Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow until the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
I’ve spent many years as a member of Weight Watchers, trying and hoping to change my habits and make healthier choices. Nearly every leader I’ve ever had in the program has counseled new members against impatience, warning us that weight loss — and even more so, life change — takes time. They reminded us that we didn’t get to where we were overnight, and it wouldn’t change overnight either.
This was the hardest part of my weight-loss journey — harder even than avoiding second helpings at dinner, adding more vegetables to my day, or getting back on the treadmill. Remembering that my problems had developed one day at a time, one pound at a time, even one choice at a time felt impossible when I was finally ready for change and anxious to see results.
Honestly, I’ve noticed this impatience show up in many areas of my life. Why wait for five to seven business days when I can get my packages with two-day shipping instead? Why let my dinner simmer all day in the slow cooker when I can zap it with the pressure cooker? Why begin watching a television show when it first premieres, waiting a whole week for a new episode, when after a few months I can binge the whole thing on a streaming service? And speaking of streaming, why isn’t the latest season of my favorite show available yet?
Like a little kid counting down to a birthday, holiday, or other big event — asking each morning how many more sleeps until the big day — I want what I want, and I want it right now. Whether we’re talking about something inconsequential like a television show or something significant like healing or rescue from a serious situation, most of us tend to quickly turn to frustration or even despair when we don’t get the answer, the results, or the relief we desire. In a society focused on immediate gratification, we forget the virtue of patience.
Of course, if we’re willing, we don’t have to look far to see how many good things come only after waiting. Flowers bloom in the spring, but not until they’re good and ready. Crops planted in springtime can’t be harvested until the summer and fall. We can check on that tomato plant on the back porch every thirty minutes after planting it, but nothing we do will make it produce fruit any faster. If we’re patient, though, we might learn to enjoy the process — the watering, the watching, even the waiting for the payoff in the end.
The same is true of God and His plans. We can’t make Him move any faster. But if we can learn to be still and wait for the Lord, eventually we will see Him answer our prayers, and in the interim, we will discover so much about ourselves and about God. We can grow closer to God in those seasons of waiting and see our faith deepen as we rely on Him and His good plans.
When I think of Anna in the temple, faithful and patient as she waited for the promised Messiah, I’m inspired to trust God to give me the patience I need in my own life. I laugh when I imagine Anna’s joy at seeing Mary and Joseph walk through the doors with Jesus, and I’m encouraged to wait for my own moment to exclaim, “Finally! He’s here!”
But I can’t do it on my own, and, I suspect, neither can you.
Patience does not come naturally for most of us, especially when overnight shipping and thirty-minute delivery are everyday options. But God promises to give us what we need, and that includes patience. As we face long-term challenges and seemingly unending struggles — or even when we simply can’t get exactly what we want right when we want it — let’s ask God to give us patience. Let’s ask Him to empower us to wait for Him like Anna did until the day we see His promises fulfilled.
God, it’s so hard to wait. Please help me to be patient. Remind me of Your promises and give me faith that You will fulfill them. When impatience rises in me, empower me to wait on You, and help me to pay attention to how You move even in the waiting. Amen.
This article was written by Mary Carver, and published in Empowered: More of Him for All of You.
Empowered: More of Him for All of You, by Mary Carver, Grace P. Cho, and Anna E. Rendell is designed to incorporate the five major components of our being — physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual. The sixty Scripture passages and devotions invite you to see from different angles how God empowers us, and each day ends with prayer and reflection questions to deepen the learning. Grab a copy now. We pray it blesses you.