What to Do When God's Timing Doesn't Feel Right
- Rev. Kyle Norman Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2021 4 Oct
Have you ever noticed that God's timing isn't what we imagined it would be and He often asks the faithful to wait? Amid the declaration of grand promises, the realization of God’s plan is held back until an appropriate time. Noah had to wait for the rain to fall; Abraham waited for the birth of Isaac; Israel waited for the coming of the Messiah; we wait for Christ’s second coming today.
This sense of waiting on God's timing can make discernment a particular struggle for all Christians. We need to rightly discern when God wishes us to act as much as we must discern what God wishes us to do. Yet this begs the question: If we discern the right action, but at the wrong time, have we discerned wrongly? What do we do when we find ourselves struggling with God’s timing?
Figuring out God’s timing may seem daunting, however, there are actions we can take to help align us to God’s kingdom-time will. Below are some important things to know if we wish to rightly discern God’s timing in our lives.
Understanding God's Timing
God sees the passage of time differently than we do. God sees all eternity at once. Scripture declares “with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). Rather than being concerned with the passage of minutes or years, God is concerned with revealing the kingdom. God’s timing, therefore, refers to the expression of God’s purposes in our lives.
The word that is frequently used to describe this is the Greek word Kairos. Kairos, as opposed to Chronos (meaning chronological time), literally means “opportune time” or “the time of culmination.” The writers of the New Testament use this term to describe the satisfaction of God’s plan. Kairos is whenever God’s power is manifested. When Mary approaches Jesus about a problem at a wedding, for example, he retorts “What concern is that to me, my hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Similarly, a legion of demons cries out “What do you want with us Son of Man? Have you come to a torture us before the appointed time?” (Matthew 8:29). God’s timing can only be measured through the revelation of God’s work of salvation.
This means that the ultimate expression of God’s kingdom-time is Christ’s passion. The culmination of God’s work of salvation is highlighted on the cross. Luke records that Jesus and his disciples observe the Passover “when the hour had come” (Luke 22:14). Jesus himself also refers to his betrayal as the inauguration of God’s kingdom timing: “Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45). God’s timing, therefore, ultimately pertains to the activity of God in the redemption of our lives, through the passion of Jesus Christ.
As much as we live in a world of seconds and minutes, we also live in a world infused by the Holy Spirit. We live in the reality of the resurrection and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit continually moves us in deeper alignment with God’s will in our lives. This means that God’s work is not bound by the ticking of the clock. God manifests God’s purposes in our lives at the appropriate time. Thus, whenever Christians open themselves to the work of the Spirit, they are engaging in Kingdom time. Conversely, whenever Christians dampen the work of the Spirit, they are, effectively, stepping out of the flow of God’s timing.
When God's Timing Doesn't Feel Right
Because Christians are perpetually caught between Kairos and Chronos, God’s time and earthly time, it can be difficult to discern which is which. There may be times where we feel called to a certain action or decision but remain unclear about when the action is to occur. In such occurrences, what is the best way forward?
In his classic book The Secret of Guidance, F.B. Meyer refers to the various components that make up Christian discernment. Meyer calls these components the "three witnesses" of guidance. He writes: "The circumstances of our daily life are to us an infallible indication of God’s will, when they concur with the inward promptings of the Spirit and with the Word of God." Importantly, the three witnesses work in tandem with each other. Understanding the three witnesses, therefore, can help us discern God's timing in our lives.
Firstly, we assess our present circumstances. We ask if there is anything about our current situation that may speak to what the Lord is doing in our lives. We can even pray that God close avenues or opportunities that are not conducive to God's will. Discerning God’s timing is never done in a vacuum. God is always at work. Pay attention to doors that are open before you, and the doors that are closed.
This assessment of our life circumstances, however, involves looking at the inward promptings of the Holy Spirit. God wants us to discern God’s timing rightly. The Holy Spirit always works with our inner dispositions. We can ask ourselves questions such as “What is Jesus doing within me? What does my spirit say? Where do I feel drawn to God's love and presence? Of course, we may not, in the moment, be able to fully articulate these sensations. The Holy Spirit often communicates in ways too deep for words. We may simply have an internal “sense” or a “gut feeling.” Still, if we inwardly feel drawn to one way as opposed to another – and that feeling will not go away – this may be an indication of God’s timing.
Finally, all these things are done under the authority of scripture. Does the Bible say anything about what we are trying to discern? Are there principles we can apply? This isn't about playing Biblical roulette by pointing to random verses, this is about recognizing that God often uses the scriptures to speak to us. The more we are familiar with scripture, the more we may find that it has the uncanny ability to speak into our lives.
If our sense of God’s timing does not feel right, then this will be revealed through one, or all, of these three witnesses. God may use scripture verses to speak to the need to wait or be patient. Or maybe we have an internal sense that God’s timing has come. Paying attention to these things, while maintaining a prayerful attitude, is key to rightly discerning God’s will, and God’s timing.
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How Can We Learn to Trust His Plan?
God is faithful. This is foundational to our experience of the Lord. God’s faithfulness is not dependent on our actions, nor on our ability to rightly discern God’s timing. God is faithful because that is who God is. This means we can learn to trust God’s timing by looking at God’s faithfulness in the past. As God has been proven faithful in our past experiences, God will prove faithful in our present or future circumstances as well. Paul affirms this very truth in his letter to the Romans. He writes “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Ultimately, God’s faithfulness is proven in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The cross declares that God works God’s will for our lives in perfect timing.
God’s unyielding faithfulness means two things for us. Firstly, it means that we can risk stepping into the unknown of God’s will. Like Moses heading into Egypt, like Israel wandering towards the Promised Land, or like the disciples heeding the call to “follow me”, we can trust that the Lord will bring about the realization of God’s promises. As we live our lives of faith, we look constantly to the presence of Christ, in whose light we walk.
This also means, however, that we refrain from action or decision when our inward spirits tell us that God’s timing is not right. God brings God’s will to culmination only when the circumstances of life are fully prepared to receive the work of the Kingdom. If we feel that God’s timing is not right, this may suggest that there is still some preparatory work that must occur.
Importantly, the delay of God’s will is not an exclusion of God’s will. The early Christians wrestled with this very dynamic as they sought the return of the Lord. Peter offers a helpful word: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness” (2nd Peter 3:9). Because Kairos is distinctly different than Chronos, we may need to engage in a time of waiting. Minutes, days, even years may pass before God’s purposes are fully revealed for us. Waiting is not reflective of our inability to discern – in fact, it may mean we are discerning rightly!
Our Hope in the Waiting
Like all matters of faith, our eyes are to be cast upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). When God’s timing in our lives does not feel right, we are to keep our eyes focused on the Lord, instead of trying to “figure things out.” Through a prayerful reliance on the Spirit of God, we can be assured that God’s desire for our lives will be revealed, when it needs to be revealed. We can also trust that the Holy Spirit will empower us to follow the will of God as we are called. That which God calls us to, God empowers us for; and that which God empowers us for, God prompts us to do at the appropriate time.
A Prayer for Waiting on God's Timing
Lord, I thank You that You will answer my prayers in Your perfect timing. Reveal what is in my heart, and make me ready to handle the answer in the right way when it comes. Help me to pray by faith consistently and long-term, to believe, wait, and then move forward in Your timing. Help me to be patient in prayer, not give up, and trust You even during moments when I feel negative emotions. I don’t want to live by feelings but by faith. Help me not to take matters in my own hands. I choose to trust you, and I refuse to believe the lies of the enemy. I choose to be faithful in prayer (Colossians 4:2). Deepen my understanding, and give me a greater knowledge of what You are doing in my life. I choose to hold unswervingly to the hope that I profess (Hebrews 10:23). Stretch my faith in the midst of the wait, just as You did with Your disciples when encountering a storm at sea (Matthew 8:23-27). I thank You that You have all wisdom and will answer my prayers in the perfect way. In Jesus’ name, amen. (by Debbie Przybylski)
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Reverend Kyle Norman is the Rector of the Anglican Parish of Holy Cross in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has a doctorate in Spiritual Formation and is often asked to write or speak on the nature of the Christian community, and the role of Spiritual disciplines in Christian life. His personal blog can be found here.