The Monday before Christmas, I was at home by myself. It was early in the day, and I was feeling unsettled and a bit lonely.
I can’t pinpoint an exact cause for these feelings. The stress of the season? A combination of circumstances and unknowns over which I had little control? All of the above, maybe?
I don’t know. I just know that later in the morning, as I was going about my daily routine, I asked God to let me hear from someone who cared about me that day. I love it when I get a text or email from Randy or one of our girls, but my heart longed for a touch from a friend or loved one who doesn’t live in my home—someone unexpected, if you will.
The day went on, and nothing happened. The bad feelings faded, and I conveniently forgot about my earlier prayer.
When I went outside later that afternoon to fetch the mail, though, a pink envelope stood out among the advertising flyers and holiday greeting cards.
I opened it up to find a birthday card from my oldest brother. There’s nothing especially unusual about that, except for the tiny detail that my birthday is in early November and the card arrived on Dec. 19.
My brother is 11 years older than me. He lives in Texas, so I see him maybe once a year—when he comes to visit our parents. I’m fond of him and my southern-to-the-core sister-in-law, but we don’t keep in touch much beyond that.
With its sweet, affirming message, the card he sent would have made me smile no matter when I received it. But the fact that it arrived on the very day I prayed to hear from someone who cares? I can’t even tell you what that did for my heart and soul.
To put it simply, it was a much-needed, very personal reminder of one of those foundational theological truths I wrote about last week: God answers prayer.
It’s true. He does.
He answered my prayer that day, and I have a feeling that, if you stop and think about it, you’ll find He has answered your prayers too (though probably not all of them, and maybe not as obviously as this one).
And there’s something else. Not only does God answer prayer, but—as my friend Linda wrote so eloquently a few weeks ago—His timing is “impeccably astonishing.”
I know. I could easily pass this whole thing off as coincidence or happenstance. Had the card gotten to my house a couple of days earlier, I wouldn’t even be writing these words. But it didn’t.
The scriptures frequently instruct us to wait upon the Lord. They remind us that there is a season for everything (Ecc. 3:1), that our times are in God’s hands (Psalm 31:15), that He makes everything beautiful in His time (Ecc. 3:11).
These truths might be hard to accept at times, but they’re not complicated.
God operates according to His timetable, not ours. We can bang our heads against the wall trying to figure out why this thing didn’t happen earlier or why we didn’t learn about that thing sooner, and sure—maybe it would have made more sense or brought about a “better” outcome if we had.
But God is sovereign. He doesn’t think the way our finite minds think, nor does He function the way our frail human bodies function (Isaiah 55:8).
For one thing, He sees the bigger picture. He knows what we need (and what our loved ones need) to fulfill His purposes—for us as individuals and for the world at large.
And in His infinite wisdom, He knows exactly when we need it.
All of this should bring us to our knees in humble worship. But here’s something else I love about God.
At times, when one part of life is crowded with stress and struggle, He shows up somewhere else with a loving reminder that He’s still with us and still moving on our behalf. These appearances might come in the form of unexpected help or even healing, but often, they’re much simpler than that.
The birthday card from my brother wasn’t a miracle, but I think it was a touch from God. And it came exactly when I needed it.
Whether you’re just beginning to get impatient or you’ve already commenced with full-blown head-banging, I hope these two truths fortify your faith today:
God does answer prayer. And yes, His timing is astonishing.
P.S. If you have your own story about an obvious answer to prayer or God’s astonishing timing, please feel free to share it in the comment section.