On Patience and Perspective:Thoughts from Ecclesiastes
On Patience and Perspective:Thoughts from Ecclesiastes
I once heard it said, that “patience is simply the art of concealing your
impatience.” Most of us will recognize the humor in that statement
because, if you’re anything like me, impatience is an oft reoccurring
struggle. Finding patience, being patient and staying patient can be
frustrating, discouraging and sometimes just downright hard.
Sound familiar? I would guess that it does. And even if you don’t
necessarily wrestle with impatience to the same degree I do, I’d suspect
most can relate or think of a time in the recent past where patience proved
to be elusive.
As Christians, we recognize the value and importance of patience, and we
readily acknowledge that “patience is a virtue”. Scripture of course, has
much to say about patience. God’s word reminds us that “love is patient”
(1 Cor 13:4). We read and acknowledge that patience is important spiritual
fruit (Gal 5:22). We understand that we must always “be patient with
everyone” (1 Thes 5:14). And we resolutely affirm that we must always “wait
on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).
Even uninspired writers and thinkers acknowledge the value of patience.
18th century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau observed that
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet”. Tolstoy remarked that “the
strongest of all warriors are these two – time and patience”. Gandhi said,
“To lose patience is to lose the battle.” Finally, Bill McGlashen once stated
that “Patience is something we admire in the driver behind us, but not the
Knowing all of this, why then do so many of us wrangle with having
patience? Excuses come easily and most of us are probably better than we
should be at rationalizing our impatience. It’s the frenetic pace of modern
life. It’s the instant gratification nature of American culture. It’s the stress
and demands of my job. It’s bad drivers. It’s the heat. The service is too
slow. The traffic lane is too slow. The kids won’t listen. The dog won’t
behave. It’s things - things not working out the way I hoped, planned or
expected. And we could go on and on…
But there’s no excuse for impatience. So as we reluctantly admit that, we’re
compelled to ask ourselves - what is the source of our impatience, really?
Isn’t it just another form of self-centeredness? Isn’t it just entitlement?
Isn’t it wanting to control our circumstances and dictate outcomes, even
when there’s no credible reason to believe we ever possibly could or even
should? Isn’t it just pride masquerading as something seemingly less
noxious? We should know better. And we do; we just sometimes lose focus.
We lose perspective.
The book of Ecclesiastes, likely written by King Solomon (Eccl 1:1) contains
a wealth of insights and represents a fascinating study of life “under the
sun”. Among the treasure trove of wisdom and insight we gain from
Ecclesiastes is something else that proves tremendously valuable. It’s the
antidote to impatience – its perspective. The idea of cultivating a Godly
perspective is threaded throughout the entire book. The “Preacher”,
through his own experiences, encourages us to elevate our outlook by
emphasizing that the earthly cares, concerns, and pursuits of mankind are
“vanity and striving after the wind”. Chapter 3 stands out as a bold
reminder that, no matter how we sometimes think or feel, we are not in
control. God is, and He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Moreover, the writer states “God has put eternity in our hearts,” stressing
that we are eternal beings and as such, our priorities should be on eternal,
Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 For everything there is a season, and a time for every
matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to
plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to
heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a
time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away
stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a
time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time
to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time
to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a
time for war, and a time for peace. What gain has the worker from his
toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to
be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has
put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has
done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing
better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also
that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil - this is
God's gift to man.
No matter how much patience you may have acquired, you need more. We
all need more. Maintaining a heavenly perspective will help us in times, the
many times, when patience is needed. Perspective allows us to view life
with a sharper focus and a clearer lens, a lens enlightened by the word of
God. Perspective is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the Christian, as it
gives us the ability to see problems as challenges, discomfort as growth,
failures as lessons, fears as teachers and suffering as joy. And when life
rushes in, and we begin to feel those feelings of anxiety or impatience, our
heavenly perspective gently reminds us what really matters – “Fear God
and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
- Jeff Clark