What Does God Wish to Teach Us?
At the close of a year and the beginning of a new one, we reflect on the past and look ahead, wondering what lies before us. This is also the case as we begin 2021. The news with its often negative focus can create a bleak image of the future. Do we lose hope? Is it always easy to trust in God’s guidance? Can we patiently live in hope, trusting, one day at a time? With the pandemic that still affects, coupled with our recent American election and tumultuous aftermath we may ponder, “what is God wishing to teach us?” Paul wrote to the Roman believers, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Rom. 5:3–4). While we cannot fully understand the unfathomable depths and ways of God, the reminder to be patient and hopeful is always important.
We live in a time where we expect things to happen immediately. If we need to wait a few seconds for the screen to refresh, we wonder if the internet service is down. It is not easy to be patient with every day and mundane things. When difficulties in our life situation drag on, we long for a resolution. We become weary and tired, and certainly impatience can be close. The songwriter aptly describes how we often are: “I’ve often held the sickle while I’ve been sowing seed” (SHZ 560:3). We can remind and encourage one another with patience and allow time for God to work rather than demand immediate results.
It is good that we remember one another during this time with much love and patience. Some may come to their conclusions based on their own experiences, and their perspectives based on what they have read and studied. On the other hand, some are left uneasy and restless because they do not know what to think or which perspectives to believe. When we consider the pandemic and the varying approaches, some may feel that the mandates have been too restrictive while others feel they have not restricted enough. We personally should consider if our hearts have remained correct in these matters. Our conscience enlightened by God’s Word teaches correctly and we travel in the care of the Holy Spirit in God’s kingdom. The enemy of souls is happy when love is tried and broken. May we strive for this goal that these differences would not strain or break the love between us and our brothers and sisters in faith. Love and patience with each other is certainly needed, but this never gives license to ignore the truths contained in God’s Word which teaches us to obey those in authority (Rom. 13:1–5).
A knowledge of history brings perspective to our challenges today. Paul encouraged the believers in Rome: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Bible history informs us of the hardships that were experienced. The Israelites suffered under the bondage of the Egyptians (Exod. 1:8–14). Paul recalled how he suffered in doing God’s work (2 Cor. 11:24–27). Despite these difficult circumstances they desired to trust in God’s care. We can also look back to the influenza pandemic in 1918–19. This can bring perspective for today as citizens of our country then were also asked to limit public gatherings and to isolate. We can see images of people wearing masks and lining up outside the stores waiting for their turn to enter. When we experience difficulty, we often feel that no one has ever needed to deal with what we have been dealt. When we can pause and consider what others are experiencing or past generations have endured, it can give us patience and hope in our own difficulties.
Isn’t it good that we, the often impatient, weary and at times, despairing are cared for by a patient and loving heavenly Father? “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). We are cared for in His kingdom where we experience forgiveness when our impatience has broken the love and we have fallen into sin. The gospel lifts the tired one, the weak one, the one who despairs. God, in His infinite ways, teaches us to trust in His good care. He lovingly reminds us that He is God. He gives us hope in this life and the hope of heaven by faith!