During my college years, students often ran short of cash. Credit cards were not as ubiquitous, Apple Pay had not been invented yet (Apple either, for that matter), and students in general did not have as much discretionary funds as they seem to today.
One situation stood out to me. The details are fuzzy after a few decades, but it seemed like a student needed laundry money. She hadn’t asked for help, but someone became aware and passed the need along. The information traveled through a handful of people before someone was found who had a little extra cash to give to the cause.
But what I remember most from the experience was wondering why God didn’t somehow make the need known to the one person who could help instead of having so many involved. Humanly speaking, it seemed like that would be more efficient. All I could conclude at the time was that those who knew the situation were also in on the blessing.
That may have been the first time I realized that God’s idea of efficiency is not the same as ours. You’ve probably heard the phrase “God is never late, but He is seldom early.” I’ve known many people waiting on funds for camp or mission trips or other needs who could testify to that, with the remaining money coming in at seemingly the last minute.
Another area where God’s way of doing things puzzles me involves time and interruptions. I get frustrated when I try to plan my schedule efficiently in order accomplish what I think He wants me to do, and then an interruption, delay, or snafu occurs. Didn’t He know those things were going to happen? Couldn’t He have directed my planning so as to avoid them? Sure. Then why didn’t He? I don’t know all the reasons, but perhaps one is to teach me the longsuffering I pray for. You can’t learn longsuffering with suffering long. You can’t learn patience without being put in a situation where patience is required.
Perhaps some delays are for our safety. Maybe not getting on the road on time despite all our best efforts kept us from an accident. An interesting, often overlooked passage occurs in Exodus 13, where the Israelites have just left Egypt. Verse 17 says, “ When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.'” So He took them the long way around—to the Red Sea. He knew the nearer way would have been too much for them. But that means He also knew that they should have been able to trust Him for what they would face when caught between Pharaoh’s army and the sea.
Probably another reason He allows interruptions is to remind us that people are more important than our tasks and plans.
Then there are other times we marvel at the series of seeming coincidences that can only point to God’s sovereign rule. When Rosalind Goforth narrowly escaped the Boxer rebellion in China, she hadn’t had time to pack clothes. Dear ladies nearby offered to sew for the family. They got everyone outfitted but the baby by the time the Goforths boarded their ship. Rosalind was exhausted and just could not sew another stitch. Then she got word that a package had been delivered for her: someone had sent her the clothes of her baby son who had passed away. None of these women knew the need, but God arranged their help and gifts at just the perfect time.
We rejoice in situations like that because we see how it ll worked out so marvelously. But we need to trust that God is also working things out when we can’t see it, or when it’s not happening like we thought it would.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21.
We’ve heard Romans 8:28 so much that we’ve become numb to it. But we need to remind ourselves it is not a cliche: it’s a blessed truth:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Even delays, disappointments, detours?
The gospels show Jesus being interrupted frequently. Yet He never lashed out at the interrupter. He was busy, but never frantic. He didn’t do everything that could have been done—there were still sick, blind, lame, needy people in Israel. But He could say, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
You’ve heard the phrase “God moves in mysterious ways.” Did you know that line came from a hymn by William Cowper? It goes like this: