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Reflections: Patience isn't passive

Wrapping up my study of the book of James this week, I thought about Fred Rogers. Yes, the Mr. Rogers whose “Neighborhood” provided a cozy, welcoming atmosphere to my now-adult children and many of their peers.


Along with being a children’s TV personality, Mr. Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, and his faith was foundational to how he conducted the show. Not only did he introduce kids to fun topics like how crayons are made and visit with “neighbors” like jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, but he also taught important character traits, such as patience. He sometimes built delays into his appointments intentionally, encouraging his young audiences to patiently anticipate something good to come. Often, he went to the piano to play and sing about “Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting.” I’ll bet I’m not the only mom who borrowed that song when we were stuck at the doctor’s office for an extra hour or got to the road construction just as the sign holder flipped the “stop” side our way.


James didn’t know Mr. Rogers when he wrote, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer awaits the precious fruit of the soil—how patient he is for the fall and spring rains. You, too, be patient and strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near” (5:7–9, BSB). But he did know Jesus, who sought God the Father for timing and guidance for his earthly ministry. James also grew up around Mary and Joseph, and probably heard stories of their patient obedience regarding Jesus’ birth and having to flee the country.


James wrote to early Christians who likely faced persecution, frustration with the Roman rulers, and more. They probably hoped Jesus would hurry and come back. Maybe they were trying to share the gospel with family and friends, and were hoping for results from their witness. James didn’t know exactly when Jesus would return, but he did know that Jesus had instructed his followers to work diligently, share the gospel, provide for their families, and meet practical needs until He did return.


It’s hard to be patient when results don’t come right away. Maybe you’re awaiting health improvements after carefully adjusting your diet and activity; maybe it’s the garden you had to replant after a weather change or a visit from a raccoon; maybe you’re watching an adult child question their faith even though you tried to instill biblical principles.


James would understand; he goes on to reference Job, who lost everything including his health but could still say, “I know my Redeemer lives, and in the end, He will stand on the earth” (19:25, NIV). I personally know parents who prayed for years without seeing change in a wayward child, but then finally got the miracle they sought. For some, the answer didn’t come before the parent passed away, but they didn’t stop praying. A missionary friend who fought cancer didn’t get his miraculous healing, but the grace with which he faced declining health pointed many of his Muslim friends to Christ.


I need to remember that patience isn’t passive: It teaches me to rely on God and trust His timing, but to continue to work while I’m waiting.


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