I’ve had two conversations recently with friends who were facing real challenges, and both of them mentioned God’s timing – as in, I guess things will happen, all in God’s timing.
One of the comments had to do with a friend and a medical issue. The other had to do with a family member who is going through a particularly difficult time. In both cases, I sympathized with their concern, their hopes, and their dependence on God’s timing. As they talked about God doing things in His time, I felt with them the difficulty of waiting.
But here’s the thing: in the Church, there are a lot of phrases we use that sound good, but we struggle to pin down. The sense of God’s timing fits in here, I think. For, like many things we believe, there are dangers of going too far in either direction. Like steering a ship through a channel, you really want to be extra careful of getting too close to either side.
The twin dangers I see when it comes to using the phrase God’s timing are these: On the one hand, some would suggest that God is not involved in our lives or the details of our lives. God’s timing, then, is whatever is happening in your life – and what you choose to do with it. And, while I agree that we have to be careful to read too much into the details of our lives (not every flat tire is orchestrated by a Higher Power; not every decision is fraught with spiritual significance), we often do not know, at the time, what God is up to. Perhaps in hindsight, we can see more clearly how God was using the circumstances of our lives, but so often, in the moment, we can’t.
All of this means, to me, that we often don’t know right now what events are God-designed and what events are, well, just life. Now, that doesn’t excuse us from being faithful in every moment – flat tires, and all. But spirituality is not equated with being able to label everything with spiritual language.
The other danger, I think, is on the other side – and it’s seen in the belief that because something isn’t happening now, God isn’t ready for it to happen. The idea here is that things only happen when God wants them to – in God’s timing. Again, this isn’t to say that God doesn’t guide and lead events as He sees fit. He is, after all, God.
But specifically, there are a lot of things wrong with this world that, as I read the Bible, are not the will of God. And the reason that those things are happening isn’t because of God’s timing, but God’s patience. And God, in His endless patience, allows us, and our world, to make decisions that are contrary to His will.
For example, I have a friend who is concerned about someone in her family. And this someone is really having a difficult time, and having a difficult time with choices. And I told her, that in my view, this family member hasn’t come to the point of surrender, not because God’s timing is such that it should happen in the future. Instead, it seems to me that she hasn’t come to the point of surrender because of her timing.
Isn’t that what we read in Luke 15 in the story of the Lost Sons? A father lets his son leave with the son’s portion of the inheritance. The son then goes to a far country where, in the words of the King James Version, he “wasted his substance with riotous living.” Finally, the son “came to himself,” and realized his life, his choices, his timing, were a disaster. So, he heads home, only to find the father waiting for him, looking for him, running to embrace him.
In other words, God’s timing is now. God the Father waits for us to turn to Him, to return to Him. God’s timing is the moment we “come to ourselves,” and turn to the One who began waiting for us the moment we left home. God’s timing, it seems, is always now – in the moment, inviting, calling, waiting, looking, longing, ready for us to realize: the time is now to come home.
So, yes, I believe firmly in God’s timing. And His timing – for forgiveness, for grace, for hope, for rescue, for life, for new life – is now. And in that, God’s timing is always perfect.