Waiting Patiently on the Lord

Waiting. It’s such a difficult verb to master. Just reading the word makes me feel antsy. We especially in modern America don’t like to do it. We’re not very good at it. We want what we want when we want it (right now). We get agitated when people sit at the traffic light for a second too long after it turns green. We start celebrating Christmas after Halloween. And what would we do without Amazon Prime with its free two-day shipping?

cat-waiting-for-the-mail-9924I’ve noticed that I’m especially bad at waiting patiently on the Lord’s timing.  I want the Lord to get my husband the promotion at work that he’s in line for. I want Him to make it possible for us to move to a more comfortable home in a safer area. I want Him to bring about the conversion of certain people in my life. I want Him to fix the problems in the Church and in the country. Plus a whole long list of other things (some of which are more noble desires than others). And I want Him to do these things now. Shamefully, I find myself feeling envious when other people get things that I have been hoping for.

Morning Prayer of the Divine Office on May 30 spoke about this issue. The reading from 2 Peter was about waiting for the Lord to create a new Heaven and a new Earth, where there will be perfect justice and righteousness. These two lines struck me: “So, beloved, while waiting for this, make every effort to be found without stain or defilement, and at peace in His sight. Consider that our Lord’s patience is directed toward salvation.” They reminded me that the Lord’s plans and His timing far exceed the goodness of our own. They are perfectly suited to each one of us, and perfectly ordered to our salvation. I knew this intellectually, but really trusting and resting in it is the hard part. This passage addressed that difficulty by telling us what we should be doing while we’re waiting for the Lord to accomplish His plans in our lives: we should be working on becoming the kind of people that God intends for us to be; we should be trying to grow in holiness.

So how do we do that?

  • Develop a good prayer life. I have heard often that parents of young children shouldn’t worry about setting aside prayer time each day because they are busy, and they can just offer up every action as a prayer (and maybe throw in a few Hail Marys while they are doing the dishes). While I completely understand the busyness and exhaustion of parenting small children, and I agree that we can and should be offering up all of our works to the Lord, I think it’s very important to set aside time for focused prayer as well. The Lord desires that one-on-one time with us, and wants to use it to refresh us. St. Francis de Sales said that everyone needs a half hour of prayer, except when we are busy – then we need an hour. Prayer will help us become better spouses and parents (and Christians) – it will not hinder us in accomplishing what we need to accomplish in our day. I think it will also help us to develop more trust in our Father, so that we will be more able to wait patiently on Him and His plans, and we will conform our will to His.  We can start small, maybe five or ten minutes at a time (if you have ten minutes to read this article, you have ten minutes to pray).  Pray a morning offering; pray a decade of the Rosary; read a Scripture passage and meditate on it; start praying the Liturgy of the Hours (you don’t need the fancy set of books; I use www.divineoffice.org). Spiritual reading (e.g. saints’ writings) should also be part of our prayer lives.
  • Cultivate gratitude. When we are grateful for the things we do have in our lives then we are usually more patient in waiting for the things that we don’t have. To work on becoming more grateful, we should make an effort to actually say “thank you” to God each day. Starting a gratitude journal, or having each family member say something they are thankful for each night at dinner or before bed are good ways to remember to do that. We must make it a point stop looking around at what others have and focus on the blessings in our own lives. God has a unique plan for each of us.
  • Work on accepting the current situation and making the most of it. Waiting for something to change in our abandonmentodivineprovidencelives is going to be extra painful unless we learn to accept the situations we are in rather than dwelling on what we don’t have. And, the fact is that our situations might never change in the way we want them to, because God’s will might be different from ours. If we are miserable until we get what we want, then we might be miserable forever.
    I highly recommend the book Abandonment to Divine Providence to anyone who is struggling to find joy and peace in their lives. In it, Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade says that “by all creatures, and by every event the divine love desires to unite us to Himself,” and “The present is ever filled with infinite treasure, it contains more than you have the capacity to hold.” In other words, God wishes to use every moment, every struggle, every situation in our lives to bring us closer to Him. Spending our energy wishing away our current situations in hopes of something “better” means missing out on opportunities to become holier. Part of sanctity, he says, is “accepting that which we very often have no power to prevent, and in suffering lovingly…things that too often cause us weariness and disgust.”
  • Perform acts of service {with the right attitude}. Focusing on others is a great way to take our minds off of ourselves. And the less we think about ourselves, the less we think about the things that we want but don’t have – the thwarted plans and the successes we haven’t yet achieved. Parents are naturally in the position of service most of the time, but the key to spiritually benefitting from this service is to do it with a loving attitude and abandonment to God’s will for us. Getting up at 5:30am with my toddler every morning is an act of service I have no choice but to perform. I can either do it with a bad attitude, and be miserable (which is the case a lot of the time); or I can do it with love and abandonment to God’s will, and be at peace.
  • Go to confession often. The holy priests I know recommend going to confession every 4-6 weeks. It’s important to go even if we don’t have grave sins to confess, because we receive abundant grace from the sacrament. If we are giving into the feelings of impatience, ungratefulness, and envy, we should confess those sins. They might not be mortal, but they are damaging. And when we confess them, we get special graces to combat them.

The truth is that God is not like Amazon; we can’t put in our order for a ready-made, cookie-cutter product and find it on our doorstep in two days. Instead, God is more like an expert artisan who takes His time hand-crafting gifts personally designed for us. They probably won’t arrive as quickly as we want them to; and when they show up, they might not look exactly like they did in the picture we had in our minds. But this Divine artisan knows our hearts better than we do, and he knows what is best for us. We must learn to wait patiently—seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness–while he completes His masterpieces.

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