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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-463116677Yesterday we looked at the three examples of patience that James uses to illustrate patience through suffering. Through these illustrations, we saw that patience is possible with the right perspective of who God is. The farmer waits expectantly for the rain, resting in God’s process. The prophets endured great suffering and humiliation, but did not seek to retaliate, looking to God as their defender and vindicator. And Job, an example of steadfastness through trial, had everything taken away, but remained true to God in His greatness. This is all well and good, you might be thinking, but how do I practically live this out when things get really hard? Let’s look carefully at the rest of the passage in James for our answer.

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. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 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  

In verse 8, we see that we can be patient in hard times by establishing our hearts. To “establish” means to strengthen, prop up, decide firmly or be unwavering. I recently learned that spacecrafts are insulated by thousands of small tiles that can bear up to 2,300 degrees and extreme pressure, yet, they are light as Styrofoam and very pliable. You could actually stick a pencil through one. To be patient in times of great suffering is to have hearts like these tiles that can remain strong and unwavering in faith through suffering while not becoming hardened by the trials that you face. James gives us a reason why we can establish our hearts in this way: because the Lord is at hand, He is very near. It’s as if He is at the door, about to enter. This means, no matter our situation, we know it is temporary.  Live as if He is already here. Establish your hearts.

Another way we can practice patience is by not complaining in our hearts (vs. 9). It’s easy to grumble in our hearts about others when we’re suffering, especially against those who seem to have it so easy and never struggle with anything. But, we’re warned even against our unvoiced groanings toward others. Why? Because Jesus is coming as our Judge and He sees our hearts. No matter how dire your situation, what Jesus has already delivered you from on the cross is something far more ominous and dangerous than anything you could go through on earth. So, when you’re struggling, don’t let it lead you to the sin of complaining.

Patience is challenging, and ultimately I think the struggle with it comes from not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So what’s the point? James says that the telos of God, that is, the purpose in sight of the end, is that the Lord is “compassionate and merciful.” That’s the point, that though we can’t see the end of our suffering, we can see God, and He is good.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the incredible works of Michelangelo. People often marveled at his art, asking how he could possibly take an ordinary piece of marble and turn it into something so purely magnificent. Hear Michelangelo’s response, “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

Whereas we may view our lives as an unfinished chunk of marble, God sees the finished product. So be patient and refrain from trying to take the chisel from God’s hand. It’s a painful process, but we can trust God as our sculpture and that He has a beautiful masterpiece in mind. 

Julia Carlisle
Ministry Fellow at Dartmouth