God’s patience is different from people’s patience. His patience is so remarkable that it is often misunderstood and interpreted as slowness, or worse, as indifference. “Why is God doing nothing?” is sometimes the question. Believers know, the Lord is always up to something. Everything He does and does not do is premeditated. He can do that – He is God.
It is difficult for our human minds to grasp God’s thought process. Starting with the fact that the Lord is Three in One – God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the beloved Son Jesus are an entity that converses with each other. God has our best interest at heart, and I imagine that decisions on how to react to certain situations, how to answer prayers and how to interfere into human circumstances are not processed lightly. We have a hard time understanding God’s patience because we do not see what He sees and we do not know what He knows. But what we do know is that the Lord will make good on His promises in His time. He opens doors when it is beneficial for many.
Specifically, when we think about human tragedies, the Lord’s patience seems out of place. Think about the collective human suffering of the past and present. Think about the people of Israel who were enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years. 400 years of prayers you would think went unanswered for too long. And yet, before Israel could be released from Egypt, the Egyptians had to have a close encounter with God. The plagues that happened, the signs and wonders in connection with Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt left an indelible mark. Slavery is a terrible thing. God delivered Israel from the hands of their taskmasters, but not without appealing to their conscience. God loves His people, but He loves the Egyptians too.
To this day people are mistreated, disrespected, hurt and killed. Slavery is not just a thing of the past. The international labor organization estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150-billion-industry worldwide. Where is God in all of this? God is in heaven, but most importantly, God is with His people. God’s interaction is sovereign, but He is also expecting His people to see where injustice happens and act as His agent. In the above-mentioned example of human trafficking, the first line of defense for those labor organizations is to receive a call from a witness who identified a victim and dialed the National Human Trafficking Hotline to get help.
We want God to come through for us in personal matters. I believe God also wants us to come through for other people, people who are hurting, people who need our attention, people who have been waiting for justice and retribution. When God opens our eyes and shows us a need, we as believers are the ones God has been patient with – at the cost of the people waiting for us to wake up and face the music. Those victimized, overlooked and abandoned individuals who have been in our neighborhood and cried out to God had to be feeling like the Israelites in Egypt who prayed for deliverance for so many years. They had to be exceedingly patient.
To save all parties involved and not wanting anyone to perish, the Lord’s patience has a significant reason in a roundabout way: He hopes that in the end everyone will come to repentance. The fruit of His patience God hopes for – is a change of heart.