Do you become antsy when standing in a long line? Does it irritate you to sit through a green light because the driver in front of you is texting? Do you ever pull out of line at a drive-in restaurant because the wait is too long? Do you fret when waiters don’t serve you promptly? Do you ever yell at your computer for taking too long to process a command? Do you become angry when people don’t catch on to what you are saying fast enough?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be falling prey to the sin of impatience. Impatience is an unwillingness to accept anything that delays you, impedes your progress, or causes you to wait. It is a form of restlessness that grows out of self-centeredness. When impatient, you want the world to operate on your timetable, to do what you want when you want it.
Because of technological advances such as smart phones, the Internet, personal computers, and microwave ovens, we rarely have to wait long for anything. With an Internet search, we can find information in seconds that used to require hours of searching through dusty tomes in the library. We can get instant cash from an ATM 24 hours a day instead of waiting for the bank to open and writing a check. We can call or text anyone anytime on our smart phone when we used to have to search for a pay phone. We can microwave a meal in seconds that used to require hours to prepare. At Christmas we can send e-cards instantly without needing an envelope, stamp, or mailbox.
As a society, we have become accustomed to instant communication, instant food, instant information, and instant cash. The more accustomed we become to instant everything, the less patience we become with waiting. This is a dangerous trend because impatience is a sin. In fact, its opposite—patience—is a manifestation of the fruit of the spirit as shown in Galatians 5:22-23.
Dan knew he needed help. His impatience was causing him major problems. Just this morning he almost ran over a child when he tried to whip his car around a school bus that, in his mind, was taking too long to load the children. The bus driver wrote down Dan’s license plate number and turned it over to the police. As a result, Dan was issued a ticket that carried a $500 fine. At home his children avoided Dan because he snapped at them if they didn’t respond quickly enough to his orders. At work, subordinates and colleagues gave Dan a wide berth because of his hair-trigger impatience.
When Dan approached his pastor for help, Reverend Michael wasn’t surprised. “Dan, every Sunday I look out at the congregation and there you are checking your watch. You check it every two minutes as if you can’t wait for the sermon to end. I doubt you even hear what I say.” Dan was taken aback. Like many impatient people, Dan was so self-focused he had no idea others noticed his impatience.
Reverend Michael told Dan the first step in overcoming impatience is acknowledging he doesn’t rule the world. That is God’s province. “Dan, don’t expect the world to operate on your timetable. There is only one God, and it isn’t you. When things aren’t happening as fast as you want, take a deep breath. Then, instead of becoming antsy or restless, say a prayer. Ask God to help you demonstrate for others the fruit of the spirit with special emphasis on patience.
“Another thing you might try when feeling impatient is counting your blessings. Dan, the things you become impatient over are usually of little consequence, but the blessings God has showered on you are not. When you become impatient with your children, take a deep breath and remind yourself it’s a blessing to have them. There are husbands and wives in this church who cannot have children and would gladly trade places with you. When you find yourself becoming impatient with people at work, remind yourself how fortunate you are to have a good job. Several people in our church recently lost their jobs when the paper mill shut down.”
The last thing Reverend Michael told Dan was to approach life on God’s timetable rather than his own. “Dan, to help you remember this bit of advice, memorize Isaiah 40:31: ‘but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.’ Your life will get better overnight if you accept God’s timing instead of expecting the world to accept yours.
Dan typed up Isaiah 40:31, made several copies of it, and placed the copies strategically; one in his car, one on his office desk, and one on his refrigerator at home. Then, from that day forward, whenever he felt impatience welling up inside of him, Dan read Isaiah 40:31. In fact, he soon had it memorized. He also kept a copy of the receipt for the $500 fine he had to pay with him as a reminder of the child he almost ran over because of impatience.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com