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.

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?

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


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

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  • Patrick Boyns

    Thank you for this piece – it was very appropriate. I’m sure we like the progress bar just to know that at least something is being done. At least with God we know that he will act, somehow, but still we can find it so hard to wait on him – whilst all along he’s helping us grow in our faith in his goodness. But how long, O Lord, how long?

    • You’re welcome, Patrick. The progress bar God does show, I guess, is only what’s found in His Word and in our lives when He shows up in ways we can’t call coincidence. He hasn’t forgotten us! I think about the times when I’ve waited so long for something, and once it comes— I wondered why I ever doubted.

  • Dave Wood

    A timely article for me. I was just asking those very questions this morning. I use to get very angry, upset, pout, and complain…. these days I just say “God, you must have a good reason”. I know it doesn’t help anything to get emotional and hold God in contempt or worse accuse Him of negligence or something like that….. been there, done that, its doesn’t work. I have been going through a circumstance now for over 8 years with seemingly no progress…or is there? I just keep thinking one day I will face Jesus and I want to respect His authority now so I won’t regret it then. In reality though, we are all exactly where our actions and thoughts have taken us. If its not what we wanted then we have to make some changes if we want a different future. Someone said “It is not our intentions, but our direction, that brings us to our destinations”. Thanks Wayne. Great article this morning.

    • You’re spot on, Dave. Your words remind me of Jesus’ parable that tells us when we plant a seed, we participate in a process we can’t comprehend. The process happens “by itself” (see Mark 4:26–29). Just as God programmed a seed to sprout by itself, and we have no clue how, so he does the same with his kingdom plan in the world. The process as Jesus described it—“first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain”—suggests a progression of steps, none of which we can hurry, skip, or delay. We can only wait. Jesus also spoke about a tiny mustard seed that, “though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants” (4:31–32). God’s plan is progressing in spite of its seeming insignificance now. God’s kingdom work seems like a mustard seed. Small, insignificant, and ineffective. But God works in ways that human eyes can’t see. He is sowing seeds that await a certain harvest. Jesus’ parables reveal that what seems hidden today will one day become visible to all.

  • Breitnica Mascarenhas

    Thank you Wayne…Nice post…I’ll really work on it

    • You’re welcome, Breitnica. We all need to work on it, don’t we? Thanks.

  • teagustavsson

    Isn’t the ultimate sin wanting to control everything? Not being humbled (and loved) by having to trust the Lord and staying close to Him? That’s where the progress bar comes in. Being loved and cared for by someone much bigger than ourselves is scary once you realize that that relationship can be broken. Our existence after the fall is a scary one and most of us spend the rest of our lives learning to trust again.

    • I’m not sure the Bible defines the ultimate sin, but the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We can only love God when we realize that He first loved us and gave His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for our sins. There’s no need to fear separation from God. I believe this post can offer you some much-needed encouragement.

  • I just preached a message on intimacy with God and collecting the needed oil to sustain us when He doesn’t show up when we expected Him to show up and do what we wanted done.

    http://www.destinychurchjacksonville.com/messages/226-got-oil-or-the-wisdom-of-the-5-wise-virgins/audio

    It is having the relationship with God that helps us trust through the time of delay, not coming on our schedule, or fulfilling our “Messianic expectations.” God’s time is much wiser than our microwave-western-society’s idea of time. I praise God that He does not reveal His progress bar to us. That would be problematic in so many other ways.

    Thanks Wayne. I appreciate your attention to the Spirit.

    • Great thoughts here, Mitch. Really appreciate you taking a moment to include them here. God bless you in your significant ministry for Him. Thanks.

  • Dean

    Hmm, interesting analogy with a visual context. I guess I’m of little faith because I’d like to see the progress bar or at least an auto-acknowledgement that my request has been received. Yes, I know He hears every prayer and that He is faithful. Still ….

    • I understand, Dean. Walking by faith, it sometimes helps to have that faith boosted with flesh and blood reality. I have found that if I’m alert, I’ll see God’s hand encouraging me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated and in ways that could not be coincidence.

  • Kasey

    My thoughts are that we are human. We are in a time where if we can have control we want it and if we can’t have control we run from it. We want to know where our life is headed. In our minds we feel we deserve to know; especially if we can’t control it. I think this is why we pray for signs because after so long we start to doubt and lose hope.

    • That’s very insightful, Kasey, and I agree. I think one day we’ll be very grateful that God in His strength refused our impatient pleadings to have answers, because He knew we’d give up if He gave them. Instead, He promises to walk beside us in our confusion and develop our faith. God bless.

  • Michelle thick

    Oh my gosh I would love one. Us humans don’t like the unkown but God is God. I get frustrated and cry to God and it doesn’t help. But knowing he is there and loves me helps. And having the blessing of reading your reads helps keep me stay focused. Thanks so much Wayne.
    God Bless

    • At times I think I would love to know how long I must wait, but I also would get very discouraged if I knew the truth. Only heaven will show us how much God’s greatest answers to us were to say nothing at the time. God bless.

  • ARM BAR

    That’s very interesting example Wayne,but yes that’s actually what i expect God to show,the progress bar,i was thinking about doing something else while waiting but sometimes i’m scared and weary Wayne and doubt start to enter my mind and begin to cry out again to God to show me at least something ,yes He may be will say something when he is done, but the waiting time seems like forever and without an ending,some people say that God may be testing me, but i really don’t know exactly whether God is testing me or not ,this is a good illustration Wayne and perfect time,Thank you.

    • You’re welcome–and yes, we all need encouragement as we wait on God. You’re definitely not alone.

  • Stephen White

    I think as humans we want to know when our jobs are done.

    But with God our jobs are never done because we are all imperfect, only Christ is , and He is the only one who can show us the way!

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