Connections 12.11.2022: Having Patience

James 5:1-12

We are often a backward-looking or forward-looking society. It’s hard to stay in the present. Many of us spend lots of time thinking about past decisions, memories, or events that we wish we could do over. Many of us also spend lots of time pondering the future, thinking we will finally be content if we can just get to a certain life stage.

My daughter is a high school senior, and I feel that we have spent most of the past four years looking ahead. What can she do now that will impress colleges in the future? How will her grades affect future scholarships? What classes does she need in order to be considered for the top financial offers? I’ve also said things to her like, “When you get to college, you’ll meet more people who care about their education and are interesting and thoughtful.” “You’ll be glad to find some independence and learn how to live on your own.” “You’ll be able to get a job that fits your schedule better and finally earn some money.” And on and on.

Enjoying the present moments has been a challenge as we’ve spent so many of those moments planning her next stage of life. I have grieved that all along, but it’s hard to think of a better way. Huge transitions require planning. Patience is a difficult trait to master.

Today’s Scripture passage is about something far removed from my daughter’s college search. We are fortunate not to live in a society where we need patience to endure the kind of suffering the early Christians experienced. But there is still suffering today. People struggle to be patient for devastating chemo treatments to work. For inflation to subside so basic needs are affordable. For the election of leaders who truly care about human rights. For an end to drought and famine and oppression. And, yes, for the college acceptance and scholarship to arrive.

James doesn’t give some novel piece of advice or magical solution to the issue of waiting. “Be patient…brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord,” he writes (v. 7). It seems that we, like everyone before us, simply must learn the skill of patience as we wait for the next chapter, even if that next chapter won’t truly be complete until Jesus returns. Perhaps we can at least wait with our minds and hearts more fully invested in the present. There are needs all around us that we can help fulfill. There are also lovely sources of joy for us to experience. We can choose how to spend this time.


• Do you feel that you spend more time pondering the past or wondering about the future?
• What is helpful about remembering what has happened in your life? What is helpful about planning ahead for what will happen next?
• How can it be harmful to spend too much time on the past or future? What do we miss out on in the present?
• What does James’s advice for the present mean to you? What does patience look like in your life?
• How could your perspective change if you reframed the future as “the coming of the Lord” rather than “the next life stage”?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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