A Lesson Learned: Delayed Gratification

 I remember learning about delayed gratification in my educational psychology classes in college and how most young children are simply unable to delay gratification because of their natural stage of development.

I decided to do a little experiment with Big Brother. I gave him two bowls, one with a handful of marshmallows and the other with only 4. I then asked him to choose–he could have the bowl with 4 marshmallows now or he could have the bowl with the handful in 10 minutes. Guess which he chose…

(I honestly thought that he might reason enough to wait for the bowl with more marshmallows. I knew the probablility of it was next-to-none, but I still thought he just might defy the odds!)
It’s nice to think that this is a stage that we all outgrow, as the textbooks suggest. That’s not the case, however, especially in our current society. We want what we want and we want it NOW. Heaven forbid you stand between me and my morning Dr. Pepper!
This idea of immediate gratification has permeated every area of our lives. Hence the reason that fast-food is so popular! We can fill our stomachs immediately…no waiting required! And when there is a 2-minute wait in the drive-thru, we throw a fit. We want new stuff, so instead of saving up for that stuff…we put it on a credit card. New stuff now. Payment later. Don’t believe me? Get in your car and go for a drive…count how many cut you off due to impatience. The last time I counted there were 3 instances–in less than a 10-minute drive!
Even our spiritual lives have been affected by this idea of immediate gratification. We want to know God’s plan and what exactly we’re supposed to be doing. We expect our prayers to be answered according to our will and not God’s. And we want them answered now.
We want evidence of the benefit of our relationship with God. We want to see that we are making a difference. We want God to reveal our purpose and make it fully evident to us.
But just like Big Brother and the handful of marshmallows he could have enjoyed had he only waited, how much more could there be in store for us if we would just exercise some patience???
Even Jesus himself had to wait (Luke 4:1-13). Even Jesus was unsure about his purpose while on the cross…why else would he say, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
A quote from a Bible study this week made a profound impact on me:  If we cannot wait upon the Lord, we will never fulfill our God-given destiny.”
Most days I don’t feel like I’m making a difference. I yearn so badly to be a light in this world for God, but I fall short in so many ways. I want to do something big for the name of Jesus, yet I feel my calling is within the four walls of my home during this season of life. My “destiny” is seemingly unknown.
But this week, I’m aiming to exercise some patience in all areas of life and delay gratification a bit. Maybe then my destiny will be a bit clearer. And who knows…maybe I’ll even wait until the afternoon to have my Dr. Pepper! :)


  1. I just did the same experiment with my 4 year old daughter (just turned 4 today) but using potato chips. She chose the bowl with 1 chip rather than the bowl with a handful. What a neat experiment!


  2. So true! I love your Sunday posts – they always hit home with me. Thanks for sharing your heart!


  3. Wow- love how God tells us exactly what we need to hear from the most random sources. Thanks for this… I struggle regularly with feeling "purposeless" in the kingdom while bunkered down as a stay at home mom to 3 babies- 3 and under. Your blog often encourages me on this journey.. thanks again!

  4. I absolutely love this post. It really struck home with me since I have a huge problem overcoming my own desire for instant gratification. It moved me to try the experiment with my 4 year old son. He was offered the bowl of 4 marshmallows to eat before dinner (usually a huge no-no in our home so) and another bowl with a handful to eat after dinner. I fully expected him to choose the bowl with 4 marshmallows but still had hope that he would choose the other. He blew my mind when he not only chose the handful of marshmallows to eat later but also offered to share them with me when it was time. I am praising God that my son seems to not struggle with the same affliction as his mama.

  5. Lindsey watched the video of Caleb and I paused it before he made his choice and talked about it with her. She was totally on board with the bowl of 4 and kept "yelling" at him to choose that one. Two peas in a pod. :)

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