It might be one of the most dangerous prayers you can pray: God, give me patience. So often God’s response is not to give you more patience. Rather, He gives you more opportunities to be patient; sitting at the RMV, the waiting room at the doctor, the desire for a new car, the want of a new house, or standing in a long line at the grocery.
About a year ago I read an article that zeroed in on the most important skill to develop if you want to be wealthy someday… Any guesses? The ability to delay instant gratification. Which, living in the American society we live in, is not an easy skill to obtain.
Companies are experts at convincing us into the latest technology, gadget, or status increasing purchase. But more than that, they convince us that we need it now and if we wait too long, we will be obsolete and out of style. We want what we want and we want it now. However, researchers have discovered that the ability to pass up smaller rewards now almost always leads to larger rewards later (Source).
And if this is the case when it comes to purchasing stuff, how much more important is patience when it comes to following God? Shan Wood recently said,
Being patient is a direct expression of your faith. It’s a measurement of how much we actually trust God.
Yikes… That’s pretty scary when I consider how impatient I can be. But it is still true. I think when we rush into things, we rush into them because we fear missing out (FOMO!). Maybe you’ve had thoughts like this before:
I’ll marry him because nobody else will love me.
I’ll leave this company after two years because they will never promote me.
We’ve tried three times to start a family, but I guess God is mad at us for something.
I’ll just find new friends because she will never change and I don’t want to wait on her.
This house is outside of our budget, but it’s the only thing available now.
You see how we often convince ourselves to act now because we are scared of the unknown that lies ahead? Fear based decisions are never good. But they are easier. However, the hard work of following Jesus requires patience and trust. It means believing that His reward is worth giving up something good now for something greater later.
So before you make an immediate decision, can I suggest three quick questions that might slow you down and help you practice patience?
Question #1: What is the cost?
Every decision we make will cost us something… Money, a relationship, integrity, opportunity. For example, when you rush into buying a house, not only are you spending lots of money, but you’re also sacrificing the close proximity to neighbors that you’ve developed friendships with over the years in your current apartment. While that may be okay with you, did you ever think that God put you in that apartment to serve and love your neighbors to Christ?
Question #2: Will it add lasting value?
Sure, switching companies may provide more money, but is the boss a good person to work for? Will you have flexibility to be a present spouse or parent? I know lots of people who have lots of money, but their work and family life is miserable. Or maybe you’re ready to ghost a friendship… Will having that person out of your life really make life better? Will the avoidance and awkwardness of seeing them in town make that much of a difference in your life?
Question #3: Why right now?
If you’re mad at someone, does cutting them out of your life right this minute really make that big of a difference? Are you ready to give up, in a moment of anger, years of friendship (both past and future) because you don’t have the patience to work through the conflict? When we make impulse decisions, we make poor decisions. Sleep on it. Talk through it. Reflect on why you want to make the decision now.
As followers of Jesus, we are all trying to get better at waiting on God… It’s certainly not easy and requires some intense self-discipline. But it’s worth it. The reward later is far greater than the pleasure now.
Comment below and let us know how you practice patience!