“God’s timing is perfect,” she said to me. The words settled like soured milk in my stomach on a hot day. I grew angry. Not at the sweet woman who I knew was praying for me in all sincerity as I prepare to move overseas. I didn’t sense my anger was directed at God, either.
It was the fact she said it like God’s timing was something I was supposed to enjoy. And right then I wasn’t.
“Is this phrase even biblical or theologically sound?” I asked myself. I wasn’t finding it helpful in a season of waiting and unknowns. It certainly isn’t quoted in the Bible. I decided to delve into Scripture, and was fascinated by what I found.
Time, in the original Hebrew language, speaks of what God has appointed; the occurrence, occasion, or season for something. It’s also used to mark the duration or circuit for something, which can be taken as linear like a calendar.
You may be more familiar with two Greek words for time. Perhaps your pastor or a Bible teacher has mentioned “chronos” or “kairos” in their sermons or teaching. Chronos represents the sequential sense of a period of time or marked duration. It’s like clock time. Kairos is different in that it marks an appointed time or a proper or opportune time, especially for action.
How long would my period of waiting last? When would God act on my behalf by supplying my needs? I had no answers and absolutely no control. I wanted both, but I knew they were not in my power to give or take. Had they been, all my needs and the answers to my questions would have been granted yesterday. I pressed on to trust God even though his timing seemed far from perfect and waiting was certainly not enjoyable.
So where did the idea that “God’s timing is perfect” come from? I decided to reach out to a former seminary professor and colleague who could help me with the ancient Hebrews’ understanding of God’s timing. The Hebrew people believed that the Lord was not forgetful or negligent in carrying out his promises. Everything was done according to his planned timetable. He also explained this saying probably came from a general theological observation based on the idea of divine sovereignty, referencing Galatians 4:4 and 2 Peter 3:8-9 as examples.
Corresponding with my professor and a more thoughtful study of Scripture gave me a different perspective of God’s timing.
If we consider God’s timing to be perfect in the sense that it speaks of what he’s appointed, that it is promised to be brought to completion and fully accomplished by him, then I think we would agree God’s timing is perfect.
Isaiah 61:2 speaks of the year of the Lord’s favor (Chronos time). Jesus said, in Luke 4:21, he fulfilled this same passage. This unmerited favor, in the form of the incarnate Christ, came from a perfect God at the exact time he appointed.
If, however, we take God’s perfect timing to mean it conforms to our exact ideals, then we are sorely disappointed, for is not perfect.
Psalm 145:15 is a blessing I often used and taught children to use before meals: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.” Due season is not something we’re privileged to determine, as much as we may wish we were. Delays and setbacks happen. The world is blemished by sin, and Satan often conspires to thwart what God has perfectly ordained. Sometimes I am guilty of inaction or indifference to what God has willed. Adding to that tension, we are still waiting for the complete fulfillment of God’s Kairos time for Christ to return.
We can and should take comfort in his delay. It affords us the joy of marveling at his patient kindness toward sinners like us. Waiting in the “already, but not yet” is our opportune time to proclaim the gospel, to boldly declare the Lord’s favor to those who can do nothing to earn it. What better way to make the most of our time – the time God has given us – than to be agents of restoration and reconciliation as we wait for his glorious promises to unfold.
If you are inclined to tell someone God’s timing is perfect, point to Christ rather than circumstances. It’s tempting to tell stories of people who “waited just a bit longer” and whatever they were waiting for unfolded – marriage, children, career, etc. When we tell those stories, we may give the false impression God will work the same way in their lives or that waiting will earn them their spiritual patience badge. God’s timing has rarely coincided with my own well-intended plans, and I’m beginning to see it’s probably a good thing.
The more I stop trying to fit God and his timing into my proverbial box, the more I am free to see him as bigger and better. When I yield my temporal short-sightedness for his eternal perspective, his glory and his timing is far grander than my “I want it now” perspective.
My waiting period for moving to the Middle East finally ended. I’m settling in to a new life, a new routine, a new culture. God’s timing still continues. His word teaches me how to live wisely in the already but not yet. It allows me to rest – albeit sometimes uncomfortably – in his sovereignty. If I were still waiting for this new season to begin, God showed me he is and would still be good. His timing really is perfect after all, even when the waiting is or isn’t over.