During my study on The Book of Job, I was asked by one of the readers if I would do a post on the subject of patience. At the time I put it on my list for future topics, but after Post #16, I felt compelled to immediately move to the subject of patience in light of the fact the Job, among many superlatives, was indeed a man of patience. No doubt you have heard the phase, "the patience of Job." Some know the story of Job, but many scratch their head and wonder what that means. This entire post will be spent on understanding the deep, spiritual meaning of this common phrase.
Let's start by admitting to ourselves that the modern definition of patience changes with age and maturity. Early in life I can remember always wishing I would be old enough to drive a car. It seemed like an eternity as the days and months dragged on, until one day my Dad let me take the wheel in the driveway for the first time. Back then there were no driving schools to attend, no safety films to watch and no one to let you learn except someone in the family, usually Dad. Now that I had waited impatiently for years, I was frustrated even more when I had to learn on a stick shift. Then I learned some basics laws of the road, took the written test, and finally I received my "temporary" driver's license. Then I could practice legally with my Dad, while I waited for the big day. My family always had small vehicles, and of course we couldn't afford an automatic transmission, air conditioning or even power windows. It was just your basic small size family car with a 3-speed transmission and a sensitive clutch. A patrolmen was used to give the physical driving test at the police station, and when my guy came to pick me up, my heart sank, because he had a full sized patrol car. To me it was gigantic. After all these years of waiting and begging the time clock of my life to speed up, I suddenly, for the first time thought about flunking the driving skills test. I had waited for years, I had passed the written exam, I had practiced with my Dad, but no amount of preparation on my part could have taught me to parallel park that huge police cruiser. I had enough trouble with our Ford Falcon. When I failed, I was devastated and thought my young life was over. What would my girl friend say?What would my parents say? My friends would laugh me out of school.
I did pass the test on the second try, and I did it safely with confidence. You see despite waiting years, and getting myself ostensibly prepared with the blessing of my mother and father, I still failed, because it was not my time. Like many of us in our daily lives, we have spent years scrimping, saving, and waiting for things. Buying a house, having a baby, getting a car, splurging for a boat or a vacation, all seem to have waiting and timing involved. We hate to wait, so whatever we can do to shortcut the process and make it happen, we generally do with little hesitation. Patience is the exact opposite! It's enduring for the whole time necessary, even if there is no end in sight.
Patience comes from the Latin noun, "patientia/patientiae," literally meaning suffering. Over the years from Old English to French and so on, it developed a much broader meaning and was used differently over time. The evolution of the word in today's vernacular has much more to do with waiting or tapping your foot, than the historic context. Today we say, "he has the patience of a saint," meaning a mental contentment or discipline to wait for something or someone. Back when Job was walking the earth, "the patience of Job" meant, "the suffering of Job." To interpret Job correctly you need to understand the context of the word back then, not now. I am not certain why the evolution of this word changed so dramatically over time, but it happens often in the Bible, making the study of etymology crucial to meaningful interpretation or understanding of God's Word.
Today perseverance and/or endurance would make proper synonyms for patience, and in both cases these words imply length of time or waiting. Suffering, the way it was meant for Job is a much harder word, implying pain, harm or threat to an individual. I believe this distinction paints a more accurate picture of what the writer intended every time Job's patience comes up. Satan made Job suffer much physically, but he also tormented him mentally and emotionally at the same time. The beauty of Job's story even burns brighter with the proper interpretation, because despite the suffering, he never flinched spiritually.
The lesson to be really learned here has little to do with Job patiently waiting for God. It has to do with one man's painful suffering and mental anguish. While Satan tried to stomp out Job's faithfulness to God with his free reign over him, he was met with good old spiritual perseverance and physical endurance. He was not patiently waiting for anything. He was surviving a one on one battle with the angel of darkness himself, not one of his minions. There was no subtle, backdoor approach even considered by Satan. This was all out war on one of God's creation. He meant to crush this man quickly, so that he could go back to God and literally rub it in His face.
The truth is that Satan killed Job's children, his cattle, his servants and took away all his wealth. He then covered him in hideous, painful boils, while using his wife against him. And finally, Satan used his best friends, as a last ditch effort, to destroy the faith of Job. Satan had no idea that internally, where it counts, Job had the strength of Samson. He was spiritually muscle bound from head to toe and what's more, God knew this all along. You see, only God can look inside of our heart and soul to see what we are really made of...Satan as powerful as he may be cannot know us like our Creator.
Bad things happen in our lives, or at least we believe them to be bad. None of those things are caused by the Almighty. They are either caused by the evil one himself or our sinful selves. Don't blame God. He wants nothing except your faithfulness and love. He wants you to be happy and successful, but not so much that you forget about Him. Believe me I know! Susan and I lost our first child about 34 years ago. Jamie was born with multiple birth defects and only lived 7 days. Susan blamed herself, and I blamed God. In truth it was not Susan's fault, and it was not God's fault. It was tragic and changed our lives for many years to come. I don't know why it happened to us anymore then, than I do now, but I can tell you that we have endured that pain (patience) for 33 years. God allowed it, he did not do it to us, and today I finally can accept why. She would have never lived a normal life on this earth, but at least we got to hold her for a few days. I am consoled by the fact that she and other children taken prematurely, for one reason or another, have a special place in Heaven above. God breathed life into her giving her new soul at least a few days with her parents. This is God's definition of patience. We have endured just like Job and so can you.
Some say that we all have our crosses to bear...I believe we need to fully comprehend biblical patience by persevering with Job's physical, mental, and spiritual endurance. If you can accomplish all three in your life, God bless...If you have to choose, the only one that matters to God is spiritual endurance, so be sure to exercise your spirituality with Him daily.
May you always maintain the strength of Samson in your heart, for only then will you be able to achieve divine patience.
The Digital Disciple