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How to Cope When God Conceals His Progress Bar of Time

As much as we’d rather know when, God has determined we only need to know what.

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I recently upgraded my iPhone and had a problem transferring the data from my old backup to the new iPhone. So I called Apple.

Why God Doesn’t Show His Progress Bar

(Photo: Zach Vega. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

As I talked to the tech during the data transfer, he really wanted to screen-share so he could see what was happening on my computer, but the connection wouldn’t work.

Because he couldn’t see my screen, he continued to ask me every minute or so what the status was on the progress bar. Finally, I said something like, “Look, asking me about it isn’t going to speed up the process. Feel free to work on something else, and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”

Did he think when it was done I would say nothing?

Then it struck me. We do the same with God.

The (Wonderful) Progress Bar

Think of what life would be like without the progress bar—or its equivalent. We have them everywhere:

  • The “Don’t Walk” sign counts down to let us know when we can cross the street.
  • The “Take a Number” system at the store tells us who comes next.
  • When we’re on hold, the automated phone service assures us our place in the queue.

And then, of course, there’s the progress bar on our computers.

Progress bar

(Photo: by Rich Tabor)

The computer’s progress bar shows us how far along the download or copy has progressed—and more importantly, how much longer the process will take.

At a conference in 1985, a graduate student named Brad Myers reported how he tested 48 students as they searched a database. Some used a progress bar and some didn’t. 86% of users liked the progress bar. The New York Times reported Myers as saying: “People didn’t mind so much if it was inaccurate. They still preferred the progress bar to not having anything at all.”

Why God Doesn’t Show His Progress Bar

The Apple tech’s incessant asking me the status of my progress bar made me realize we are in the same position with God. King David asked it four times in only two verses:

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? —Psalm 13:1–2

The Lord has progress bars in our lives He isn’t sharing. To name only a few:

Only God sees the progress bar. That’s on purpose. God doesn’t share a progress bar because human nature would put off getting serious about Him.

progress bar waiting

While We Wait

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him about the kingdom of God’s progress bar, He reminded them:

It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses . . .  —Acts 1:7–8

So it is with us. As much as we’d rather know when, God has determined we only need to know what. We should be His witnesses while we wait on the progress bar to complete.

It’s almost as if God tells us what I told the Apple tech: “Look, asking me about it isn’t going to speed up the process. Feel free to work on something else, and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”

Do we really think when God is done He will say nothing?

Tell me what you think: Why do you think we like the progress bar? To leave a comment, just click here.

Waiting on GodLike This Post? Get the Whole Book!

This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing.

• What do you do when the life God has promised you looks nothing like the life he has given you?

If you find yourself waiting on God—or if you don’t know what God wants you to do next—this book offers a wise and practical guide to finding hope and peace in life’s difficult pauses.

You will discover what to do when it seems God does nothing.


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