Our Brains Hate Waiting

Sunday Sermon 10.23.21

our impatient brain

Whether it’s waiting in traffic, standing in line, waiting for a delivery, report or answer, psychologists tell us our brain hates waiting, so we speed up everything else.

Dr. Richard Larsen, professor at MIT explains, “Under pressure, our brains stretch time”. In stress, things tend to seemingly slow down but we expect things to happen quickly. That, tends to make us impatient, and we often become angry. It is that anger, that makes it seem like it takes forever.

“How people wait (in line) matters more than the duration of the wait”, he says. Distraction helps though. Notice if you will the TV screens at the gas stations, the end caps along check out lines filled with goodies for you to consider, or how about the master of distractions (entertainment) in line – DISNEY.

the line environment at Disneyland’s Indiana Jones

The “psychology of waiting” studies suggest these facts: (I didn’t even know there was such a “psychology”)

  • uncertain waits feel longer than finite ones
  • unexplained waits feel longer than explained waits
  • unoccupied time feels longer
  • unfair waits are longer than equitable waits

Another consideration when it comes to our brain and waiting, is the idea that whoever makes others wait has the power over them.

As humans, we want to take hold of the reigns and take control, accomplish it on our own effort. Get it done, move on. Waiting is not something we do easily and there is evidence that we can “blame our brain”. (She said sarcastically)

My question tho’ is, what happens in the delay? What do we do in that wait? What do we allow? Remember, “how we wait matters more than the duration of the wait.”

Here’s a story for you to ponder.

There once was a group of over 500,000 people, who were given instructions by their leader to wait at this specific location for his return. He was going to the top of the mountain with his assistant, but he would be back. They were to wait at the bottom of the hill for him.

So, wait they did. Day 1, day 2, day 3. Week 1, week 2, week 3. They were waiting. They were also getting wrestless, impatient and angry. Their brain was not having this waiting.

Finally, at week 5, they had had enough! They were feeling the pressure of their uncertain wait. Their unexplained and unoccupied wait was totally unfair and they were going to take things into their own hands. No one was gonna control them, they were gonna do something about this.

Again, my friend, it’s what we do in the wait that may matter most. Never mind what our brain is telling us, the choices we make in the delay are vital.

So, what did they do? Here’s the account…

” When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain they gathered themselves together… said to Aaron … make us gods… we don’t know what’s happened to Moses…”

Exodus 32:1 ESV

In their impatience and anger, they took matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, Aaron, the second in command followed their lead. From their 5 week waiting room they were erupting with a plan of their own, they were done waiting.

Five weeks may or may not seem like a long waiting period to you, but look at what this text says,

” They have turned aside aside quickly...”

Exodus 32:7 ESV

In the big picture, their 5 week wait was a “quick” turn around. To them the wait was an eternity, but in the big scheme of things, it was a quick, short wait. Oh, for perspective, right?

In fact, to them it seem liked nothing was happening down here. They were stuck in the dry ole desert, at the bottom of a gigantic mountain, waiting for Moses to hike back down. What, for goodness sake was taking so long? They were unable to find any sort of distraction to take their mind off of the 5 week wait from hell.

As the story goes, from their impatient and raging wating, came a golden calf, fashioned from the rings and jewelry donated by the frustrated mob, by the hands of someone who should have known better. In fact, they all should have known better. But their brains were blazing and they were defeated in the delay. They had turned aside quickly from the instructions to wait.

One last point to make about this group. It was their view that nothing was happening. Here they were, 40 days later, and nothing had changed, nothing was different and of course that meant nothing was happening.

But not so fast. In fact, tucked away on this account is this enormously important phrase,

“… the tablets were the work of God, written by the finger of God…”

Exodus 32:16; 31:18 ESV

This is phenomenal! While they thought nothing was happening, God was at work. His finger was intricately involved. They couldn’t see Him working, didn’t believe He was working, and therefore decided to work themselves.

Oh, that lie, shouted from our brain, “YOU have to do something”, it screams. “NOTHING IS HAPPENING, you are stuck here waiting, and God is no where to be found.” Oh, that brain of ours…

All along, something was happening. Something they had no idea about, something so big their puny lil’ mind could never fathom. God was writing with His finger, words for them. God was at work for them. God was the power in control and they could trust Him in the wait.

And that is precisely the key. God was in control and they could trust Him in the wait. But how and why didn’t they?

What we do in the delays can defeat us (like it did them, they were judged with a plague & 3,000 people died by the sword), but it doesn’t have to, because learning to wait on the Lord and trust Him is at issue.

To “wait” for or on the Lord is a phrase that is used over 106 times in the Old Testament. It is an active verb not just sitting and impatiently tapping our fingers on the desk in a frustrated huff for something to happen. In fact, here’s the meaning:

“The Hebrew word, to “wait”, H6960 means – to bind together by twisting. To expect; the straining of the mind in a certain direction with an expectant attitude. “

Strong’s Concordance and Lexicon

Here’s what that looks like in my life.

When I find myself waiting for things to change in my life or family or nation, the thing I must choose to do is place my focus on God, His promises, His Word, and not be overcome by the cloud of doubt, impatience, anger or taking matters into my own hands. For me, I must choose to lean into Him, strain through the hard, seemingly inactive circumstance, and trust with confidence that He IS at work, even if I cannot see it. It is a mental and emotional battle I can and must choose.

My waiting in the delay is really about learning to wait in eager expectation of a positive result because the Lord is the one I trust and He has the power. Because He does have the power over me and my circumstances, and He loves me and has a plan for my life, I can trust Him completely.

King David knew this truth and lived this truth quite well.

” Wait on the Lord, and keep His way…”

Psalm 37:34 KJV

Isaiah and the prophets, too told us to wait on the Lord:

” … 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.”

Isaiah 40:31 ESV

As I learn to twist my will with His will in the waiting, I find renewed strength, the ability to fly above the problems, endurance to keep on running and faith to walk each day trusting Him.

Again I say, it is what we do in the waiting that determines our victory or defeat. We can learn to wait and trust in Him or we can, in unbelief make idols.

We are not meant to be idle as we wait for things to change for us. We are meant to be actively twisting our will to His and believing in His outcomes, purposes and plans. As we wait, we are actually waiting on Him.

Even though our brains hate waiting, may we continue shaping them to wait on the Lord in spite of what we see or how long the delay.

Go with God.


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