Anthony was a wealthy Egyptian, who lived from 251-356 AD. That’s over 100 years, in a time where long life wasn't common.
When Anthony came to faith in Christ, he read the verse about selling everything he had and giving to the poor. He renounced his wealth, his wealthy upbringing and all his possessions. He left his family and went into the desert to live in solitude. Not for a week, or a month, or even a year, but for 20 years Anthony lived in solitude.
He gave up all he knew and lived alone to learn compassion. He gave up all his activities to understand prayer and communion with God. It is said of him, that he battled the devil intensely.
Curiously, when he emerged from two decades of solitude, he began to love and serve the poor. People sought out his thoughts and opinions. He ministered to many, including Emperor Constantine Augustus.
Ultimately, after serving the poor and in prisons, Anthony retired to solitude, to spend his days in direct communion with The Lord.
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are, quite naturally, impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new,
and yet it is the law of all progress that is made by
passing through some stages of instability -
and that it may take a very long time…
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing that His hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”
-Teilhard de Chardin
Our lives are lived at such a fast pace. We drive thru for a fast food meal. We don’t know how long it’s supposed to take, but if the magic time is 3 minutes, we intuitively become uneasy at 3:30, and begin to get angry at the 4-minute mark.
Honestly, we race thru life, don’t we?
Delayed gratification in our world means spending 3-4 more years in higher education, so that we can have a career in our chosen field for 30-40 years.
Jesus spent 30 years in obscurity before beginning the most transforming ministry ever lived. His ministry only lasted 3 years. Anthony spent 20 years in the desert, then served the poor. He was noticed and then brought to the Emperor for advice, decades after he decided to follow Jesus.
“Be still in the presence of The Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act.” – ps 37:7
We remember when we look back to see the things God has done, we’re on a journey. The best things rarely happen immediately. Our worries, cares and fears subside as we see God moving, and we learn slowly we cannot control the outcome.
In time, we learn to turn to our Father, and our hearts soften. He becomes our Strength, and Shield. He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we could ask or imagine. His timing, though, is not ours.
So, when we look at hard circumstances in our lives, or in the lives of those we love, we can trust His timing. We should remember we're on a journey, and they are, too:
Our kids, even if they’re wayward right now
Struggles with our spouse
Family members in the midst of illness, or a mess
Pressures on our family
Difficult relationships at work
Through our longest and hardest seasons, let’s remember the hand of God may move slowly, but it moves faithfully. He is at work, accomplishing everything He desires for us, and for those we love.