James 5:7-12 - Patience in Suffering
It's tough enough to wade through suffering. How are we do it patiently?
This is the seventeenth of an 18-part devotional series. Sign-up here to have these devotionals sent straight to your inbox.
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
Patience surely is a virtue, as the saying goes. A precious picture of patience is a little boy sitting with his fishing rod in the water. He sits patiently next to his father, confident in his father’s sure words that there are fish to catch in this pond. Now, that patience may waver and often does as the time goes by ever so slowly without a bite. But his initial confidence in his dad’s wisdom and experience give him great determination to wait.
In this assuring passage, James calls upon God’s people in Jesus Christ to respond to the events of the world and in their own lives in three different ways, much as the Psalmist did in Psalm 37.
The psalmist tells God’s people,
...to not fret yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers. For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness… Be patient before the LORD and wait patiently for HIM; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the one who carries out evil devices… In a little while, the wicked will be no more. (Psalm 37:1-3; 7)
In verse 7, James directs us to be patient until the coming of the Lord Jesus, much like a farmer waits for the precious fruit to grow from the seed he had planted. He can wait for both the early and later rains, over which he has no control, with patient confidence since all that is needed for his seed to produce its fruit is in God’s almighty care.
Then James rightly calls us to be patient and establish our hearts; to make them firm in our trust that Jesus will come again to make all things right as he ends our history and brings a final judgment. Patience amidst circumstances when evil prospers and evil doers oppress others is a matter of not standing on our own ability to correct the wrong and make it right (though we are useful instruments and should strive to be used as such). Instead, our standing firm in the midst of suffering is best done upon the sovereign righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. It is upon this truth and this truth alone that any of us can remain steadfast in suffering.
James reminds us of God’s work in Job’s life. Satan tried to chastise God by saying that Job only loved and obeyed him because of how materially blessed Job was. God gave Satan permission to adversely affect Job without killing him.
We remember that in the space of one day, and by the limited power of Satan, Job lost everything: his possessions, his family and his health. As a result His wife advised him to curse God and die. But instead, with patient understanding in the midst of suffering, Job professed with a steadfast love, “The LORD gave, the LORD has taken away, blessed be the name of the LORD.”
As you inevitably face various types of suffering in your days upon this earth, may it be your renewed perspective and your sincere desire to respond as the trusting farmer and the devoted Job both did in their situations.
The farmer, being sure of God’s generous care through bringing rain both early in the season and late, patiently waited for the fruit of his planting to arrive. And Job, in the midst of his great suffering at the hands of Satan, waited, not always patiently, but confidently in the loving generous care of God in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ again reminds us of the true source of the farmer’s trust and Job’s confidence as recorded in Matthew 11,
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:27-30)
Rev. Ron Zeigler is the State Capitol Minister in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.