“Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” sings in my mind as I picture Mary Poppins working her magic. However, as fellow ministry wives, we know there’s no sugar involved in swallowing patience. Being married to a diabetic has given me a whole new awareness of sugar vs sugar-free. The sugar-free label may attract my eyes to read further, but I’m often disappointed to see what substitute sweetener is listed instead. While there’s no speedy substitute for growing in patience, there IS a blessing as we fully embrace and readily endure God’s perfectly prescribed dose of long-suffering.
How do we embrace something (patience) that feels too difficult to even hold at arm’s length? How do we endure through to the gifts of long-suffering? Simply put, we proactively store up comfort, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” (Isaiah 40:1), and the greatest way we store up comfort (that lasts through long-suffering) is by knowing God’s Word. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8
When I turned 40 (three years ago), I felt like things were going well in my home, church, and community life, and so it felt a bit odd that the Lord impressed on me to memorize Psalm 40. I stopped memorizing after the first five verses thinking, “Thankfully, I’m not in need of waiting patiently on the Lord or down in the pit of destruction or stuck in a miry bog or needing a new song in my mouth. Surely there are more applicable verses to memorize!”
Little did I know the reservoir of patience that would be asked of me through pit-filled trials, bog-like temptations, and the desperate need for a new song in my worship…all coming at me in Job-like proportions. I now see, through tears of joy, that God asked me to embrace the ‘long-suffering’ of Psalm 40:1-3 so I could endure to the blessing of Psalm 40:4-5, namely trusting HIM. Basically, the Lord bundled up three years worth of comfort from His Word to more than last the comfort-famine I was going to endure. Like Joseph, every grain stored of my trust in God’s Word was crucial and would not only sustain me, but others too. I wish I could say this was easier than it sounds but I will share a word picture instead – that of an emperor moth.
It takes only a few hours after mating for a female Emperor moth to lay her eggs and the eggs take about ten days to hatch. Sounds easy-peasy so far, but the great lesson of the Emperor moth is far from it. Here’s an inside look from the January 9 entry in Streams in the Desert:
“I happened to witness the first efforts of my imprisoned moth to escape from its long confinement. All morning I watched it patiently striving and struggling to be free. It never seemed able to get beyond a certain point, and at last my patience was exhausted. The confining fibers were probably drier and less elastic than if the cocoon had been left all winter in its native habitat, as nature meant it to be. In any case, I thought I was wiser and more compassionate than its Maker, so I resolved to give it a helping hand. With the point of my scissors, I snipped the confining threads to make the exit just a little easier. Immediately and with perfect ease, my moth crawled out, dragging a huge swollen body and little shriveled wings! I watched in vain to see the marvelous process of expansion in which these wings would silently and swiftly develop before my eyes…but I looked in vain. My misplaced tenderness had proved to be its ruin. The moth suffered an aborted life, crawling painfully through its brief existence instead of flying through the air on rainbow wings.”
Many times, I’ve done the exact same thing, trying to skirt around the emperor-moth-like hard things in my life. But this story also reminded me that I love to fly, not in an airplane but flying more like a Sandhills crane. Many times I’ve seen these local phenomenons on our drive to the first service of Sandhills Church of Hope, one church in two locations. We only see these birds half the year; they were meant to FLY. I saw them about 2000 miles away in Southern Florida just last month while there visiting my parents over Christmas. As Spirit-led followers of Christ, we are meant to spiritually fly, being FREE from the comforts of this world and flying solely (not solo: Sandhills cranes fly in groups up to tens of thousands) to our marvelous Comforter.
One final thought on long-suffering lest we give way to fear or weariness: the longer the suffering, the greater the blessing of His presence. I began 2022 with tasting the fruit of home/church/community-born patience. The Spirit-given fruit born of embracing and enduring a store-house of long-suffering satisfied every spiritual taste bud and settled in my soul, leaving me with a sweet after-taste to share with others the comfort I have received.
I’d like to close this blog with a poem from the January 11 entry in Streams in the Desert devotional by L.B. Cowman (Mrs. Charles E):
They tell me I must bruise
The rose’s leaf,
Ere I can keep and use
Its fragrance brief.
They tell me I must break
The skylark’s heart,
Ere her cage song will make
The silence start.
They tell me love must bleed,
And friendship weep,
Ere in my deepest need
I touch that deep.
Must it be always so
With precious things?
Must they be bruised and go
With beaten wings?
Ah, yes! By crushing days,
By caging nights, by scar
Of thorn and stony ways,
These blessings are!
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