Peace and Patience
‘[The Israelites] travelled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”’ Numbers 21:4-5
Continuing on in our journey through the Fruits of the Spirit, as a school we have been focusing on peace and patience over the last two weeks. If ever there was a people in need of peace and patience – it was the people of Israel.
The grumble we read above about food and water wasn’t the first grumble of the Israelites, who were newly freed from slavery in Egypt. I often wonder if God wasn’t seeking so much to rescue the Israelites from slavery in Egypt but to rescue them from their attitude!
The Israelites may have been slaves in Egypt for over four centuries. This is no small amount of time, and perhaps their continual frustration with God and their circumstances may have been warranted. God encourages his people (including us!) to have an open and honest relationship with him, as we see in the Psalms. Our relationship with him allows us to express our anger, frustration and feelings of disappointment. The problem here is perhaps not that the Israelites are grumbling and complaining, but as the passage records, ‘[they] grew impatient’.
‘Growing impatient’ may have been the author’s way of suggesting that the people had stopped trusting God.
I suspect that all of us have faced times of great trouble and distress. We have felt abandoned and unloved by God. But it is at that exact moment that we must turn towards God, and not away – for it is at that time that God can gather us in his arms and give us the peace of knowing that He is sovereign. Knowing this, we can be patient, clinging to him through the difficult seasons of life.
Let us not pretend that having peace in times of hardship is easy. Neither is being patient in such circumstances. Yet I have seen time and time again that when we are in the midst of a struggle we can stop, count our blessings, pray, and focus on God’s goodness outside of ourselves; in doing this we can choose to improve our mood and attitude by refocusing and trusting in God. He is the one in whom patience, peace and hope can be found.
It is no accident that 1st Corinthians 13 tells us that love ‘is patient’ first, before listing its other virtues.
May we walk forward each day in the peace of our Lord, with the patience of a people resolutely refusing to give up on hope in all circumstances.