A great divide in approaches to life is whether we see God's Providence as really in charge. Perhaps the main way we reject it is regarding timing.
Why does this ailment drag on? Why didn't I meet this person sooner? Did this problem have to happen now? Or even, why do I live in this time? To be honest, we think and often act as though God's timing is off.
Thomas Aquinas pens these remarkable words about God's timing:
He orders and arranges everything, including time; for he manages and accommodates the passing of time to those events which he wills to exist at the right moment.
On reading this we probably think, 'Well, I suppose that is what God would do.' But it is very hard to see it in the moment, in the very moment that by his judgment is the right moment.
Much is at stake in whether we come to see this or not; or rather than 'see' this we might say 'accept' it. In a sense I do 'see' it with my mind, at least in the abstract, but the issue is whether I really accept it and take it to heart. Especially when the chips are down, in the moment.
It strikes me that this deeply affects how I look at the future and whether I live in anxiety. I must admit, for instance, that a fear of persons dying too 'early' or 'before their time,' whether myself or others I love, can often weigh on me, even disturbing my peace.
The truth of the words of Aquinas, if accepted, would make for a significantly different life experience regarding how I see the past (whether with regrets), the present (whether with sorrow), and the future (whether with fear).
Part of the richness of God's timing is that as a voluntary agent I am not simply passive to a preordained plan. I must learn to think in terms of God's timing in my day to day choices. When do I wait, when do I move forward? When do I expect certain things of myself or others, when do I realize it's not yet the time? And so forth. Sure, all that happens in God's garden is subject to his providence and so his timing; and for this very reason I should choose (and choose well!) when to plant, when to weed, when to harvest, and when simply to wait.
This is complicated. And somehow my learning to live by the timing of his plan is itself part of the timing of his plan. The effort to accept the things that happen or are given to me in his timing without my choice, as well as the effort to be a prudent agent of right timing for myself and others, will both be live-long projects.
And a great encouragement in this are the above words of Aquinas, which were written in exposition of the words of St. Paul, that God's plan unfolds "in the dispensation of the fulness of time." So it has been written in the Word of God. It is our gift to enter into this reality. In the fulness of time.
John Cuddeback. "God's Timing: Learning to Accept and Enact It." LifeCraft (January 31, 2024).
Reprinted with permission from the author.
John Cuddeback is professor of Philosophy at Christendom College and the author of True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness and Aristotle's Ethics: A Guide to Living the Good Life. He and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children—and a few pigs and sundry—in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah.Copyright © 2024 John Cuddeback
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