Thursday, June 8, 2017

It’s All a Matter of Timing

This may come as a shock to family members and friends (not really), but I’m not always the most patient person. Especially behind the wheel of a car. Even when consulting with Gladys Penelope Snodgrass (GPS) regarding my travel route, it seems I’m always more eager than she is to know when my exit is coming up.

“Come on, Gladys,” I’ll think to myself, “are we getting close?” Then, after maintaining absolute silence for many miles, she speaks up and announces, “In two miles, take exit 56 on the right.” “Well, it’s about time!” I reply, but I know Gladys isn’t listening. She’s getting ready to remind me of the exit in a minute or two, then tell me which way to go once I’ve followed her instructions. She’s rarely early, but never late in providing the desired directions.

I’ve concluded ole GPS (I don’t know how old she is) doesn’t want me to get overwhelmed with too much information. “Just keep your eyes on the road – and the other vehicles around you – and I’ll let you know when you need to do something,” my smartphone-inhabiting roadway companion seems to imply.

When waiting for something important, we often
think, "Okay, any day now would be fine!"
When you think about it, for much of life, in the right timing is what matters in many ways.

Imagine you and your family are preparing to leave for a long-anticipated vacation. You’ve done the pre-boarding ritual online, so all you need to do when you arrive at the airport is check your bags, go through security and then head toward your departure gate, making sure your daughter, let's say she's age 7, sticks close by.

You, your spouse and child, of course, require separate tickets. Your daughter begs you for her ticket, but you continue to hold onto it until time to board. Why? First of all, you want to be certain she doesn’t lose it. “No ticket, no flying!” Airlines are funny that way. And second, even though she might want to hold her own ticket, she doesn’t need it yet. Better to be safe than sorry.

Your foremost concern is making sure that when it’s time for departure, like the Beatles used to sing, “She’s got a ticket to ride.”

Patience and timing can be problematic for many of us spiritually. We pray for something, maybe even an urgent matter, and then expect God to respond almost instantly – kind of like a short-order cook at a mom-and-pop restaurant. We might find ourselves beset with a seemingly unsolvable financial dilemma, seeking a much-needed career change, or desiring a happy resolution to a difficult family problem. God’s schedule, however, rarely aligns with ours.

I know of a couple that’s desperately praying for a new job. Their financial resources are nearly exhausted, and while there are several possibilities, no firm offers as yet. “Why doesn’t God respond sooner?” they might be asking. In turn, He might have questions of His own: “Have you missed any meals yet? Do you have any bills you haven’t been unable to pay?”

Like my friendly GPS and her faithful guidance when I travel, God usually doesn’t provide His answers early – but He’s never late. As Psalm 37:25 assures us, I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

The apostle Paul spoke directly to God’s sense of timing when he observed, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance(2 Peter 3:9). The context concerns our eternal destiny, but I think the principle applies to any circumstances we face: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.”

One of the so-called minor prophets affirms this in the little book of Habakkuk: For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay(Habakkuk 2:3). God, without a doubt, will be right on time.

So, when we’ve praying but have yet to see God’s answer to our petitions, what are we to do? Another portion of the psalm cited above provides the answer: Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him…. Wait for the LORD and keep His way(Psalm 37:4-7,34).

It might not be easy, as I’ve experienced many times. But we have a clear promise: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” And probably in a way that’s much better than what we would have imagined.

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