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God, Tough Times

When God’s Timing Seems Terrible

My grandmother passed away the day after Christmas, less than two weeks after my sister’s wedding.

That sounds like terrible timing. And in the first hours after I got the first foreboding text, it certainly felt so.

I wanted a little more time. I needed rest. My family needed rest. I wanted Mawmaw to recover long enough to enjoy being back at home, the home she’d just returned to a few days ago. Surely she and we had earned that after months of fighting for her health?

But when the time came to join my family’s watch by Mawmaw’s bedside, I found I was ready. Not eager or glad. But prepared to lean into this moment and walk through all that came next.

And the more I reflected on the events and circumstances surrounding this moment, the better I realized God’s timing was. And the more I let God guide me through it, the more I saw His provision.

Sure, I was worn thin by week’s end. But God met me there too.

We humans often fear the future because we don’t know how or if our needs will be met. We peer down life’s road, trying to plan our way, but we can only see so far. So, for simplicity and maximum preparedness, we assume the worst. And for further simplicity, and maybe for conscience’s sake, we shoulder full responsibility for getting ourselves through it.

The Bible exhorts us to steward our time and resources wisely. We should certainly do our part to prepare for the foreseeable future.

But Scripture also reminds us again and again of our limited power and perspective. And it tells us again and again of God’s sovereignty. Rather than worry about tomorrow, we’re told to entrust it to God.

But how do we do that when we’re facing inevitable loss? Where and how can we still find the providence of a loving, sovereign God?

Here are five suggestions:

Cast your cares on Him

One of the simplest and most obvious ways to find God’s provision is to ask for it.

Yet we often neglect to ask. We can get so caught up in disaster preparations that we fail to get God involved—except maybe as an assistant or backup plan. And when actual disaster strikes, the ensuing flurry and fear can drive Him out of our minds.

When we do remember Him, we might hesitate to pick up the connection. Maybe we think He has more important things to do. Maybe we think we can get by alone. Maybe we’re not sure a particular need falls into His department. Maybe we fear we’ve already exceeded our mercy quota.

Whatever our doubts, the Bible has good news for us: Not only is God capable in our every area of need, but He welcomes us when we come to Him, needs and all. In fact, He commands us to cast all our cares on Him and bring Him every request.

He doesn’t promise to give us everything we ask for. But He promises to meet our souls’ needs, guard our hearts and minds with His incomprehensible peace, and give us Himself.

So before you do anything, and while you do anything, and when you can do nothing—pray.

And when you don’t know what to pray, or have breath to say it—just call His name.

He knows.

Watch and praise

Sometimes we ask for provision…and then look right past it.

Maybe we expect something different. Maybe we get discouraged and stop looking. Maybe we just get busy and distracted. Maybe we never really expected an answer.

Other times, in His wisdom and grace, God might give us something we didn’t think to ask for.

Whatever the reason, through our oversight we miss a blessing. More than the gift itself, we miss a reminder of God’s love for us and a chance to connect with Him more deeply.

Thankfully, He knows about our spiritual nearsightedness. If we confess it and turn to Him, He’s more than happy to heal our vision—and keep on giving.

But to see, we must look.

After Mawmaw passed, my mom started a “blessings list”. She jotted down all the ways God had prepared, sustained, and/or simply blessed her in the time leading up to and following her mother’s passing. She also shared the list with family and friends. And it’s still growing.

The good things she listed haven’t taken away our family’s grief or made our loss easy. But reflecting on them opens the door to gratitude. It grounds us in a fuller view of reality—a reality where a compassionate God cares for and draws near to His suffering people.

Whatever your circumstances, take time to name the good things in your life. Name things you asked for…and things you didn’t. Things you expected…and things you didn’t.

If it helps, write them down. Consider inviting family or friends to join you in reflecting on God’s goodness. If you need extra motivation or are up for a challenge, consider setting yourself a goal, as Ann Voskamp did, of listing so many gifts.

However you do it, make watching for and naming God’s gifts a habit. And thank Him for each and every one.

Keep walking God’s way

Sometimes we miss God’s provision because we’re walking the wrong way.

Think of it like this: We can only enjoy the comradery of a walking partner we keep pace with. When we veer off on our own, we lose not only the sights but the experience of sharing a journey with them. In doing so, we might avoid the journey’s hardships. But we also avoid the joys and gifts that came with them.

Through Jesus, God invites us to follow Him on an adventure full of His presence and destined to end in our good. When we accept His invitation, we get to experience Him and His work. Along with the hardships, we get to witness and receive His goodness. And despite our losses, we end the journey richer than before.

On the other hand, if we refuse His offer and go our own way, we miss those opportunities. We might or might not keep our sense of control. We might even lead a fairly comfortable life. But without embracing Goodness Himself, we end up impoverished.

If I’d let my objections to God’s timing dictate my responses to Mawmaw’s passing, I would have missed many divine gifts. If I’d shut down my texts and stayed home, I would have missed the unspeakable privilege of watching at my grandmother’s bedside. If I’d distanced myself from grief, I would have missed the comfort of grieving alongside family. If I’d given God the silent treatment, I would have passed over several small but special moments during the following days and weeks. Little gifts left unclaimed.

As it was, I nearly did miss a few things. But deciding to face God and obey Him even when things didn’t go my way led me straight into His work and let me see glimpses of it unfold. In the midst of loss, I found myself in the path of His provision and presence—because I’d sought to be there.

I wanted to be close to God and His will for me more than I wanted a false sense of control. And God welcomed me in as far as I would go.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not suggesting we earn God’s provision through obedience. That’s impossible and unnecessary. In fact, trying to earn His favor by any means leads us away from Him, because bargaining isn’t how He works. He’s chosen to offer us His mercy, not tally our (woefully inadequate) merit. And mercy can and does only benefit those who humbly seek it.

Rather, I’m talking about positioning ourselves through obedience to receive what God alone can provide. I’m talking about allowing Him the opportunity to fulfill His heart toward us.

We do this by studying His Word, the Bible, and applying its truths and principles to our lives. We do it by believing in the Savior it preaches—the One who suffered to offer us this gracious opportunity—and committing to the adventure of a lifetime.

So choose faithfulness. Choose His way. Even when you hurt. Because the God who suffered for you wants to be with you in your suffering. If you let Him, He will.

There’s no one better to journey with.

Look to the stories of His people

As I sat in my grandmother’s room, surrounded by family awaiting her departure, I reflected on and drew strength from Christ-followers who walked ahead of me on the faith journey.

I looked around at my older family members of faith and considered how much they’d been through. Yet here they sat, talking, sometimes smiling, comforting, patiently waiting. God had brought their souls safely to this point. And I knew He’d get them through this hardship as well.

If He’d done it for them, for us, for me, before—He’d do it again.

I also recalled Corrie ten Boom’s powerful conversation with her father about preparing for death. Long before her family faced the horrors of Nazi prisons and camps, as a child Corrie worried about martyrdom. She told her father she feared she’d never have the strength to remain true to Jesus to the end.

In response, her father explained that dying is like boarding a train. Just as he’d hand Corrie her ticket right before they got on a train, God will give His children their “tickets” at the exact moment they need them. Not sooner, not later. Until then, He’ll keep our tickets safe for us.

Throughout her life, Corrie found this to be true of every Christ-follower she knew who asked and trusted God to prepare them for death.

I believe this applies to every kind of hardship we face. And when I doubt, I can look to the testimonies of others—real, ordinary, needy people like me who turned to God in their distress and received soul-sustaining compassion. If He did that for them, I can trust He’ll do it for me too.

Others’ testimonies help strengthen our faith in our Father’s provision. In doing so, they become part of that provision themselves.

The same God works in every era, in every place, and in the life of every Christ-follower. Each story plays out differently, but His faithful love remains the same. He who loves your neighbor also loves you—and vice versa.

So listen to others’ stories. And consider sharing your own.

Recall His character

The ultimate source of our comfort in fear or hardship is the assurance of who God is. Reminding ourselves in Whom we trust reminds us what we can expect from Him and why.

None of us can fully grasp God this side of eternity. But we can know who He is through His Word, the Bible. And if we’re in Christ, we experience His full presence in the Holy Spirit, who reveals Him to us.

God is compassionate, merciful, faithful, just, holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal, and present everywhere and everywhen at once. He exists in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—all equal, all the same, each playing a different role but all being the same God.

God created a good and perfect world, which fell into decay and death when humans first sinned. Sin also infected human nature so that all humans since are born with an innate bent for sin and bear its consequences. But having foreseen their sin, God planned a path of redemption for humanity and the whole world.

The Son became fully human in the form of Jesus Christ, while remaining fully God and therefore perfect and sinless. Jesus suffered and died for our sins, was raised on the third day afterward, and ascended to heaven, where He intercedes and advocates for everyone who repents of sin and trusts in Him. At the end of all things, He will return to renew this fallen world and establish God’s reign on earth.

Until then, the Holy Spirit accompanies Jesus’ followers. The Spirit provides all they need to live God-honoring lives and makes their character more and more like that of Jesus. And at Jesus’ return, the Spirit will raise their bodies to glorious immortality.

What does this all have to do with our worries and struggles?

When we understand and believe the Bible’s portrait of God, we see a God who loves and cares about His people. Who not only can but wants to meet their deepest needs. Who has provided for their past and present and future through Christ.

If you haven’t already welcomed Him into your heart and life, now’s the perfect time to do so. Repent of and confess your sins, asking His forgiveness. Thank Him for what He’s done, is doing, and will do for you through Jesus. Ask Jesus to be the Savior of your soul and Lord of your life.

If we’ve put our faith and hope in Jesus, we need not fear the future. We need not wear out our lives struggling for control we’ll never have.

Because the One who does have control loves us. He’ll give us what we need when we need it. And He’ll be there with us every moment, every step of the way. Until we’re safely Home.

God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord is pure.
He is a shield to all who take refuge in him.

2 Samuel 22:31 (CSB)

Scripture quotations marked CSB have been taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

4 thoughts on “When God’s Timing Seems Terrible”

  1. Thank you for this “timely” reminder, Meagan. I have found this to be true in my own life. We can so easily miss the little blessings along our pathway if we’re not looking for them. But oh…when we do, how blessed we are! He’s a Good, Good Father.

    Liked by 1 person

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