In his novel, As It Is In Heaven, the Irish writer Niall Williams writes: “There are only three great puzzles in the world, the puzzle of love, the puzzle of death and between each of these, and part of them both is the puzzle of God. God is the greatest puzzle of all.” I have been perplexed by them all! But I agree with Williams: God is the greatest puzzle, especially when we are waiting for him. We are exhorted by the Scriptures—the great revealer of God—to seek the Creator of all things. We are assured that if we seek him with all our heart we shall find him because “he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27). However, as any seasoned follower of God knows, it is not that simple because having found God, we are then exhorted to wait for him—in fact, to wait patiently for him. It seems that while many things could be said about our Father, one thing needs to be understood: God responds within his own rhythms, in his own way, and within his own time. Time belongs to him. Waiting is upon his terms.
How can we grow in our understanding of this tension, especially this mystery of the delayed divine response? James, the brother of Jesus, advises us to be patiently observant. He says: “consider the life of a farmer who plants a seed and then waits for the rain” (see Jas. 5:7–8). Not just any rain but the autumn and spring rains—that is, the seasonal rains that are part of the providential rhythm of creation. This agrarian example teaches us a valuable lesson of how we are to live in God’s world. We are to cooperate with the divine seasons. The philosopher in Ecclesiastes advises us: “there is a time and a season for every activity under heaven … a time to plant and a time to uproot” (Eccl 3:1-2). It’s a foolish person who sows seeds in the heat of a dry summer, for example. However, the philosopher is speaking about more than the weather. The sage is also encouraging us to understand the “times and the seasons” of our own lives. It is by embracing the seasons, both literal and metaphorical, that we can sense the divine rhythms and timings, his ebbs and his flows.