Patience, Hard Thing! The Hard Thing But to Pray
Patience, hard thing! the hard thing but to pray,
But bid for, Patience is! Patience who asks
Wants war, wants wounds; weary his times, his tasks;
To do without, take tosses, and obey.
Rare patience roots in these, and, these away,
Nowhere. Natural heart’s ivy, Patience masks
Our ruins of wrecked past purpose. There she basks
Purple eyes and seas of liquid leaves all day.
We hear our hearts grate on themselves: it kills
To bruise them dearer. Yet the rebellious wills
Of us we do bid God bend to him even so.
And where is he who more and more distils
Delicious kindness? — He is patient. Patience fills
His crisp combs, and that comes those ways we know.
This beautiful poem from the pen of Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit priest and scholar, is on my mind this evening. In it, he recognizes the importance of patience for a Christian, a willingness to wait on the will of God. However, he acknowledges that it is indeed difficult to sit and wait. This is especially true of those of us caught up in our on-demand culture. What God wants for us may require us to wait patiently while things pass us by that seem to count for losses. However, those things we “lose” and those scars we bear are where “patience roots” and nowhere else. Without challenges and a few nicks and chinks, nothing else can take root in us. We will never develop spiritually without this necessary hurt. However, after the injuries, the patience we learn by waiting upon the Lord covers us like broad spans of ivy, making us better and more beautiful for our willingness to, as John Milton put it, “stand and wait.”
However, what we want and what God wants for us might always be at odds. We often struggle to patently submit ourselves to Him, to “bruise [our hearts] dearer” by relinquishing what remains of ourself to Him. However, that is our goal, to “die to self daily,” or until that is truly possible to “bid God bend to him even so.” In essence, we must first want to want to obey God. However, once we are still and patient, willing to wait on God no matter how long His reply is in coming, there is a reward unspeakably beautiful. Patience comes “the way we know,” which is through prayer, and we gain the delights of “delicious kindness” and that peace “which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). This is what we store up, our treasures for the hereafter, much as a bee stores honey in his “crisp combs.”
Lord, I ask You to make me patient, make me willing to carry our Your perfect will for my life. Fill up and cover over the broken parts of me and transform what is bitter into something sweet and pleasing to the senses. All to you, I surrender.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” — James 1:2-7