“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” — Romans 12:12
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:14
One of the most difficult verses of Scripture for me to understand is Romans 8:25 “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” I find this passage difficult because it is not something that I experience readily. If I do not see the things that I hope for, I become impatient. In my fallen nature I want it NOW. Many of you have heard me say, “Don’t pray for patience because God will give you opportunities to practice it.” This past year has been a never-ending opportunity for all of us to practice patience. And we need to pray for more.
In the Romans 12 verse quoted above, the apostle commands that we be “patient in tribulation, [and] be constant in prayer.” Living in the moment calls for a daily appeal for patience. St. Ambrose said, “Patience is greatly approved of by God, for by daily waiting it desires the coming of the kingdom of God and does not doubt just because it delays.” The practice of keeping the Daily Office either in the Prayer Book or the Liturgy of the Hours grounds us in the practice of patience. It helps us recognize the need for God’s presence throughout the hours of the day to meet the challenges of the day.
But patience is also an interactive exercise. Miranda works with the public and I must interact with people both within and outside of the Church. For both of us, particularly as introverts, this can be challenging. We sometimes sigh to each other and bemoan that “This job would be so easy if it weren’t for the people.” Then we remind each other that this job wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the people. We need to be patient with others in order to take our part in the walls of Jerusalem. St. Paul reflects this truth in his appeal to the Church at Thessalonica to be patient with each other. The walls of the Temple will only stand if the bricks of the wall fit smoothly together. Paul, therefore, says, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thess. 5:12-14). We may not always agree with those who “are over [us] in the Lord”, and we may find it difficult to deal with the idle, fainthearted, and weak among us. But we are called to be “patient with them all.” That can be a difficult prospect. But with God “all things are possible.”
I do not always find it easy to “hope for what we do not see, [and] wait for it with patience.” But with daily prayer, and God’s grace, I can live more closely to the ideal of living in the moment. Prayer is work. The word liturgy means “the work of prayer” or the “work of the people”. Walking in patience can be hard work. St. Chrysostom said, “Hope is feeling confidence in things to come…The name of patience belongs to hard work and to much endurance. But even this He grants to the one who hopes in order to comfort the weary soul.” We may have weary souls, but by God’s grace we will “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, [and] be constant in prayer.”