Timing is everything, or at least so I have heard. Sometimes I wonder if it’s true, and sometimes I wonder what part God plays in the timing of our lives.
I remember during my college days, my roommate and I somehow found ourselves registering for the same class at the same time. Given our different class position, schedules, and career goals, it almost never happened. But this time, the stars aligned, and we found ourselves taking the same early morning class for one semester. The class was called “Man’s Aesthetic Experience.” It was a class designed to give us an appreciation for classical music, Greek sculptures, Danish paintings and such, but in truth, such a class scheduled for 7:30AM in the morning was perfectly designed to put students to sleep. In fact, it did it very well.
That being the case, and Joey and I being the enterprising and adaptable students we were, we devised a plan. Most mornings, we would both go to class (attendance was part of the grade) but would take turns paying attention and taking notes. So, one of us would stay awake, listen, and take notes while the other would put his head on the desk and sleep. Or in Joey’s case, snore. Later on, at a reasonable hour before a test, we would share notes.
It was a perfect plan, but it wasn’t long before Joey modified the plan and started pushing the limit a little bit. Since at least a few absences were tolerated, why sleep with your head on the desk when you could remain comfy and warm in your own bed? Thus, on multiple occasions when it was my turn to take notes and his turn to sleep, Joey would utter a groggy “Go on without me.” Which I did. Sometimes he would miss something important, like a quiz or a presentation, but for Joey, the extra sleep was worth the risk.
For me, it was a different story. I’m not saying I didn’t trust Joey’s note taking, but for some reason, I couldn’t do much sleeping in class, and I almost never skipped a class. Joey would encourage me to stay in bed some mornings, promising to go and take good notes for us both, but I never did . . . except once.
I remember the morning when we were maybe two-thirds through the semester and Joey got up to go to class. It was his turn to take notes. I woke feeling an undeniable urge to skip class, so I told Joey to go without me. “I’m going to skip class and sleep in this morning,” I said.
Joey looked at me like some alien had taken over my body. It was so uncharacteristic of me. But I assured him I was still in my right mind and told him he should go on without me, which he did. It was the one and only time I decided to sleep in and skip that class, which makes it even more amazing that ten minutes later, Joey came shuffling back to the room, threw down his books, and said, “Class was cancelled.” I had unknowingly picked the perfect time to sleep in. Maybe timing is everything.
Now as far as God is concerned, I wonder, did He cause class to be cancelled? Did He prompt me to relax and sleep in? Or was it just a crazy, very unlikely coincidence? I can’t pretend to know anything about God’s class skipping strategies, but I do believe he is involved in the timing of our lives.
The Bible says there is a time for everything. It says we should “wait on the Lord.” It also says, “now is the time.” I think we Christians often spout the “wait on the Lord” timing, but we are not so crazy about the “now is the time” moments. God’s timing isn’t always about waiting. Sometimes it’s about moving forward in life even though we would rather stay where we are. Maybe we are comfortable. Or maybe we are afraid of something in the future. Or maybe we see something coming that we want to avoid. But that stuff is all a part of God’s timing too.
Think about Jesus. He was the Messiah. He said so. He proved it. But the Pharisees said, No, you are not. We are still waiting for the Messiah. Even so, there was a right time for him to go to Jerusalem to die. Peter tried to postpone it. He was working against God’s timing. Jesus recognized that “timing rebellion” as the devil’s work and went on to Jerusalem despite the suffering in store for him there. Now was the time, for the hard part.
In every life, there are good things that happen, and bad things that happen. Or maybe I should say, there are fun things, and not so fun things. There are happy things, and sad things. But God’s timing applies for both. If there is a best time for that good thing to happen, then there is also a best time for that “bad” thing to happen. And a “bad” thing happening at the right time, can be a good thing. That flat tire in my driveway may have kept me from a bad wreck on the interstate later. The layoff now may be God’s push toward finding a better job. The timing is part of the way in which God works all things for good.
But what about the really bad things? Is there ever a good time to get cancer? For my house to burn down? For my child to die? For me to die? I can’t answer that. What I can say, is that sooner or later, I must die. And I don’t want it to be later if God wants it to be sooner. Even if I could somehow postpone God’s timing on that, I would be terrified to do so. What horrible things could I cause or do, maybe even unintentionally, in the days, months, or years I was on Earth when I should have been in Heaven. If God had allowed Hitler to die from some disease at the age of six, those who loved the child would have thought it a horrible thing. That he had an “untimely” death. Would it be so?
I am not saying that everyone who dies young would have grown up to be a Hitler or Charles Manson, or that every house that burns down would have harbored a future gang of evil. What I am saying, is that in every play, there is a perfect time to exit the stage. In every game, there is a right time for the coach to pull his star player out. There is that moment when the very best that could happen has happened. When “goodness” is at it’s peak. To wait longer, to refuse to move on, is to allow things to stagnate and rot.
The timing is part of the way in which God works all things for good, right? I may not like it. I may protest and scream “Why now? Not yet! I wasn’t ready.” Or like Jesus, I may even fall on my knees in the garden and pray to skip it altogether. But in the end, if the Kingdom of Heaven is my ultimate concern, I must accept it. I must believe that a perfect God has perfect timing.
So, what if we screw up and miss God’s timing? In that case I suppose we may miss some opportunities and bring some unnecessary hardships. However, we can’t let that cause us to give up in despair. For God, timing isn’t everything. It’s just one thing out of everything in an everlasting, infinite universe over which He reigns supreme with absolute control.