“Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself. I mean, do not be disheartened by your imperfections, but always rise up with fresh courage. How are we to be patient in dealing with our neighbor’s faults if we are impatient in dealing with our own? He who is fretted by his own failings will not correct them. All profitable correction comes from a calm, peaceful mind.” –Francis de Sales
My message to you my brothers and sisters is the message I also address to myself: Be Patient with God when you feel that God has abandoned you or that God is not listening to your prayers or hearing your cries. Be patient with yourself when you face failures or make mistakes or feel betrayed or feel down because you did not reach your goals or realize your plans. Be patient with others especially your family members, friends, and colleagues at work, in the church or in some of the cultural and social groups you belong to. Practice the art of patience and you would have found the key to inner peace, happiness, and good relationship with others. In this imperfect world, filled with temptations and troubles, we must learn to take life easy, lower the pressure cooker that we often find ourselves in through the tension around us and in our world all of which are man-made.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, we are all worn out; tired, frustrated, distressed, wounded, and hurting. We have lost so many people dear to us—more than 5.2 million deaths worldwide—and we are losing our social connections; our religious communal life, our family life, and our normal ways of life. Many of us have lost their jobs, savings, sources of income, homes, andinner peace and harmony. We all feel imprisoned in lockdowns, masks, and handwashing rituals, and so many other restrictions. For many of us, we cannot wait anymore for this pandemic to be over and we are reaching breaking point, suffering from COVID-19-restriction fatigue, and feeling down and out. Our country, Nigeria, is going through the most serious crisis in modern times. So, with all the bad news from home, one might be tempted to lose hope; to become anxious, get worried, frustrated, and stressed out. Often, we take it out on those closest to us—our family and friends.
It is from within this complex human situation today that the Lord speaks to us during this Advent Season: Be Patient with yourself! Be patient with your God! Be patient with your family, colleagues, friends, strangers and everyone you meet. Be patient with your doctor, nurses, mail men and women… This won’t last forever; but know that the Lord is coming to visit you in a special way in this holy season of Advent. God is in control and does step into the chaos of our human life in God’s time and in God’s way to bring healing, restoration, and resolution to all things that we find confusing and perplexing today. We see through human eyes, but faith invites us to see through the eyes of God and to focus on the promises and plans of God in which each of us is included. God allowed you to be alive today not because of any merit on your part, but simply the result of God’s mercy and grace.
Who is a Christian? A Christian is one who waits upon the Lord. The Christian life is a long advent in which from our birth to our death, and from our death to new life in Christ we are waiting upon the Lord to manifest God to us. The Advent season thus offers us a unique opportunity to train ourselves in the art of patience particularly in these difficult times by making ours the words of the Psalmist: “Our eyes are upon the Lord, until God shows us God’s mercy” (Psalm 123: 2).
We are advent people because we are responding in hope and expectation at every moment to the God of love to come into our lives. Patience is the spiritual virtue which moves us to enjoy the gifts and graces of NOW. It is the spiritual attitude of savoring the present realities—no matter how far they are from our dream—with gratitude and hope knowing that God is always present with us, and working in us and in history for our good. Patience is the spiritual practice of applying ourselves in hope to the challenges and opportunities of life in the present, while waiting in hopeful expectation that the future which is in God’s hand will open new pathways for us.
Patience says that the blessings and opportunities of life are never exhausted because I did not arrive there on time or that the blessings and graces of God will pass me by because I was not rushing to the finishing line with the swarms of men and women. Yes, you may have plans which you didn’t realize this year or the year before; yes, you may have suffered a lot disappointments in life or feel that all your efforts and devotion to God have not borne the right fruit, but this is why you are a creature, not the Creator; you are limited, but your God is unlimited; you are weak, but your God is strong and Almighty. You can only see what lies before you; God sees what lies ahead of you; be patient with God.
The patient Christian knows that God’s time for operating in our lives is not based on human time; God’s time is infinite, but human time is finite. Sometimes as humans we wish to fit God into our finite time, rather than enter with confidence and hope into God’s infinite time, holding our heads high in hope, lifting our spirit up in courage, and working within the time available to us, and at our own pace in the light of God.
Every moment when opened to the grace of God is a moment of divine encounter; every trying moment can be redeemed by grace by a patient spirit and a strong faith and trust in divine providence. A patient faith opens our life to God’s divine operation beyond our limiting human insights and plans. We cannot change God’s infinite time or limit God’s grace and blessings to our human calendars and schedule. Being patient is not an invitation to inactivity, passivity or lack of effort or a certain laidback complacency. Being patient simply means doing your best and not obsessing about outcomes or past failings. It is an invitation to work as hard as we can, while surrendering our work, effort, and entire life and circumstances to God without being eaten up in internal restiveness and inner turmoil about what is to come. Patience is here understood as the spiritual art of living our lives in total and radical openness to God’s operation in our lives, but attuning our wills and ways to God’s own divine principles, knowingthat God’s time is the best and that God’s clock does not operate on 24hrs or 24/7.
The message for us this Advent rings clear: God is near! God is coming into the chaos of our human lives and human history! God is coming to give us strength and grace and God will ‘rend the heavens’ meaning that God’s grace and unconquerable power can help us overcome all things as the prophet says. Isaiah (Is 63: 16b; See also 35: 1-6a, 10). Every moment is a time for God to act, especially in those moments when we are unclear about things, or in pain. Nothing within human time is outside of the compass of God’s Almighty power and presence. Let us put ourselves into God’s hand at this time of grace, waiting upon God’s mercy in trust, being awake in prayer, being alert in doing good works, and being open to receiving God into our lives and to receiving one another with love, compassion and a gentle, patient, and tolerant spirit. May God bless you and keep you and your loved ones safe and well this week and beyond, Amen.