When God's Timing Isn't My Timing

by Madison Upton on

Articles 7 min read
Psalm 13 Isaiah 55:8–9

When I was a sophomore in high school, I went to youth camp with my church. At the camp I felt the Lord calling me to full-time missions. The heavens didn’t open and there wasn’t an audible voice, but rather an all-encompassing peace that felt different than anything I had felt before. I felt a sense of purpose I had never experienced that showed me that the Lord was leading me to a life of serving him overseas. I was nervous and thrilled at the thought. I specifically felt a nudge toward Africa and have had a very tender heart for it ever since. From then on, all I wanted was to go to Africa.

I worked to go on a short-term trip to Africa for years after that. I looked for opportunities, programs, anything that would make it possible. Finally, when I was a freshman in college, I found a 7-week internship program in Ghana, Africa, where I would do play therapy with orphans. This was absolutely everything I had ever dreamed of! I was majoring in Psychology and my career plan was to get my master's degree in play therapy and move to Ghana to work with this program full-time. I assumed I would do this internship, finish school, and then immediately move back and work there. I applied, went through all the interviews, and was so certain this would happen. It was perfect, fit so well into my plans, and I was ready to go. Well, until I was not accepted into the internship program.

I was devastated. I couldn't understand why God would mess this up for me. Didn’t he know how perfect of an opportunity this was? Couldn’t he see how badly I wanted to do this? And wasn’t he the one to give me this desire in the first place?

My frustration and anger only grew from there. I had a terrible summer due to a lot of different circumstances and I just kept adding to my list of why I was mad at God. I didn’t realize how much I was doing this until one day in church during worship. We started singing “Good, Good Father” and it all hit me at once. I couldn't sing that God is a good, good father because I didn’t believe it. If he was so good, he would have given me my heart’s desire, which was a good desire because it was to serve him! I had become angrier than I even knew, but I finally realized that I didn’t want to be angry with God. So, I began to pray that he would show me that he is good despite my circumstances (Psalm 13). The Lord so kindly revealed himself to me through Scripture, prayer and wise counsel, and I let go of my anger and began seeking his will once again.

Fast forward a couple of years and I was working to get to Africa again. This time I was applying for a program in Namibia, Africa. My heart was eager but hesitant to begin this process. I completed the application process and did the interviews and I finally received my favorite email I had gotten up to that point—I was accepted for the team! I was absolutely thrilled and couldn’t wait for my dream of going to Africa to finally come true.

The trip was everything I ever hoped it would be and more. I learned more about myself, God, people, culture and the necessity for the gospel than I had in all my life. It was truly a life-changing experience that I cherish to this day. (Small plug for short-term mission trips and how amazing they are!)


Around the middle of the trip, I was journaling about my experiences and the memories I was making. During this time, I felt so overwhelmed by God’s great grace and mercy that I was on this trip after all the years of hoping and waiting. I had the realization that if I had gone to Africa before then, I would not have been ready. I felt like so much of my calling in my life was solidified on that trip, and the person I was a few years before was not ready to receive that calling just yet. God knows my heart (Psalm 44:21), and he knew that when I was thinking I was ready, I couldn’t have handled all that he would give me. My timing was completely off, even though I thought I knew exactly what was correct. And even though I spent months being angry at God for not giving me what I wanted, when I actually did get what I wanted, I praised God that he made me wait so I could fully appreciate it all. The Lord withheld a good thing from me because he knew he had so much better for me later.

What you need to know is that in all of those years of waiting, the Lord provided for me every step of the way. He allowed me to have incredible people speaking into my life and encouraging me to not give up on my dreams or on God. He surrounded me with great community that held me when I cried on the hard days and celebrated with me on the good days. I was never left alone nor forsaken, even when I chose anger rather than to seek the Lord (Deuteronomy 31:6). In his loving kindness, God still chose to love me even when I believed that he was wrong. It took me years to realize that it in fact was me that was wrong, and he waited for me and was there with open arms when I realized it.

I think everyone has a story like this. It is very easy to want what we want and then be angry when we don’t get that thing or it doesn’t work the way we had hoped. Especially if you are like me and have your life planned out in a very thorough way! But this is when we are making ourselves god and not letting God be God. When we decide that we are the author and perfecter of our lives, rather than submitting to the Creator of the universe, we are the ones who have things wrong. We must lay down our lives, in totality, not just what we want to, and believe that God loves us more than we could hope for. We must truly believe that Jesus died on the cross to save us because he loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). When we believe the truth of Scripture, immerse ourselves in it, and truly believe that God is who he says he is, we can trust that his plans are good and trustworthy (Isaiah 55:8-9).

As you plan your life, I encourage you to be willing to leave your plans behind and trust the God is who able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21)! Don’t settle for what you can dream, but trust that God has so much better for you. Because he sees the whole picture, his plans will always be grander than our own.

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About the Author

Madison Upton (M.A. in Global Leadership, Dallas Baptist University) is Missions Director at Central Bible Church.