By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
The saying “good things take time” sounds encouraging when you’re waiting for something good that you hope will happen. But does this phrase reflect the truth of what the Bible says? While patience is a biblical virtue, do all good things really take time? Here’s the meaning of this popular saying and how it can help you develop patience and strengthen your faith.
Where Does the Saying “Good Things Take Time” Come From?
People have been saying “good things take time” for years, but the historical origin of this phrase is not recorded. It may have originated as a paraphrase of “all things come to those who wait,” which came from an early 20th-century poem written by the British poet Lady Mary Montgomerie Currie using the pseudonym of Violet Fane. In popular culture, people have used the saying “good things take time” in inspirational quotes – like this one from American basketball coach John Wooden: “Good things take time, as they should. We shouldn't expect good things to happen overnight. Actually, getting something too easily or too soon can cheapen the outcome.”
Many people say “good things take time” to encourage themselves or other people about any type of good thing they’re hoping for, but haven’t yet experienced. Often, people use this phrase to indicate a future goal. For example, parents may tell this to their children to encourage them to be patient while they’re trying to learn a new skill but haven’t yet achieved that goal. Another common usage of this saying references a blessing for which people are waiting hopefully. For instance, at church, one friend may tell another about a prayer request that God hasn’t yet answered, and the listening friend may reply that “good things take time.”
Is This Phrase (or Anything Like It) in the Bible?
The phrase “good things take time” is not a direct quote from any Bible verse. It doesn’t appear in the Bible, but it does point to the larger concepts of patience and perseverance, which the Bible says are important.
Just by itself, the saying “good things take time” isn’t always true. Sometimes good things do take time to happen. At other times, though, good things happen very quickly, or they don’t happen at all. Whether or not “good things take time” really depends on the circumstances of a particular situation. You can look at this phrase within a greater biblical context, however. Doing so helps you exercise patience and perseverance in situations where God is planning to bring something good into your life, but you have to wait for the best timing for it.
How Can We Relate This Saying to Christian Principles?
The saying “good things take time” relates to the Christian principle of patience. The Bible encourages developing patience. Romans 8:25 says: “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Ephesians 4:2 urges: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Being patient doesn’t happen instantaneously. Learning how to be patient is one of those good things that do take time. Throughout your lifetime, you can keep learning more about how to be patient as your relationship with God keeps growing closer. Colossians 1:11 mentions that God will strengthen you “… with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,”. The way God helps you on that spiritual journey is through the Holy Spirit. Patience is one of the “fruit of the Spirit” that the Bible lists in Galatians 5:22-23. The English Standard Version of those verses says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Some other translations use word “forbearance” or the word “longsuffering” for patience.
Choosing to be patient can lead you to notice God’s work in your life, inspiring you with awe. Research I describe in my book Wake Up to Wonder reveals that patient people feel more connected than impatient people to God and to fellow human beings. That sense of connection helps them notice and enjoy the wonder around them. Developing patience also helps people feel a sense of abundance in their lives that fills their souls with hope and gratitude, which can help them discover and appreciate God’s wonder. Finally, those who are patient report experiencing stress relief and positive emotions that can lead them to feel awe. The process of waiting can be challenging, especially since we live in a society that promotes instant gratification. But as I write in the book, the ways God builds your faith while you’re waiting are as important as the answer for which you’re waiting. You can be confident that the time you spend waiting for any type of “good thing” that “takes time” isn’t wasted because God will deepen your faith in the process. God has the best timing in mind to answer your prayers. Waiting for God’s answer in whatever situation you’re facing is well worth the time – not only because God will ultimately respond, but because he’ll change you for the better while you wait.
During times when you need to wait for a good thing you’re hoping will happen, you can wait actively rather than passively. Waiting can be much more than a boring and frustrating time period to get through. It can be a time to seek God in deeper ways as you cooperate with his work in your life. That involves patience and another biblical virtue – perseverance – which means steadfast effort to achieve something despite challenges. The Bible encourages perseverance in James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Ultimately, any good thing that happens in your life – whether or not it takes time – comes to you because God has made it possible. Directing your attention to God, rather than to whatever good thing you want, can help you wait with faith when your hoped-for blessing takes time to arrive. “Be still, and know that I am God,” God says in the first part of Psalm 46:10. You can develop enjoyable prayer and meditation habits to help you be still while you have to wait for good things to come into your life. Praying and meditating while you wait will draw your attention to God instead of your circumstances. As you communicate with God, you’ll receive the peace you need to trust him for what’s best in any situation.
The saying “good things take time” may sound like it comes from the Bible, but it doesn’t. Sometimes this saying is true, and sometimes it’s not – depending on the situation. Good things can enter your life right away in certain circumstances, and never happen in other circumstances. While “good things take time” isn’t a Bible verse, it does point to the biblical concepts of patience and perseverance, which are both important for growing in faith. The ultimate good thing you can gain is an eternal relationship with God. No matter what, you are loved by a good God who gives you plenty of good things at the right times when you trust him.
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Whitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on Twitter and Facebook.