Have you ever experienced fear, anxiety, worry, or even anger or frustration as you've waited on the Lord? During my past enlistment in the Air Force, I remember feeling terribly worried when I received orders to a warzone. I also remember feeling extra anxious toward the end of my deployment as I waited for my replacement to arrive.
If you're like me, you've probably also struggled in the arena of waiting on the Lord. Perhaps you've experienced anxiety as you've interviewed for a new job and waited for news of hiring decisions. Or maybe you've experienced anger when overlooked for a promotion you've been waiting for. Unmarried individuals can sometimes struggle in their wait for a spouse, and married couples might struggle in their wait for their first pregnancy, especially if it's been several years of waiting, trying, and waiting some more. For parents who have a wayward child, fear and worry are often experienced as they wait for their child's return. And those who are experiencing illness, especially chronic illness, can also find it challenging as they wait for relief and healing.
Waiting on the Lord can be challenging in this life. But if we remember a few simple truths about God's timing, our waiting can be characterized by joy and peace rather than fear, worry, or anger. Here are three characteristics of God's timing that can encourage us amid our times of waiting:
God's Timing Is Perfect
In our study through the sixth chapter of the book of Esther this Sunday, we saw how Mordecai's destiny was reversed due to King Xerxes' sleepless night. As Haman made plans to have Mordecai impaled on a pole (Esther 5:14), the king's insomnia led him to discover he had never thanked Mordecai for saving his life (Esther 6:1-3). As such, when Haman arrived to speak with the king, he never got the chance to ask for Mordecai's life; King Xerxes sought Haman's counsel for honoring Mordecai before Haman was ever able to get a word out about his plans for Mordecai's execution.
At just the right time, the king had a sleepless night, and it served as the pivot point for the entire storyline of the book of Esther. The king's sleeplessness not only led to Mordecai's preservation; ultimately, it also led to the preservation of all the Jews in the Persian Empire and the eventual arrival of our Messiah. It helps us notice that one characteristic of God's timing is that it is always perfect, and that's because God himself is perfect in every way.
In the Esther narrative, God's perfect timing foreshadows the perfect timing of the cross of Christ. "You see," Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, "at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6, emphasis mine). Since God's timing in the death and resurrection of our Savior was perfect, we can rest in knowing his timing will also be perfect for every other need in our lives. Whether we're waiting on a new job or waiting on relief or healing from illness, we can rest in knowing our need will be met by the Lord at just the right time.
Ultimately, our yearning for God to make all things new, including the total relief of sickness, won't occur until the Lord calls us home to be in his eternal presence forever. But even then, his timing in taking us home will be perfect, for even the timing of the return of Christ will also be perfect (Revelation 6:9-11).
God's Timing Is Salvific
Not only was God's timing in the Esther narrative perfect, it was also redemptive. At just the right time, Xerxes had a sleepless night, the purpose of which was the preservation of Mordecai's life. It's interesting to note that Mordecai wasn't even aware of Haman's plans to have him executed. Nonetheless, the Lord intervened with perfect timing to save his life.
It makes me wonder: How often does the Lord perfectly intervene in our lives without us being aware? A flat tire might make us late to wherever we're headed, and it might even frustrate us and sour our attitudes, but what if that flat tire was the Lord's perfect, timely intervention in keeping us from something far worse down the road? Of course, in this hypothetical situation, we have no way of knowing for sure, but this doesn't diminish the fact that we're often unaware of the dangers around us, even in the temptations we face. Our lack of awareness, however, does not mean God isn't working to preserve our lives (Or to preserve our holiness and purity). On the contrary, our lack of awareness only serves to highlight how perfectly God works in our lives. Everything he does is for the good purpose of leading us toward the ultimate glorification of our souls (Romans 8:28-30). Even if it means a shameful, secret sin coming to light, it is a grace of God preventing you from further spiritual, emotional, physical, or relational damage down the road, mercifully preserving you (And others in your life) for his purposes.
To emphasize a different phrase in Romans 5:6 above, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly" (Emphasis mine). It's not just that Christ died on the cross at just the right time, it's that he died on the cross to save us! God's timing is not only perfect, but also salvific in nature.
God's Timing Is Trustable
Because God's timing is both perfect and salvific, it can be trusted. God knows what he is doing. He also knows what is best for us. As surely as we can trust God, we can also trust his timing.
We noted in the opening lines above that our struggle in our times of waiting can often lead us to experience things like fear, worry, anger, and frustration—all emotional signs that our hearts are doubting God's timing. This leads us to ask ourselves: Why do we tend to doubt God's perfect and redemptive timing? I encourage you to spend some time in reflective prayer this week. You can start with this sentence: "Lord, because you are perfect, and because your timing is perfect, I can trust you with ______________" (Fill in the blank).
What have you been pursuing restlessly? What has your heart been seeking with worry or haste? Give it over to the Lord (Psalm 55:22; cf. 1 Peter 5:7). May we all remember that the Lord's timing is perfect, salvific, and trustable, so that our hearts would respond with peace and joy rather than anger or anxiety.