General Dan Sickles could have used some more patience. Tired of waiting—and believing he knew best what to do—he allowed his impatience to cloud his judgment. Commander of the Union Army’s 3rd Corps, Sickles, led 11,924 men into battle on July 2, 1863, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Contrary to his commander’s orders, General Sickles moved the 3rd Corps from its assigned defensive position on Cemetery Ridge about a mile forward to the Peach Orchard. Sickles wanted to occupy the slightly higher ground there, but his men found themselves trying to defend territory too large for the 3rd Corps alone.
When two Confederate divisions attacked, the 3rd Corps was decimated. Throughout the day, other Corps had to serve as reinforcements. The cost of the general’s impatience was 578 men killed, 3,026 wounded, and 606 missing. That total—4,210—meant that Sickles lost nearly half of his men. General Sickles himself was severely injured, resulting in the loss of a leg. All these avoidable and tragic deaths and the loss of his leg happened because he refused to follow orders.
Sickles impatience fueled his insubordination, believing that he knew better than General Meade. From his viewpoint, his plan made more sense. Choosing to disobey Meade’s commands, Sickles led his men into danger, a decision that cost almost 600 soldiers their lives.
Curious Questions: How patient are you and I? On a scale of 1 to 10—with 10 being having the patience of Job—how patient are we when we have to wait in line at the grocery store or deal with traffic? How patient are we when we have to wait for God to answer our prayers?
Many of us, like General Sickles, are impatient, and we hate waiting. We rush ahead, either disregarding God’s wisdom or not having received His clear direction about where to go. Even when the Lord has told us to wait, the exercise of patience makes us feel uncomfortable and out of control. Our impatience—our desire to get busy, to start moving—can overrule our desire for God’s guidance, resulting in painful consequences we could have avoided.
Be mindful that waiting is a crucial part of any battle strategy. Waiting on the Lord is essential part of God’s plan, being mindful that we are participating in a more significant battle than any circumstances on this earth. Our obedience to God’s commands contributes to outcomes that often have eternal significance. Jesus’ instructions to His followers, recorded in the book of Acts, offer a good example.
The Blessings of Obediently Waiting
Because the disciples obediently waited as Jesus had directed (Acts 1:3-5), they received the blessing of unimaginable wisdom, power, and strength. On the Day of Pentecost, Jesus’ followers experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And these Spirit-filled believers formed the church, the family of God we are part of today.
We need to live with the kind of godly patience that Jesus’ disciples modeled. When we do, we reflect on the patience God shows us in a way that prompts nonbelievers to wonder why we aren’t stressed. Colossians introduces another aspect of patience: we are to put on patience “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another” (Colossians 3:12-13 NIV). This passage connects patience to forgiveness and reflects how the new person, filled with the Holy Spirit, should act.
David spoke of this many times in the Psalm 40:1-3, 130:4-6, and 27:13-14. Leaders like David understood that when we wait on God, we choose to trust His will, wisdom, and way. Because trials and temptations are inevitable in this life, God uses times of waiting to prepare us for the road ahead by growing our trust and developing our ability to be patient.
Let’s Get Practical: Becoming More Patient
- Study the lives of men like Job, Abraham, Moses, and Joseph. Note how their relationship with God helped them be more patient.
- Who, among the people you know, first comes to mind when you think of patience? Invite them to coffee to hear their story and to learn how God developed patience in their life.
- Put together a list of Scriptures or worship songs that you can quote or sing to yourself when you’re waiting in line. By doing so, you’re preparing ahead of time to practice patience.
When God calls us to wait patiently, and He enables us to do so, we can know the freedom of trusting in His perfect ways and perfect timing. We will be free of the anxiety that comes with trying to be in control of situations that are beyond our control. When we relinquish our problems and challenges to God and then wait on Him to act, we may be amazed by what He has for us, just as the believers in Jerusalem were amazed on the Day of Pentecost. Obediently choosing to wait on the Lord—and relying on His Spirit to fuel our patience—is one of the wisest decisions we can ever make.
What does each of these passages say about patience?
Psalm 33:19-21 NIV Psalm 37:6-8 NIV Psalm 38:14-16 NIV
Isaiah 40:28-31 The Message Colossians 3:11-13 NIV
2 Timothy 4:1-3 NIV James 1:2-8 NIV
For Further Reflection
Waiting is an expectant patience. It’s a patience that says, “I don’t know what God is going to do, but I know that God is going to do something.” — Max Lucado
Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting, and growing, practicing patience, and being persistent. — Billy Graham
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