Have you ever noticed that the close of one year and the start of another have a knack for making folks feel somewhat sentimental about the passing of time? Our clocks are ticking, the days are passing, and the years are running by. On New Year’s Eve, hosts of people will be watching as the seconds run out and it’s time to flip the page of our calendars to yet another year.
But even when it isn’t the ending of one year and the start of another, we seem still to be a people preoccupied with the timing of things. We esteem punctuality, for example, and are often greatly annoyed when others are late (or if we’re running late and worry that others may become annoyed with us). I note that we’re especially conscious of this in the US and attitudes about setting times for things outside our country may require more specific explanation than is required here. When I was in Africa, for example, saying that we’d be meeting at 3 in the afternoon might mean folks arrive anywhere from 3 pm to a few hours afterwards - without anyone being considered late!
Nevertheless, here we worry about timelines, deadlines, appointments, and schedules. And it seems to me that our preoccupation with timeliness has a way of influencing our attitudes about God, His working in the world today, and even His plan for each of us.
It probably wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that most Christians in the US have struggled at times with what we assume to be a lack of involvement and even interest of the Lord in our personal affairs. Perhaps we’re struggling with a difficult relationship, a burdensome job, finding a job, making ends meet, a serious physical affliction, or even the loss of a loved one. In the midst of traversing the dark and lonely trail of our painful trial, we cry out to God and it seems that He doesn’t answer. We cry out again and the heavens seem silent and we continue to wallow in our season of suffering. We wonder where God is and because He fails to show up at the various deadlines that we offer Him, we conclude that He isn’t real, isn’t paying attention, or doesn’t care.
But we fail to see that the Sovereign God of the universe has His own timetable by which He works… a timetable that isn’t concerned with synchronizing itself with our agendas or wish lists. Yes, He does care but He economizes the timing of His work with a maximum effect in mind. Yes, He hears us when we pray and will often answer speedily. But at other times, He’ll say, “Wait, child. You’re not ready yet” or “Soon, when all is in place.”
There is a necessity for the child of God to kneel before his or her God and say not only, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (see Luke 22:42), but also, “Not my time, but Yours.”
Consider the message of the Christmas season: God’s own Son, Jesus, coming to earth, being born of a virgin, to one day lay His life down for all sinners who will come to Him in faith.
“When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under Law, to redeem those under the Law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV).
“At the right time” God sent His Son. God donned human flesh when and only when all was ready. He did not come until the right conditions were in place: sin’s corruption everywhere was apparent, religious traditions were exhausted, political institutions were structured for the rapid spread of the Gospel, and the hearts of many were ripe for the gentle yet piercingly beautiful appearance of grace. Though many had longed for His appearing for generations upon generations prior, He did not come until it was the RIGHT time.
Consider the implications of the Lord’s righteous handling of world affairs for our own private little matters. If you wrestle with God’s timing and despair because He seems to tarry, find rest in the truth that He Who coordinates the movements of all the starry host with the march of human history, will also “at the right time” bring about His blessings for your life, His answers to your prayers, and completion of His plans for your life.
After all, “He knows His plans for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (from Jeremiah 29:11). Do not listen to the whispering lies of doubt hissing in your mind and fainting heart: He has neither forgotten nor forsaken you. “Be confident of this, He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (from Philippians 1:6).
Christmas may be over, but its message never fails and never fades. God has remembered you. He offers you a hope through His Son, Jesus Christ, that will endure for all eternity no matter how evil or oppressive or desperate the times may seem. So let your heart even now make its way to “the Lamb born in Bethlehem, the Savior Who takes away the sin of the world!” (from John 1:29).