When I read the Christmas story again this year, I couldn’t help but notice just how ill-timed Gabriel’s announcements of good news seemed to be. In the first case, Zechariah and Elizabeth had been praying for a baby for years, probably decades. But by the time Gabriel showed up to tell them that God was finally about to answer their prayer, they were old, past their prime. They’d have to buy BENGAY® and diaper ointment in the same shopping trip. They and their baby would both be eating pureed food at the same time.
On the other hand, we can be pretty sure that the teenaged Mary wasn’t praying for a baby at all. She wasn’t married yet. Having a baby out of wedlock would not seem like good news. Still, that’s the news Gabriel gave to her when he made his surprise visit to her.
In hindsight, we know very well that the arrival of both babies, Mary’s in particular, truly was good news. Sure, the news may have stunned their parents, and maybe even stressed them out some. But the timing was perfect. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s child, John the Baptist, arrived on the scene just in time to prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah. And Mary’s baby, Jesus, came at “the right time” (Galatians 4:4, NLT), at the perfect intersection in history when He could best do His work of redemption for all mankind.
As I was pondering the unusual timing of these two births, I’ve thought about how prone I am to judge the appropriateness of an event’s timing. I deem some things as “too late” and others as “premature.” I view some things as interruptions, others as delays. Every once in a while, I realize that something is perfectly timed—but those times are fairly infrequent. Usually, if it were up to me, I’d prefer that things happen at some time other than when they actually do.
I am a time-bound creature. God, on the other hand, is not. Rather, He controls time. It is He who “changes times and seasons” (Daniel 2:21). He is the one determined my days and who has written every one of them in His book before one of them came to be (Job 14:5; Psalm 139:16).
Sometimes the Lord seems to dawdle about answering my prayers. The wonderful old King James Version word for that is “tarry.” Other times He shows up suddenly, when I am not really ready for Him. I haven’t counted them, but it seems like there are fairly equal numbers of times where the Bible tells us to wait for Him and times when it warns us to be ready because He might show up when we’re least expecting Him.
In other words, God’s timing and mine don’t always match up. And when they don’t, I sometimes worry. After all, it’s not convenient to have a baby when you were just starting to think about retiring. It’s also not convenient to have a baby when you’re not married yet and society doesn’t look kindly upon unwed mothers.
I haven’t faced anything as radical as those situations, but I have had plenty of both delays and interruptions that have thrown me for a loop. However, I shouldn’t doubt the timing. I can look back on every one of those and realize that God’s timing, though different from mine, was always just right.
That shouldn’t be surprising because God’s Word assures me that “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise” (2 Peter 3:9). It tells me that there is a perfect time and season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Nothing happens early, nothing is late—it’s all in His perfect timing.
This is a helpful perspective when thinking about prayer. I can think of a few prayer requests I’ve been waiting on for a long time now. I actually have been asking Him to “Please hurry.” And there’s nothing wrong with that—King David sometimes did it in his prayers (Psalm 40:17, 70:5). However, when, in spite of my pleas for Him to answer quickly, He does take a while, I don’t want to get discouraged, frustrated, or give up. I want to trust Him.
Likewise, when the Lord chooses to surprise me with something I wasn’t quite ready for, I want to trust Him in that, too.
Bottom line? I really do believe that God knows what He is doing. His timing is far better than mine, so, Ancient of Days, I want to set my watch to Yours. Please help me to get into sync with You because You are never early and never late, but always just on time.