In my house it goes something like this: “Daddy, can I open my birthday presents now?” “No, it’s not your birthday. That’s two weeks from now.” The next morning, he (my five year old) wakes up and says, “Daddy, you forgot to say happy birthday to me. Can we open my presents now?” As if I would have forgotten what day his birthday was and let him open his gifts. “No, it’s not your birthday. Nice try.”
Everything worth having, in their little world, is worth having now. This instant. They want their sippy cup five minutes ago. They have to go potty right now, in the middle of church service. “Daddy, will you play with me?” “Yes I will. Give me five minutes.” Thirty seconds later, “Daddy, are you ready to play now?”
This tendency is mildly cute in children. The problem is that it also manifests itself in us as adults, just maybe sometimes in more “sophisticated” ways. We want what we want now, whether it’s the baby we’ve longed for, the promotion we’ve worked hard to acquire, the spouse we’ve hunted for, or the escape from a difficult situation we’ve prayed for.
So often in my mind I feel like the story ought to go like this: I take three steps toward my dream, five minutes later I get a phone call from the chairman of a major company who wants to pay me an honest wage of $5 million a year, and I sail off into the sunset on the yacht I recently purchased from Snoop Dogg’s people. Minimal effort, short period of difficult straining, huge success and incredible return on investment.
And completely not how life works. The suffering goes on way longer than we’d ever imagine. The toll of loss along the way is more painful than we can tolerate. We feel stuck, hopeless, and use words like “trapped” to describe our lives. Me personally, in the midst of this, I think of one verse a lot—“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).
But as I spent some time wallowing in self pity recently thinking about how much time I’ve spent in the “hope deferred season of life” (not recommended), I noticed something I’ve never noticed before—the verse directly prior. “Wealth gained hastily (your dream) will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (13:11).
You ever hear what happens, in majority, to the people who win the lottery? It destroys their life. They get instant wealth and it’s too much to bear. They end up worse after their jackpot than before. Somehow in God’s wisely ordered world, things that come instantaneously aren’t generally good for us. They may even destroy us, which includes our dream.
God protects us from destroying ourselves by not giving us what we want (even if it’s a great thing) right away. The best way to pursue our dream is little by little, small step at a time, gradually progressing toward the desired end. So thank God for the little steps you probably don’t even realize you’re taking toward whatever it is you’re seeking, and wait prayerfully with hope: “The hope of the poor shall not perish forever” (Psalm 9:18).
Your day will come, the sun will rise, and the day of little will one day be a grateful pile of “a lot,” though God will probably change what you think that is. In the words of Edmond Dantes, “wait and hope.”