient because the Lord is coming one day to gather us to Himself and make all things new. That could be today. The hope of His coming helps us grow in extending our patience and in deepening our endurance.
The world around us needs to see the followers of Christ responding differently than the impatience that keeps growing and bubbling up everywhere. The world around us needs to see the patience and endurance of Christ Himself through us!