By Jessica Udall, Crosswalk.com
In a society in which we prize instant everything, waiting for anything seems old-fashioned and maybe even distasteful. But patience is a deeply biblical concept, the practice of which has the potential to allow us to live wisely and well in a fallen world, trusting in the purposes and promises of our good God. The Bible instructs us to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). Job is one of those highlighted in Scripture for his remarkable patience.
What Does the Bible Say about Job and Patience?
In the Bible, Job is a godly man who God allows to go through many trials. He loses his wealth, his health, and his children, and his wife and friends question him and turn against him. Through his many losses and sorrows, Job wrestles with questions and doubts but stays connected with God through prayer, actively waiting on God to bring him through the season of intense adversity.
He declares: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15) and “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).
In the end, Job’s patience is rewarded. Though God doesn’t fully explain the “why” of everything that has happened, he vindicates Job by rebuking Job’s friends for criticizing him and restoring Job’s family and fortunes. In the book of James, believers are encouraged to emulate Job: “You also, be patient...Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:8-11).
What Else Does the Bible Say about Having Patience?
Patience is a major theme in the Bible, characterizing those who wait for the Lord in faith. God grows things, and believers are encouraged not to worry but to rest in his good character and purposes that will come to fruition in his perfect timing.
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains” (James 5:7).
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Patience is fundamental to godly character and is part of what God grows in us as he transforms our hearts and lives by the power of the Spirit:
“Love is patient and kind…” (1 Cor 13:4).
Waiting patiently on the Lord leads to good things both after and during the waiting:
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land” (Psalm 37:7-9).
Job is not the only one commended for his patience in the Bible. In the same passage in James where he is mentioned, it also says: “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:10). The book of Hebrews mentions that “Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise” (Hebrews 6:15). Jesus Himself is our ultimate example of patience in the face of suffering:
“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:19-23).
What Can Christians Learn from the Patience of Job?
The example of Job and others in Scripture who demonstrated patience can be instructive for our own lives as we seek to cultivate God-honoring patience instead of demanding instant-everything.
1. We can bring our struggles to God while still being patient.
Job shows us that we can be honest with God about how difficult waiting on him is. We can bring our questions and doubts. We can be sad and angry and confused in his presence. This is not a lack of faith, but an active faith that goes to God with questions rather than trying to figure them out on our own. At the end of Job’s intense season of trials, God speaks to Job’s unhelpful friends:
“The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).
God then asks Job to pray for the friends, showing approval for the honest and open yet faith-filled way that Job has prayed throughout his tribulations. We do not have to hide our struggles from God; he wants us to come to him with our pain and seek to come to terms with it in the light of his presence.
2. We can endure by remembering the character of God.
Some of the most beautiful moments in the book of Job are when he expresses his faith in the goodness of God’s character despite the fact that he is not feeling that goodness at the moment of his prayer. In the same way, when we are experiencing what feels like clouds obscuring the goodness of God, we can trust that His goodness remains, as certain as the sun which will shine again.
3. We can rest in the mysterious goodness of God without fully understanding his plans.
Though God connects powerfully with Job in a way that is satisfying to Him, and though God eventually restores Job’s family and fortunes, God does not directly answer Job’s questions about why things happened in exactly the way they did (Job 38-41). While God’s explanation goes on for four chapters in Job (and is humbling and beautiful reading), Isaiah 55:8-9 explains the same ideas succinctly:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
In response to God’s message, Job responds with humble trust:
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know." (Job 42:2-3)
We do not have to understand everything that God has done or will do; instead, we can rest in the knowledge that we ourselves are not in control, but we are held by the One who works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Job’s words quoted above are reminiscent of the Psalmist’s declaration of his rest in God’s sovereignty, and this can be our prayer as well as we seek to cultivate patience by waiting in hope on the Lord:
"O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore." (Psalm 131, ESV)
And we pray along with Paul: “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. (Col 1:11).
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Oliver Rossi
Jessica Udall holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible and a Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies and writes on the Christian life and intercultural communication at lovingthestrangerblog.com.