Does anyone remember the famous line from the 1980’s sitcom Different Strokes? Something doesn’t compute with Arnold Jackson. This little boy tilts his head, scrunches up his face, and makes his confusion known. Say it with me: “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout Willis?”
I had a moment like that recently.
In my prayer time, I was asking God to do something about a situation in which I really wanted to see a change. As I was making my request, I noticed that I didn’t feel very hopeful that my heavenly Father would answer this prayer – or at least not in a way I would like. I found myself nervous that this was going to be one of those situations where His answer would be a long time in coming, leaving this situation in its current state, which was less than ideal. Of course, by “less than ideal,” I mean: it wasn’t good.
“Lord, I’m afraid you’ll be slow,” was my honest prayer.
Immediately a verse from 2 Peter came to mind, “The Lord is not slow” (2 Peter 3:9a).
Insert head tilt.
That definitely caught my attention.
The Lord is not slow. Hmm…
Since that’s from the Bible, I trust it to be true. Yet my thoughts and experiences have left me thinking otherwise, at least when it comes to the practical situations of life.
This is not uncommon. There is often some disconnect between what I say I believe and how I practically live my life. That’s normal. We often learn a truth with our minds first and then come to believe it more fully as it plays out in the laboratory of our lives. I took this awareness as an invitation from the Holy Spirit to lean into the incongruence and let Him teach me.
I invite you to be a fly on the wall of my process.
My wrestling thoughts:
- The Lord is not slow, but He can really seem slow to me.
- There are a lot of Bible verses that talk about the value of waiting on the Lord. Why would we need to wait if He wasn’t slow?
- What’s the rest of that 2 Peter verse anyway?
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
The Lord is not slow… He is patient.
Slow and patient have very different connotations. Slow feels like dragging your feet, disinterested, or maybe even uncaring. Thinking of God as slow makes me think that His “higher ways” are a cover-up for being kind of mean. Sheesh. Do I really want to live as if God is mean when it comes to the practical issues of my life? Not really.
Patient is different. Patient conveys kindness, compassion, love, consideration, attentiveness, concern, care. When I think of God as being patient with me, I remember how far He went to save me. The God who was willing to die so that I might live cannot possibly be disinterested or uncaring. He’s invested. Greatly.
But still… what if His answer to the challenging situation in my life is a long time in coming? What if I have to keep watching and living the hard, when I know He could stop it in the blink of an eye? Why does He delay?
I return to the final part of the verse, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
He is saving me. That’s what He’s doing.
Not saving me from eternal death – that’s already been taken care of – but saving me nonetheless. You might wonder what I need saving from. I’ll tell you: so many things!
There are so many things that have happened in my lifetime that leave me at least a little scared, wounded, fragile, bitter, hardened, or stuck. That’s not because I’m doing everything wrong; it’s because I’m human. Life throws a lot at us, and some of it sticks in ways that are problematic.
Jesus wants to help me with that. He wants to save me. He wants to help me repent. He wants to give me the ability to turn, not necessarily from wickedness, but from the way I walk when I’m wounded and scared.
This is what He works out in the waiting.
I’ll be honest, it doesn’t usually feel great. It means I have to sit in the uncomfortable parts longer than I’d prefer. I don’t always like the way I behave in the hard parts, which is not awesome.
Yet when I remind myself that His slowness is really kindness to me, that feels different. I remind myself of other things that are true, too. For example, His love and favor rest on me when I’m not at my best, He’s not mad at me, and He’s helping me.
Sometimes responding to the Word of the Lord with, “Say what?” can lead to the most delightful discoveries. How cool is that?!