What are you waiting for right now? Patience is a constant challenge in our society, which celebrates instant gratification. But patience, while unpopular, is worth developing. Not only will patience help you build a strong character, but it will also help you experience wonder.
In Wake Up to Wonder, I explain well-being research that shows how choosing to be patient can lead to awe. All of the different ways that can happen involve a change in perspective. Waiting doesn’t have to be a passive, boring, or frustrating period of time to just get through. It can be an active time of cooperating with God’s work in your life. As you do so, God will change your perspective so you can notice more of what he’s doing, and that will inspire you with awe.
I was quite an impatient child, like most children are. But I remember being inspired by a fresh sense of wonder after my Girl Scout troop leader taught me how to be more patient. Over and over, that patient mother and volunteer helped me figure out a craft project at a troop meeting. My best efforts at creating a multicolored geometric design out of yarn looked like a tangled mess, with bits of yarn sticking out in odd directions. No matter how hard I worked, my work looked nothing like the picture-perfect creations of other girls who were more naturally talented artists. But my troop leader kept encouraging me to keep trying – and finally, I learned what to do. Those moments of wonder when I gazed gratefully on my successful creation fueled new confidence in me. From then on, I knew that if I was only patient enough, eventually I could create something beautiful regardless of my talents. I made lots more of those yarn crafts afterward in my free time at home, just for fun, to keep enjoying the wonder of discovering what I could do.
When you reflect on your own childhood, what was one time that being patient helped you discover wonder? Remember that feeling of inspiration that resulted from your choice to be patient. Then let that motivate you to keep building your patience. Psalm 33:20-21 connects waiting with trusting God: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.” The ways God builds your faith while you’re waiting for answers to prayers are as important as the answers for which you’re waiting. You can be confident that the time you spend waiting isn’t wasted, because God will deepen your faith in the process.
Here’s how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to become more patient, and discover wonder in the process:
Pray for God to give you the faith you need to trust him with situations in which you need to wait. When you trust that God has your best interests at heart, you’ll find it easier to be patient. Think about the ways God has worked in your life in the past, and expect more blessings in the future.
For a week or so, keep a journal in which you record all the occasions that caused you to become angry or disappointed each day. Look back on your journal and consider how your frustration led to impatience. Make it a habit of praying about anger or disappointment as it wells up within you, asking God to deal with the situations that cause frustration and give you the patience you need to persevere.
Ask God to show how you can slow down your pace in life to better hear how he is guiding you.
Realize that God means for you to be where you are. Either God led you into your current circumstances, or he allowed them to occur as the result of choices you made. Remember that his goal is a good one – to build your faith.
Stay calm and confident while you’re waiting for God to answer your prayers. Rather than wasting time and energy trying to solve a problem by yourself, trust God to act in his timing.
Overcome the temptation to take shortcuts. God’s plan for how he will deliver you from tough circumstances may be different from what you expect, but trust that he will do so in the best way and at the best time.
When unsure how to proceed, just take the next logical step by faith. God often guides moment by moment, giving you just enough information to take only the next step forward. Then he often waits to see whether you will take that step before revealing more of what he wants you to do. So, show God that you take his guidance seriously by acting on what you already know he wants you to do.
How will you pursue patience today?