Our first reading describes a people whose patience has been “worn out” from their journey. We have all experienced times when our patience wears thin. Sometimes we snap at those we love, saying things we wish we hadn’t. Often things look different in the morning, when proper rest has restored our sensibilities to a normal level. Things that overwhelm us when we are in a state of fatigue can then return to being small things again.
As we become familiar with these patterns in our lives, we are able to deal with them more effectively. By pausing and tapping into a reservoir of experience, we can regain perspective and restore a more realistic outlook. Our friends and loved ones can help us in these times, giving us encouragement and sharing acts of kindness and mercy. But they can also lead us on a journey into darkness, doubt, and self-pity. Let us hope for the right friends when hardship comes, so that we do not lose faith!
Even with the right friends, we have a struggle to face during the midst of hard times. When hardships come our way, as they inevitably do, why is it so difficult to accept consolation and encouragement? Isn’t it remarkable how easily we accept voices that lead us into doubt – sometimes even seeking them out? We seek consolation in misery instead of in hope. While a chorus of praise sometimes emerges, how much more quickly does a chorus of blame when trouble comes!
We know these internal traits intimately. They remind us that we are not like God, and that sometimes we are openly at war with Him. Although God could squash us in that war, He chooses instead to show mercy.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians expresses the depth of the reality of the incarnation of our Lord. Jesus, being fully God, became fully man, embracing our humanity by becoming one of us, even unto matters of suffering and death. This is no heroic model rendered from our imagination, but a real human like us. His patience was tested and he experienced frustration with his friends who were constantly not getting his teaching. But he also laughed with these friends and sought their companionship. And he had compassion on those who got lost on this earth and were written off by others. Jesus shows us that we matter to God, who seeks after us and keeps offering to restore us, even to the point of giving his own life. His resurrection from the dead gives us hope that this can be our destiny, too.
This is our faith. As we identify with Jesus and share in a community of trust with others who follow him, perhaps we can learn to grow more patient and steadfast in the midst of our internal struggles with voices that call us off the path of life. Thanks be to God.