Delaying gratification is something most people don’t like to do. When we want something, we want it now. We like things fast — fast food, fast friends, fast fixes, fast fulfillment — FAST, FAST, FAST, FAST!
When it comes to our wants, life is usually more slow than fast. The journey through life includes delays, detours, unexpected interruptions, uncooperative circumstances, and uncooperative people! When we face these challenges we’re very vulnerable to a dangerous and potentially deadly attitude — impatience.
In the Old Testament, we find the story of the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land. If you’re familiar with the story, you know that it took much longer than they hoped to get there.
On one occasion, they had a wonderful solution that would have gotten them into Canaan more quickly. A shortcut through the land of Edom would have reduced a significant amount of time to their trip. But the Edomite king said “no” to Moses’ request to travel through their land. This meant that the Israelites had to travel around it. Going around something always takes a lot longer than going through something!
Take a look at the story:
Numbers 21:4-9 (NLT) “Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient with the long journey, and they began to speak against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!” So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!”
The Israelites had to go around Edom, since the Edomites wouldn’t give them permission to go through their territory. This trip around the Edomite territory took a lot longer than they anticipated.
The spiritual and emotional result of this extended route was frustration and impatience. Their frustrations were expressed through grumbling. They spoke against God and Moses. In their minds and mouths they went from “It’s taking a long time to get there” to “We’re never going to get there!”
How does this apply to you? Often the amount of time it takes to get something you desire, to accomplish a particular goal you’re pursuing or to complete a particular “journey” you’re on is much longer than you desired or expected.
There are so many things in life we long to see happen more quickly than they do. There are situations that linger, delays that feel unending and changes that seem impossible. These experiences can rob us of faith and hope. They can make us feel like we’re never going to make it to our desired destination; that we’re never going to see the Promised Land we long for.
What we do in times like these matter. God is watching and listening. Either we joyously and persistently continue the journey, or we give in to the poison of impatience.
Impatience is dangerous because it attacks our faith and hope. It paints worse case scenarios in our minds. It causes us to say and do things that are counterproductive to the very goals we want to see accomplished and dreams we want to see fulfilled. Impatient people become their own enemy.
Impatience never produces anything good. It destroys many people along the way. We pay a high price when we become impatient! Be patient and keep walking! You’re going to make it!