Sometimes timing can make all the difference. And often that factor is the very thing that is beyond our control.
I was reminded of that truth when I heard about the fiery multi-vehicle accident that took place last Sunday on Interstate 75 near Gainesville, Fla. Early reports were that at least 10 people lost their lives.
That busy stretch of highway was shut down for most of the day as the clean-up and investigation took place. The cause of the accident was a thick haze hovering over the area due to a mixture of fog and smoke from a nearby brush fire. Reporters said that you couldn't even see your hand in front of your face.
The reason that tragic event stood out more prominently to me on this occasion is that my wife, her mother, and my son had just traveled that stretch of interstate the day before the incident. And I knew my son would be traveling back that way the day after.
If those deadly conditions had formed 24 hours earlier or later, my family members could've been involved in either the accident itself or in the snarled traffic in its aftermath. It was all about timing.
No matter how precisely we make our plans and map out our schedules, the timing of events is often out of our hands. We believe in a God who is ultimately in control, but we sometimes don't understand His timing.
I'm thankful that my family was spared from involvement in that accident. But no doubt there are other grieving families questioning why their loved ones happened to be in that place at that particular tragic moment.
While we don't always receive all the answers to our questions about the timing of events in our lives, we know that we can trust the God who is in control. When things seem to be moving too slowly or too rapidly at the moment from our perspective, we know that God has a purpose and is working things out in a way that is ultimately in our best interests.
After the Israelites were delivered from their slavery in Egypt and God was preparing them to enter the land He was giving to them, He promised them success in conquering the current residents of that territory.
He told them, "I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you until you have increased, and you inherit the land" (Exodus 23:29-30).
God's timing meant a gradual conquering of the land, because that would be best for His people in the long run.
I could imagine some of the people getting impatient, questioning why they were making such slow progress. I could hear some saying, "If we only had enough faith and courage we could conquer this land in a few weeks." Or others claiming, "If we'll set some goals and get better organized, we can complete this mission quickly."
God knew that moving slowly, "little by little," was what was needed.
There are other times when God says "move forward now," as when those same Israelites had earlier camped by the Red Sea. God opened a pathway for them through the midst of that body of water and instructed them to go. Moving slowly then would have been disastrous, as it would've given the Egyptian army time to catch up to them.
We may not always understand God's timetable in our lives, but let's not hurry ahead of Him or lag behind Him. Let's trust that His timing is always in our best interest.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.