I turned 49 years old last week and I have to say that I’m not crazy about getting older. But there has been one advantage that I greatly appreciate – as I age I have a better understanding of and greater appreciation for God’s timing.
Intellectually we know that God’s timing is perfect, but emotionally I think we all struggle some with God’s timing because it always seems to be much later than when we would want God to act.
As I get older what I’ve realized is there are several good reasons God’s timing is different from mine. Let me walk you through what I’ve learned for myself.
There have been things I have wanted in my life and I’ve prayed for God to provide them. Scripture says that if you pray to the Father in the son’s name you will receive so long as it is in the Father’s will. Certainly some of the things I sought were not in the Father’s will, but many seemed to fit that criteria but I did not receive – at least not right away.
As I look back on those prayers I am grateful to God for not receiving what I asked for when I asked for it because I would have failed due to my immaturity. God knew that I wasn’t ready for what I wanted but someday I would be so He held me off a little while until I could be successful with my request. In the meantime, God provided opportunities for me to grow to help me get to the place where I could be mature enough for Him to answer those prayers.
In these cases God’s timing was indeed perfect even if I was a bit impatient.
As I look back at my life I see where God could have provided me what I wanted when I wanted it but that was not His plan. The most good came by things coming to me later in His timing. Let me see if I can give you an example of that.
I recently became reacquainted with an old friend. Unfortunately it took 30 years after an unfortunate incident for the two of us to connect and reconcile. Certainly God could have arranged this reconciliation much earlier. In fact I learned this person did indeed receive a letter I sent some 10 years ago seeking this reconciliation but she was not in a place in her life where she could respond.
When God finally did reconnect us – she reached out to me out of the blue one day – it was just awesome. Time had healed some old wounds and we were friends again. But here’s where God’s plan comes into play.
I learned that she had a really rough road in her life and that while she had studied religion was not really engaged in a relationship with God. So I sent her my book! I know she’ll read it because it’s me and I also know the Holy Spirit will work on her through what she reads. Had God put us together earlier I would not have been able to share the Lord with her in a way that would be accepted yet powerful. God’s plan was to put us together when I could not only reconcile but help her to perhaps learn how God loves her. Very cool.
Sometimes it’s not so much what we want as why we want it. God will make us wait if our motive is wrong. Boy do I have stories to tell about this one, but let me pick just one.
When I was younger I bought into the theory that the goal of a professional career was to climb the ladder as high as you could go, get the biggest title you could, and make as much money as available. I did pretty well with the first two – lots of promotions and nice titles – but the money was slower to come. The motive, of course, was pride. There is a social pecking order, especially among men, regarding what you do and how much money you make. I wanted to feel important by having the right titles and money.
God allowed me to muddle along for decades with this mindset, and honestly, I didn’t do too badly. But I didn’t find true success until my motive changed. This is a good story so forgive me that it will take a moment to read.
God had allowed me to become an intelligence officer working for the Defense Intelligence Agency. I had even received an offer to go work for the Central Intelligence Agency which wanted to steal me away from DIA – all pretty heady stuff. Then one day during prayer God said to me, “Now that I’ve let you do everything you’ve wanted to do are you ready to serve me yet?” Talk about a wake-up call! In the next several weeks I resigned and came home to Oregon to try to figure out what God wanted from me.
Long story short, my motive for work changed. Now I wanted to work as if working for the Lord in service. I took at job at the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs where I made roughly $60,000 less than I had in DC and I loved it! God rewarded my obedience through promotions and more responsibility. When I left the agency to serve God full-time I was in charge of a significant portion of the agency, overseeing about half its employees and about three-quarters of its functions. God gave me what I wanted but only when my motive for wanting it was about Him and not about me. I had to wait on God’s timing as he waited on me to get with His program.
The advantage to a little age is you can look back and see these things more clearly than when you are younger and don’t have the perspective age will give you. Not that I’m aging gracefully – my wife will tell you I’m fighting it every step of the way. But I am grateful to God that I am old enough now to see how He has been working in my life, helping me mature, teaching me to wait upon Him, and transforming my motives to be in line with His will. Chances are really good I’ll have more waiting to do but God’s timing is good enough for me.