Waiting for God

Last year, young Catholics praying on the streets of New York performed a short play. A young man would step away and invite Jesus to take the steering wheel of his car, but would get scared and grab the wheel before Jesus could sit on the driver's seat. It reminded me of the times I had prayed for something, but I would not have the patience to wait for God to act.

Sometimes waiting upon God's action is difficult because we see things only from our point of view. We don't know or understand God's timing or plan. We know he loves us, and for that we try to be patient.

Patience means to endure hardships or trials with trust and hope in the providence of God. Even though we live in a world of instant gratification and hyperconnectivity, the need to wait for things patiently is a virtue -- in fact, it is a fruit of the Spirit, as Galatians 5:22 says. St. Augustine called patience the companion of wisdom.

Indeed, being patient involves practicing other virtues like humility, self-control, tolerance and generosity.

We spend a lot of our lives waiting: waiting in the school line, waiting at the doctor's or waiting for dinnertime. Those everyday situations require us to be patient. Other times, our patience is tested with trials like a friend's betrayal, the lack of a job or the illness of a loved one.

These trials are also part of God's plan for us to grow in faith. The waiting might make us focus on him or give us more time to be ready for what we were hoping for. Reacting patiently or impatiently is up to us.

Patience also allows us to work well with others, have better relationships with our classmates and accomplish long-term goals. It can also foster a confidence and decisiveness that will lead to success later in life, as well as acceptance, kindness and compassion toward others.

Often, what is worthwhile takes time (and effort) and requires us to think about long-term consequences. For example, nurturing meaningful relationships, leading a healthy and joyous life, pursuing a career and saving for the future, all take patience and perseverance.

Those moments when we have to wait remind us that we are not in control. ... Do we remain steadfast or get frustrated once we face this? It is not easy, but we can manage our reaction to delays in plans and the discomfort they bring. If we trust in God, little by little, our patience will grow.

Since we can fulfill some of our wants and needs quickly -- two-day delivery, entire seasons of TV shows available at once, answers to any question at your fingertips -- being impatient can become our default mood. So, how do you cultivate patience in an impatient world?

Think of patience as a muscle that needs to be constantly exercised. By practicing patience, we can gain the strength to wait.

Take a deep breath and realize that the delays are only temporary. Avoid resentment or anger and instead give thanks for the graces you already have received. Looking for God's purpose can also be a way to remember that he wants the best for you.

Practicing patience gives us hope and allows us to rest in the Lord.

As St. Teresa of Avila said: "Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing make you afraid. All things are passing. God alone never changes. Patience gains all things. If you have God, you will want for nothing. God alone suffices."

- Maria-Pia Negro Chin writes the "Coming of Age" column for Catholic News Service.