Following up on my Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry post, I’ve been mulling over the difference between urgency and impatience for a while now. On the one hand, impatience is obviously a bad thing. But I believe that having a sense of urgency is a good thing. What’s the difference?
Impatience is defined as …
a dislike of anything that causes delay.
Urgency is defined as a …
pressing importance requiring speedy action.
I grew up in a Christian tradition where urgency was a core value, a character quality. It was part of the mix of who we were. Because there was a strong belief that Christ’s return was imminent, there was an urgency about evangelism.
The denomination was less than a century old at the time so it was still a passionate movement, for the most part. Over time, movements tend to institutionalize and lose their passion — their fire — in the process. In other words, they lose their sense of urgency.
Of course, urgency can turn into impatience, and when it does, it becomes a bad thing. Proverbs 19.2 (NCV) says …
Enthusiasm without knowledge is not good. If you act too quickly, you might make a mistake.
Similarly, Proverbs 21.5 (CEV) says …
If you plan and work hard, you will have plenty; if you get in a hurry, you will end up poor.
There have been times in my life that I’ve gotten an idea that I have wanted to implement right then and there. I’m growing, though, and I’m learning to not act as quickly, to let the idea simmer a while in my heart and mind, giving me time to process it before moving toward implementation.
I think a key difference between impatience and urgency is a sense of trust in God’s timing in the whole process. If I trust God’s timing and leadership, I will be less likely to rush the process. But when I lose sight of God’s leadership and timing, I get out of sync with God’s timing and may move too quickly.
We need to have a sense of urgency, but we also need to understand that urgent doesn’t always mean acting on an idea right now. The time of waiting between the inspiration and implementation is a time of preparation. Preparation is an important part of the process!
Listening to a sermon podcast by Ed Young recently, I heard him say …
God is preparing you for what he has prepared for you!
He talked about how God led the Israelites through the wilderness. At one point in the story, we’re told that God led them “around” a particular town/area. Ed noted that the Hebrew word indicates that God actually led the Israelites in circles, apparently because they were not prepared for the battle that was sure to occur. Sometimes we may know where we’re headed, but we’re not yet ready to be there. We need time to prepare!
We need to live with a sense of urgency, yes, but we also need to live with a sense of patient trust in God’s timing and leadership. Do you have a sense of urgency or are you driven by impatience? Do you sense how God is preparing you for what he has prepared for you?