In God’s good time

Anger and frustration marked my reaction as I took the call of my real estate agent. For almost the 20th time, my husband and I had lost out in our bid for a house of my liking, and two years had slipped by since we started house hunting. We must have looked at a hundred houses since our return to the area.

Having been holed up in highrise buildings in the mission field, we were determined to find a house with a big yard and a view of the mountains or a body of water. For this reason, each time we were taken to see a house, our first inclination was to look out the windows, to see if we could see any mountains. Just a glimpse of the mountains in the horizon would do. True, we were taken to look at houses located at the foot of the mountains or the slopes of the mountains, but either the price was beyond our budget, or the houses did not meet our criteria even though they offered a beautiful view.

Then there was the recent trend that frustrated us beyond measure. Although it had been the buyer's market since we first came to the area, and there were often predictions that the bubble would burst and prices of houses would plunge, the market continued to be hot. Several times we thought we had found the ideal house and made an offer, only to have someone else outbid us. Those were the times when I cried out to God in bitterness and hit Him with the questions: “Why, God? Don't you care for my needs?”

We had just about given up in despair when the unexpected happened. Told of a house for sale, we drove to the address given. However, it was another house with a “For Sale” sign in the next street that caught our attention. Behind it, less than half a mile away, rose a whole chain of mountains, and in the horizon we could see other mountain ranges. We had our mountain view from all angles. We got the house even though our offer was not the highest.

Now each day, as we revel in the breathtakingly beautiful view of the mountains and thrill at the splendor of the sunrise and sunset etched against them, we continue to be amazed that, although we had initially asked to have only a glimpse of the mountain, God has provided us with a view of the whole range of mountains within close proximity. Certainly God has answered our prayers in a way beyond our expectation. We can now look back and understand why He had allowed us to experience the disappointment of not getting the other houses. It was not because He didn't care for our needs, but because He had in mind a house that would give us more than what we expected and asked for. He just needed to work things out in His own good time!

Joseph: A new turn after a long wait

After this experience, I now read two biblical accounts with new understanding. First, I see youthful Joseph bound and thrust roughly into the caravan bearing him away from the sheltered life of a much-loved son to a life of bondage. As his anguished eyes scanned the hills for the least sign of deliverance, his pleas for help seemed only to bounce back from a brazen sky. Engulfed in despair, he found himself in Egypt, a slave to Potiphar. He could only drown his sorrow in hard work. His master appreciated his industry and trustworthiness and elevated his status. Then just when everything was going well, his mistress' snare brought about the reversal of his fortune and landed him in prison.

In prison, Joseph continued to turn to God as the source of his strength and did his best under the circumstances. Then deliverance came from unexpected quarters. His accurate interpretation of the dreams for the butler and baker led to the release of the former. His only request was for the butler to tell Pharaoh about him and his plight. However, days dragged by, and nothing happened. As he continued to languish in prison in the prime of his life, he must have thrown a thousand “Why's” heavenward.

Then what was that? Heavy pounding on the door of his cell. The guards had come for him with great urgency. Fear gripped him. Was he being hustled out for execution? He was totally unprepared for the honors that followed his interpretation of the dreams of Pharaoh. As he rode around in the chariots, second in command to Pharaoh, it finally dawned on him why God had given the butler temporary amnesia. Had he told Pharaoh about Joseph immediately after his release, would his interpretation of Pharaoh's dream have made the impact it did? In His wisdom, God had allowed Joseph to wait so that His plan could be carried out in a way that far exceeded his wildest dreams.

Moses: Tragedy and triumph

Next I see young prince Moses strutting from the palace of Pharaoh, bursting with the vision of a mission he had been impressed with since childhood–the deliverance of his people from bondage in Egypt. Unfortunately, carried away by misguided zeal, he took an impulsive course of action that thrust him from the palace into the bleak wilderness. With frustrations and despair, he stumbled his way through rock-strewn paths behind flocks of bleating sheep instead of the multitude of Israelites he had dreamed of leading into freedom. Looking up at the towering mountains that shut him off from the world he had known, he must have cried out “Why, God? Have you deserted me?”

Forty years later, just when he was resigned to spending the rest of his life as a humble shepherd in the desert, God called to him out of the burning bush and outlined his mission–to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. By then his wilderness sojourn had eroded his confidence to carry out his mission. However, prodded by God and with promise of help and support from his older brother, he accepted the call.

In Egypt, in spite of the initial bitter rejection by the Israelites and thwarted by the unbending will of Pharaoh, he finally was able to stage the great and spectacular exodus. But how he chafed under the burden of leading such a multitude of rebellious and stiff-necked people! Relief flooded him when they finally arrived at the border of Canaan. He would soon be relieved of his thankless job, but, overcome by fear, the people refused to go in to take the promised land and were punished to wander in the wilderness for forty years. We can see Moses once more crying out, “Why, God?”

Forty years crawled by, and Moses again found himself approaching the border of Canaan. Once again his dream was frustrated. For what might appear to be a minor deviation from carrying out of God's orders at Kadesh, he was again barred from entering the promised land. He had to be satisfied with only a glimpse of the land of milk and honey on the other side of Jordan. Without complaint, Moses submitted to God's will. What surprise awaited him when he awoke to find himself in the heavenly Canaan!

As Solomon has so aptly put it, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13: 12, NIV). However, in the light of my own experience and that of Joseph and Moses, I would like to add that “hope deferred” often times gives God the opportunity to work out a better plan for us. All we need to do is to submit ourselves to His will and allow Him to work things out in His own good time.

Mary H. T. Wong (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is an English teacher and a free-lance writer residing in San Jose, California, U.S.A.