Patience and God


I thought this article by Fr. Ron Rolheiser in the Scottish Catholic Observer was very good, and not only because of the Teilhard de Chardin reference :-).  I encourage you to read the article here but set forth below is an excerpt:

“People are always impatient, but God is never in a hurry!”  Nikos Kazantzakis wrote those words and they highlight an important truth: We need to be patient, infinitely patient, with God. We need to let things unfold in their proper time, God’s time.

Looking at religious history through the centuries, we cannot help but be struck by the fact that God seemingly takes his time in the face of our impatience. Our scriptures are often a record of frustrated desire, of non-fulfillment, and of human impatience. It’s more the exception when God intervenes directly and decisively to resolve a particular human tension. We are always longing for a messiah to take away our pain and to avenge oppression, but mostly those prayers seem to fall on deaf ears.

And so we see in scripture the constant, painful cry: Come, Lord, come! Save us! How much longer must we wait? When, Lord, when? Why not now? We are forever impatient, but God refuses to be hurried. Why? Why is God, seemingly, so slow to act? Is God callous to our suffering? Why is God so patient, so plodding in his plan, when we’re suffering so deeply? Why is God so excruciatingly slow to act in the face of human impatience?

* * *

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin offers a second metaphor here when he speaks of something he calls “the raising of our psychic temperature.” In a chemistry laboratory it’s possible to place two elements in the same test tube and not get fusion. The elements remain separate, refusing to unite.  It is only after they are heated to a higher temperature that they unite. We’re no different. Often it’s only when our psychic temperature is raised sufficiently that there’s fusion, that is, it’s only when unrequited longing has raised our psychic temperature sufficiently that we can move towards reconciliation and union. Simply put, sometimes we have to be brought to a high fever through frustration and pain before we are willing to let go of our selfishness and let ourselves be drawn into community.

About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog ( explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
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12 Responses to Patience and God

  1. Lynda says:

    Thank you for posting this column by Ron Rolheiser. Teilhard’s observation is so insightful. We do bear a responsibility – we can’t just sit and expect God to take away our challenges and problems. Blessings.

  2. Heidi Viars says:

    Thank you for this reminder today. Someone once said that patience is something you need most when you have it the least … A blessed and patient Christmas season to you!

  3. Ponder Anew says:

    triple like! Oh Lord have mercy 🙂

    • LOL Kassey on your comment! To say that patience is not one of my strong suits is a significant understatement. I am like the dog in the cartoon but I would not wait for the third frame to scream “hurry up” 🙂

      Your comment reminded me to see what St. Thomas Aquinas had to say on patience (see link below). As usual, he provides us with a lot to “ponder” in “anew” fashion 🙂

      W. Ockham

  4. “Simply put, sometimes we have to be brought to a high fever through frustration and pain before we are willing to let go of our selfishness and let ourselves be drawn into community.”

    This is so true, at all levels: personal, national, and worldwide.

  5. But arent such ideas really the same as the question/doubt suggested by Beckett’s now classic play Waiting For Godot?
    Or the naive essentially childish conception of God as criticized in this essay

    • Frederick, yes you are correct that these questions have been around for at least 2,500 years, since the beginning of the concept of a monotheistic Creator. Beckett’s play is an excellent illustration of this question.

      Regarding your other point, I agree that misinterpretations of theistic beliefs result in naive overly-anthropomorphic concepts of God. However, theistic religions, especially monotheistic ones do belief in a God that has an active mind and who is beyond the space-time universe and acts within the space-time universe. This God has a purpose for the universe, for humanity and ultimately each person. Hence the question of why God does not reveal himself more clearly.

      Without commenting on the full belief system of Adi Da Samraj, his concept of God is not theistic.

      W. Ockham

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