The microwave is one of the greatest inventions for the kitchen. It allows us to quickly reheat or cook food, including popcorn (my favorite). But it might have been only the beginning of the trend to deliver instant gratification and a cause of the increasing lack of impatience rampant today. Everyone wants what they want right now!
Impatience isn’t the only consequence of our want-it-now, get-it-now society. We’ve stopped thinking long term. In an article by Paul Roberts he talked about how the growing problem of wanting and getting what we desire instantly is causing more problems than just a lot of impatience. “Under the escalating drive for quick, efficient ‘returns,’ our whole socioeconomic system is adopting an almost childlike impulsiveness, wholly obsessed with short-term gain and narrow self-interest and increasingly oblivious to long-term consequences” (“Instant Gratification,” The American Scholar, Autumn 2014).
We see evidence of this everywhere, from drivers cutting each other off in traffic because they’re in a hurry to students cheating on tests rather than patiently studying to really understand the material. Get-rich-quick schemes are always with us, but more and more we see corporations focusing on making profits over the long term good of society.
Instant gratification is having a negative effect on overall maturity, as Roberts says: “The notion of future consequences, so essential to our development as functional citizens, as adults, is relegated to the background, inviting us to remain in a state of permanent childhood.”
People as a whole used to be able to wait patiently: farmers waited for their crops; we waited for letters in the mail; travel took longer and news wasn’t instant. We didn’t have mobile banking, mobile shopping or overnight deliveries. Everything took time.
I think this has also affected the way we think of God’s plan and how we anticipate the Kingdom. With the focus on getting what we want immediately, have we forgotten this life isn’t all there is? We want everything to be perfect now, forgetting the perfection of heaven is far off and is what we wait for with great anticipation.
Peggy Noonan, former speech writer for Ronald Reagan, said something that struck me as a profound truth, especially in our impatient times: “I think we have lost the old knowledge that happiness is overrated—that, in a way, life is overrated. …Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generations of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such unhappiness. The reason: If you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness—if that is what you believe, then you are not disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches, you are despairing” (Forbes Magazine: September 14, 1992).
Life is not about getting everything we want right now. It’s about doing the best we can, “living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, NLT) and looking forward, with patience to the time when God will make all things new. This life isn’t all there is: we have a future well worth waiting for.