How to wait in a culture of instant gratification

Let’s admit it. We do not like waiting. We live in a society that desires instant gratification; waiting in line at a store, the slow pace of rush hour traffic, or sitting in a doctor’s office often agitates us. It seems like a painfully inefficient use of our time.

We find ourselves creating ways to fill those frustrating minutes. We make lists of things we want to accomplish. We check our phones for messages or pick up a magazine and read – anything to avoid those empty minutes that we tell ourselves could be used to accomplish greater things if only we were not forced to wait.

Waiting for an answer to prayer may even cause us to become impatient; we may wonder if God cares. Abraham waited 25 years for God to fulfill His promise to make him a father of a great nation. During those 25 years, Abraham became frustrated and yielded to doubt. Like many of us, he wanted God to act immediately.

Waiting, however, can have great purpose. God often uses it for a reason. Scripture encourages us to be patient. Psalm 27 directs us to be strong and take heart as we wait for the Lord. Isaiah tells God’s people to wait on the Lord so their strength will be renewed. Jesus tells His disciples to wait until they have been equipped for what he knew they would encounter. The book of Acts reveals that Paul remained blinded for three days until he was ready to accept the truth about Jesus as Savior. At the time, Paul had no idea he needed to rethink what he knew about God and His purpose for Paul’s life.

Sometimes when God allows delays, He needs to change our attitudes, worldly influenced beliefs, or things that are inconsistent with His will for our lives, the lives of others—even our country or the world. God can use long checkout lines, slow traffic, or delayed seating in restaurants as opportunities (if we allow Him) to help us learn how to wait for longer periods when He is already at work in our lives for a specific purpose we cannot imagine.

Waiting can open us to God’s greater vision and give us strength for what we are to do. It can also position others to accomplish God’s will. Seen from eternity’s perspective, waiting can be a gift.

When you find yourself questioning if God really cares or if He hears your prayer, or if you wonder when He will answer, ask yourself and God if there is a greater purpose for the waiting. Rather than getting frustrated, consider what God’s intention might be. Remember, God does not use the world’s timetable or belief system.

While we trust and wait, we can continue to be productive for God doing the things all believers are called to do: caring for others, sharing the love of the Gospel message, or feeding the hungry. Like Noah who built a boat while he waited for the rain, we have the joy of being about our Father’s business. Who knows? As we invest time in our Father’s business, the answers we seek may be revealed.