Deep down, most of us probably would say we trust God and his plan. We’d probably say that we have faith that whatever happens was God’s will and that he knows best. But lets be honest, we have all had times where we fall to our knees in frustration, perhaps even anger at God because he just seems so far away. He just seems so silent. He just seems so absent. We have all had times where we feel like God isn’t home. Like he isn’t answering our calls. Like he has abandoned us or is just straight up ignoring us.
God’s timing is something that we will never be able to fully wrap our minds around in this life in the same way that a 2 year old cannot possibly understand the purposes or the reasons why their father does things a certain way or at a certain time for a certain reason. Our understanding of God’s timing will always be limited, but that doesn’t mean The Bible doesn’t help us out.
Scripture shows us that many of the greatest characters of the Bible struggled with God’s timing too. Isaiah cried out, “You have hidden your face from us.” The Psalmist says, “We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be.” Gideon said, “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” David had to wait decades, fleeing for his life in the wilderness before he became king. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and waited years in a prison cell for God to show up. Even Paul had to wait 17 years after his Damascus road experience until he was officially commissioned as a missionary. And perhaps most famously, Jesus himself on the cross cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Just like these great men of the Bible, we too struggle with God’s timing. If you are struggling with God’s timing, read through Mark 5:21-43 and John 11:1-44. In the first account, Jairus comes to Jesus asking for his daughter to be healed. Jesus stops along the way and in the meantime, Jairus’ daughter dies. In the second account, Jesus purposefully delays his arrival at Bethany where his dear friend Lazarus is dying. As he delays, Lazarus dies. Imagine the frustration and grief and struggle with God’s timing that Jairus, Mary, Martha, and the disciples experienced. As we read these stories, I believe we find some profound Biblical truths that will help us in our struggle with God’s timing.
1. God does respond to our pleas, even if not how we expect.
He responded to pleas about Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus, he just didn’t respond how those people expected in the way that they expected. Sometimes God’s response is a simple “No”. Sometimes it’s “Not now.” And most of the time it’s “Not like that.” Our God is a good Father and he responds to our prayers, he just rarely does so in the way that we expect him to.
2. God works in his own better timing.
God’s timing is always better. In Mark 5 and John 11, Jesus knew better. He had a plan the whole time that only he could see. In John 11:5-6 we see that Jesus delayed because he loved them. God’s timing is not only better, but it is more loving. Sometimes he makes us wait because he loves us. And often, God uses the time of our waiting to prepare us to receive the better thing that he has planned. God’s timing is always better. Always.
3. In God’s timing, we receive more/better than we asked for.
In both accounts, if Jesus had worked in their timing, there would have been healing. but in Jesus own timing, there were resurrections. Both Jairus and Mary and Martha got more and better than they asked for. He gives us what we need when we need it instead of what we want when we want it. Too many of us are begging God for things that are smaller and lesser than what he has planned for us and we throw a fit or sink into anger or grief when we don’t get things the way we think is best. But God’s timing is better and if we are patient and wait on him, we will receive more and better than we asked for.
4. God wants our belief to be strengthened through waiting.
In John 11:14 Jesus says that it was for their sake that he delayed so that their belief might be strengthened. In our immaturity, most of us allow our frustrations with God’s timing to drive us further away from God and from belief. But Jesus sometimes makes us wait so that our faith will be strengthened and so that our relationship with God will be strengthened. As we struggle with God’s timing, it is His desire that our belief in him be strengthened because of the waiting.
5. God weeps with us as we struggle with his timing.
In the story of Lazarus, we see in John 11:33-35 how deeply moved Jesus was by the struggles of his friends. Jesus knew he was going to resurrect Lazarus. He knew that he would see Lazarus again and that all his friends who were currently weeping would soon be rejoicing. But he didn’t condemn them and say, “Ha, just wait. Stop your crying, watch this!” He wept with them. He understood the pain they felt because, out of love for them, he felt that pain too. He lovingly empathized with the pain and struggle that comes from waiting for his timing. As we struggle with God’s timing and his plan, he is not a distant, uncaring God. He is a close, personal, loving God that weeps with us in our struggle. And not only that, but he also promises something better. Jesus not only weeps with us, but provides a promise that our weeping is only temporary.
Practically speaking, if you are in the midst of this struggle right now, here are a few basic tips to help you in struggle.
- Examine yourself. Unrepentant sin damages our relationship with God and can be the source of feeling like God is distant or absent. Confess, repent, and turn to God.
- Remind yourself of who God is. As we examine Bible truths about who God is, our fears and worries tend to fade away. Remind yourself that He is the Good Shepherd. He is everlasting. He is mighty. He is perfect. He is loving. He is the great physician. He is the great provider. He is creator. He is Lord. He is King. He is sovereign.
- Remind yourself of God’s promises. God is faithful and keeps his promises. Examine the Bible for the promises God has made to his people and have faith that he will keep the promises He’s made to you.
- Wait patiently on God. JI Packer said it all: “’Wait on the Lord’ is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.”
- Keep dialoguing with God. Keep praying. Keep reading Scripture. It is a lot harder to feel like God is distant or absent if you are in constant communication with him, which you can do through prayer and Scripture reading. There is nothing more important in a healthy relationship with God than constant communication with him. Even if you feel like he is far off, keep talking to him, and keep listening to his Word.
What else would you add? Please share your thoughts and comments below.