How to Cultivate Patience in a World of Instant Gratification
Does immediate gratification hinder our ability to wait well?
The other night, I went to our local DVD rental store, because yes, I’m old school and I’ve never had Netflix or cable. Try to set that detail aside, and stand with me for a moment in the ancient aisles of my DVD rental store, Family Video.
So I’m perusing movie titles, and a married couple in the aisle next to me has a conundrum. The wife points to a movie and says, “Oh, I really wanted to watch that one – but it’s only available on Blu-Ray.”
The husband has a quick solution, as many husbands do: “Well, we could always just run over to Best Buy and use my points to buy a new Blu-Ray player.”
If this interaction had been documented on Twitter, it would’ve merited the hashtag, #firstworldproblems.
I found myself instinctively looking at my watch. 8:40pm. Were they seriously going to rent the Blu-Ray movie of their choice, drive to Best Buy, and purchase a brand new Blu-Ray player, just so they could watch the movie they wanted to watch?
Now, there’s nothing wrong with shopping at Best Buy or having Best Buy points to spend — I fall into this category, on both counts.
But after hearing this couple’s interaction, I did wonder:
Does our culture’s knee-jerk reaction toward immediate gratification cause us to miss the important life lesson of learning patience?
After checking out my DVDs from Family Video, I climbed into my minivan and did a little soul searching. I thought about how quick I am to go out and buy things as I need them, provided the money is available.
During the ten years I lived in South Africa, I witnessed a different way of life – a culture and community who looked to friends and neighbors for material resources before rushing out to buy a brand new item.
I couldn’t help but wonder – if the Best Buy couple had been in a DVD rental store in South Africa, would the husband have offered a different solution? Would he have suggested that they borrow a friend’s Blu-Ray player for the weekend, rather than go buy a new one for themselves? Or would he have said to his wife, “I’m sorry that we aren’t able to watch that movie tonight, honey. Why don’t we see what else is available on DVD?”
Patience as more than a virtue
Most of us have heard the phrase, “Patience is a virtue.” Sure, patience is a noble and desirable trait – but is that all? For the Christian, isn’t patience a necessity? Don’t we define our lives by waiting for Jesus to return, by waiting to meet Him in glory?
Does our ability to satisfy our wants in the moment take away the blessing of learning how to wait well?
If I can’t wait well for things like watching a rented DVD or getting an Oreo McFlurry from McDonald’s, how will I wait well for eternity?
And what does it mean to “wait well,” anyway?
The morning after my visit to Family Video, the Best Buy interaction was still on my mind. I decided to open my Bible and do a little word study on the term, “wait.” Three phrases stuck out to me from the Scriptures: waiting quietly, waiting eagerly, and waiting patiently.
Lamentations 3:25-26 says, “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
What does it mean to wait quietly? Without complaint?
I’m embarrassed to admit that my kids have heard me groan with impatience when the red traffic light doesn’t turn green as soon as I’d like.
What else do I groan and grumble about when I don’t want to wait? The long lines at the McDonald’s drive-thru? The slow teller at the bank?
Am I setting an example of waiting quietly, or do I make sure everybody knows I’m not happy?
I found several verses in the Bible that talk about waiting eagerly.
Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Am I one of those? One who is eagerly waiting for Him? Or am I waiting with a begrudging, impatient heart?
According to Romans 8:19 and 23, “... the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God .... And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Galatians 5:5 says, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”
Is my life characterized by an eagerness for my own redemption? Do other people see eagerness in my words, my actions, my facial expressions? Or am I only waiting eagerly for earthly, material things?
How does living in a world of instant gratification affect our longing for heaven? According to Romans 8:25, “... if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
In reality, do we really wait for it patiently? Or do we just swing over to Best Buy to pick up a new Blu-Ray player?
Hebrews 6:15 says, “And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” Abraham waited patiently for God to lead him to the Promised Land – but remember that detour he took regarding the promise of an heir?
In Genesis 15:5, God told Abram his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. At the time, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
But maybe as the years past, Abram grew tired of waiting. Maybe his patience wore thin. The Bible doesn’t tell us what he was thinking, but when his wife, Sarai, suggested that Abram have a child with their slave, Hagar, Abram agreed (Genesis 16).
If you read on in Genesis, you’ll see it didn’t go so well for Abram when he took things into his own hands rather than waiting for the Lord’s promise to be fulfilled.
“Be patient, therefore, brothers,until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7-8).
The One Thing We Shouldn’t Wait For
There are many things worth waiting for, and many things we should learn to be more patient about – but there is one thing we should definitely not postpone for another second. That is acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives.
We have no idea when our time here will come to an end, or when Jesus Christ will return. It could be today. It could be tomorrow.
If you haven’t acknowledged your need for a Savior and declared Jesus as Lord of your life, don’t wait another day. Today is the day of salvation.
Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.