One of my greatest personality strengths is that I am a huge planner. I know how to get things done and I’m always organizing and scheduling things months in advance. Though this is a great strength in many situations, our biggest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. Because I like to plan, I am always “planning out my life’s timeline” of exactly how and when things should go. And though I like to get things done, I do NOT like waiting. And it is because of this that thus far my life’s coursework and trials have all been specifically tailored to teach me a powerful lesson …. the power of patience.
Waiting can be hard. We live in a world offering fast food, instant messaging, on-demand movies, and immediate answers to the most trivial or profound questions. We don’t like to wait. Patience – the ability to put our desires on hold for a time, is a precious and rare virtue. We want what we want, and we want it now…nevertheless, without patience we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
There are many scriptural accounts of individuals who waited …
Enos waited for assurance of repentance.
Israelites waited 40 years in the wilderness to return to the promised land.
Abinadi waited in his own way for deliverance from King Noah’s wicked punishments, yet deliverance didn’t come in the way he expected.
Jacob waited 7 years, and then another 7 years to marry the love of his life, Rachel.
The prophet Joseph Smith and others waited months in the cold, unfavorable circumstances of Liberty Jail while not only their friends and church members were persecuted, but their own family members were in dire trouble. Yet they were forced to wait, helplessly.
There are many accounts in the war chapters in the BOM where armies wait patiently for supplies and reinforcements for their starving and tired men.
The Nephites waited faithfully, regardless of the persecution and death sentence that awaited them if the star in the heavens that the prophet Samuel had prophesied about, did not appear.
Now, I want you to think of something you are currently waiting for. It could be anything, but here are a few ideas:
- Personal revelation or an answer to a question
- Answers to prayers, deliverance from a situation or trial
- A new job or a promotion
- A loved one to come back to church
- waiting to be “happy”, such as… I will be happy when…
- to overcome a health problem
- to be seen, heard, recognized, validated
- or simply … waiting for a change from monotonous day to day drudgery…a break from life
Once you have identified what it is you are waiting for, I have 3 different questions I want you to ask yourself in hopes of fostering personal growth, instigating pondering and activating submission to God’s plans for you. Here we go…
What is it that I am supposed to learn by being asked to wait?
One of mine and Skyler’s family mottos is, “He has the power, but it’s our test.” God has the power to deliver us, at anytime, from our situations that require patience to wait– BUT, if it’s our test, there must be a greater purpose in Him asking us to wait, instead of quickly delivering us.
I have found that it is the times in my own life that I have been asked to wait that I grow the most and also learn the most about myself in the process. Robert J Matthews has said,
“Some commandments pertain to everyone. Some individual tests, however, are “tailor made” and suited to the particular person and circumstances. When a person has been obedient to the first principles and the universal requirements, it appears that the Lord then devises more searching, individualized tests for a specific purpose in relation to a specific individual. The most popular example of this is the commandment God gave to Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. It seems to have had at least two immediate purposes. ONE was to test Abraham’s faith and obedience; and the OTHER was to give Abraham experience whereby he would learn something about himself…”
I think about Abraham’s submissive obedience, but during this whole experience he was waiting … waiting and hoping the Lord would deliver him so he wouldn’t have to kill his son. George Q. Cannon, when speaking about Abraham’s test, said,
“God did not do this for His own sake for He knew by His foreknowledge what Abraham would do; but his purpose was to impress upon Abraham a lesson and to enable him to attain unto knowledge that he could not obtain in any other way. That is why God tries all of us. It is not for His own knowledge, for He knows ALL things beforehand. He knows everything you will do. But He tries us for our own good that we may know ourselves; for it is most important that a man should know himself.”
How is it that when we are being required to wait – we are learning more about ourselves? I know in my own life that I am often surprised at how I react, or the patience and strength I receive in my personal trials when the Lord’s plan is going differently than mine. And, as taught in D&C 122:7, trials have an educational purpose and are designed to give us experience, for they are all for our good.
A few years ago there was a talk given in a sacrament meeting on journal writing. I am an avid journal writer, and remember specifically a line that the speaker shared. He said, “Who better to remind you what you believe than yourself?” He was referring to when we write spiritual and growing experiences in our journals, we can then go back on those things we have written to remind us of what we have gone through, how we reacted, and what we learned during those experiences.
I have found that by journaling not only my blessings, but the growing pains I experience when being asked to wait …. That it often strengthens my relationship and trust with the Lord. And through that process, I come to see what my spiritual self is capable of and how I react in the face of adversity.
The second question I want you to ask yourself in reference to the thing you are waiting for is,
Is the Lord really waiting on me?
All too often we are “waiting” on the Lord’s deliverance when in reality, He is waiting on us to figure something out first. Perhaps we are being stubborn, disobedient, or maybe just asking the wrong questions. Is there something the Lord is waiting for us to “learn” before moving us on to greater blessings?
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught,
“Real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed.”
In other words, is our natural man, our selfishness, our pride, our stubbornness … preventing us from accepting the Lord’s will and learning a powerful lesson so that He can deliver us?
Too often we pray and pray and pray for the Lord to deliver us from a trial, to answer a prayer, to do something we are eagerly awaiting …. But we want it done OUR WAY. In the bible dictionary under prayer, we learn that we pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ. We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent His mind but spring out of the selfishness of our hearts.
I know that there have been times in my life when I was praying for help and was growing impatient, where really what I was praying for was not what the Lord intended to give me. I was praying for the wrong thing, thus causing the Lord to be waiting on me, even when I thought I was waiting on Him.
In a recent talk given by Chad Webb, he shared a story about a young mother named Celeste, who realizing this principle, decided to tack on the phrase “but if not” to her prayers. She would then pray for what it was she wanted, but always added but if not .. and then included something she was SURE God would do for her. Examples of this included, “please help me to get some sleep tonight, but if not … help me to have enough energy to be pleasant and hardworking anyway.” “please bless that I will be included in my group of friends, but if not…even if I feel excluded, help me to be kind and generous.” And lastly, “please bless that my child will get over this sickness and feel better, but if not, help us to trust in Thee and be patient with each other.”
I have found in my own life that as I have changed my will to His, letting him know how I feel about my current situation, but putting my faith in patience in His timeline, deliverance always comes – and His way is ALWAYS better. It might be more painful, or take longer than I would like it to, but I always come out better for it. Now, my prayers are not so much plees for deliverance, but are focused on me constantly asking Him, What lack I yet? In otherwords, what do I need to learn so that you can stop waiting on me?
The last question I want you to ask yourself is,
How do I endure with a cheerful and submissive heart?
I started reading the Book of Mormon again a few months ago and am trying to keep up with Skyler’s seminary block so that we can discuss and learn together while he is teaching and preparing his lessons. I just finished the war chapters a few weeks ago and found a scripture that really demonstrates how we can react while waiting.
But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility. – Alma 62:41
We can choose to become hardened when we are waiting, or we can choose to be softened. This requires much humbleness, an added measure of faith, and a daily connection with God to continue growing and doing His will until deliverance comes.
When we compare the waiting and suffering that we might be experiencing, to not only the purpose behind it, but to what we get in return – a purified heart and celestial exaltation – I think that no wait should be too long to endure.
Brigham Young once said,
“I have heard a great many tell about what they have suffered for Christ’s sake. I am happy to say I never had occasion to. I have ENJOYED a great deal, but so far as suffering goes I have compared it a great many times to a man wearing an old, worn out, tattered and dirty coat, and somebody comes along and gives him one that is new, whole and beautiful. This is the comparison I draw when I think of what I have suffered for the Gospel’s sake. No man or woman ever heard me tell about suffering. “Did you not leave a handsome property in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois? Yes. And have you not suffered through that? No, I have been growing better and better all the time, and so have this people.”
I have found in my own personal life that when I am asked to wait and have cheerfully submitted my will to God, placing my own selfish desires on the altar, that I lose myself in service – looking around me for opportunities to help others, and that is when I grow the most. God knows that what we obtain too easily we esteem too lightly.
I am grateful for all the waiting that the Lord has both asked and compelled me to do. It has not only refined me in the process, but strengthened my relationship with Him. I know that the Lord has our best interests and eternal growth in mind. He loves us. He knows us. If we trust in Him and submit our wills to Him, in time we will be delivered and our prayers answered. I invite you to consider why you are waiting, what you are to learn from the wait, and to trust that deliverance and answered prayers do come at the perfect time. God’s timing is always perfect.
Fear not I am with thee, oh be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand
When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’er flow
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, my grace all-sufficient, shall be thy supply
The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design, thy dross to consume and they gold to refine. (Hymn #85)