Wrestling with Divine Timetables

Over the years, God has seen fit to work in my life such that when I look back, I can see areas where He has significantly changed my heart. However, there are plenty of other areas of sin and unbelief where I look back and can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever change.

One of those more-unyielding areas is my unrelenting desire to control. To develop an agenda and then attempt to accomplish my agenda. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking about a situation, an event, a relationship or something else, my tendency is to try to control how and when I think things should happen, and what the desired outcome (or goal) should be.

How long, O LORD?

Human beings have a real knack for taking a good thing and then twisting it to become more about ourselves than God. I know I do. Though I have to squint to see even the tiniest change in this particular area of my life, I can see that God is showing me more often – and more quickly – how this tendency of mine rears its head. I was struck recently (yet again) by how little I trust God’s plan and timing as it relates to hard relationships.

This latest reminder came as I was reading in the Gospel of Matthew about various healings that Jesus performed. Shortly after calling his disciples to follow Him, He begins traveling to various areas and healing people. What struck me about these miracles is that some occurred shortly after the person became ill, but many seem to have come after a long time of suffering.

Peter’s mother-in-law, for instance, was quickly healed from a fever. Shortly after becoming a follower of Jesus, Peter brought Jesus to his wife’s family’s home only to discover that his mother-in-law had fallen ill. With a quick touch, Jesus removed the illness and she was immediately able to get up and prepare something to eat (Matthew 8:14-15).

Many others, though, were allowed to suffer a while. A Jewish ruler had a beloved daughter who had also turned ill…and died. Another woman suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve long years. She had spent a lot of time and all her money on doctors, seeking a cure, but relief was elusive, and still she suffered. In both of these instances, the specifics of both the little girl’s and the older woman’s situations were allowed to reach a place of despair before Jesus stepped in and provided life and healing to both situations (Matthew 9:18-25).

Even Jesus’ calming of the storm seems to hold an element of “delayed” rescue. As Jesus sleeps in the boat, the weather becomes dangerous, and the disciples start to fear for their lives. Finally, they wake Jesus up and beg him to save them from certain death. You are likely familiar with this story, so you already know that Jesus calmed the storm with His words.

It occurred to me in reading these stories that Jesus, as the Son of the sovereign, omniscient God, could easily have prevented these trials from ever becoming a part of these people’s lives. Had He wanted to save the disciples from certain death at sea, He could have easily prevented the storm altogether, and thus provided an uneventful trip. He could have healed the girl before she died from her illness, and certainly God could have caused one of the many medical procedures that the woman with the discharge had endured to be a successful healing of her ailment.

But Jesus didn’t prevent any of the suffering we read about. I have read those stories often, focusing on Jesus’ amazing ability to heal, but recently it occurred to me that the sickness and trials that necessitated Jesus’ intervention could have been prevented by the Creator of the Universe. God can change lives significantly with a touch or a word, but He often delays until the timing is absolutely perfect.

Isn’t this where we all tend to fall down in our trust of Christ – His timing? In our finite understanding of the situation, God’s timing often seems capricious. Or worse, callous. Why does He allow chronic physical issues to linger without healing? Why does relational brokenness drag on and on, sometimes for years, without resolution?

When I look only at the temporal situation, I weary of waiting on God and I am often tempted to draft my own agenda and then begin implementing my own plan, with its own timing and its own outcomes. When I don’t trust God’s timing, it’s usually evidence that I either 1) don’t see God’s outcomes, or 2) I don’t like what I see. In either case, I am attempting to take my own finite understanding of Who God is and straining to see God’s plan for a situation I care deeply about.

But God’s Word says His ways are not our ways, and we cannot begin to understand what He is doing in all situations (Isaiah 55:8). We are called to trust God with those situations clearly beyond our control, whether it’s our health, the hearts of our loved ones, or something else, and to trust that God is who He says He is. Good. Gracious. Holy. Trustworthy.

Lord, It’s hard to trust when I’m staring at a “sickness” in my life that just won’t heal, even after beseeching You regularly. Help me to trust that You delay – or even deny – with purpose. I see that in everything Jesus did, he pointed to You, LORD, and His life glorified you. I beg you to bring good out of the “illnesses” in my life, and make it glorious for Your name’s sake, somehow. Amen.

Psalm 13 (ESV)

How Long, O Lord?
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

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