The Turn Key Word of the Christmas Story (and mine)

It’s the fiction writer’s staple, but we seldom anticipate it to grace our own daily reality. In fact, our low expectations reveal how little we understand our God’s ways.

In truth, we serve a God of miracles (hello, just read Luke 2), but our tendency when peering into the future is to predict it based on the rate of past progress. We pray desperately for God to do what we can’t, then we rise from our knees, look at the date the prayer request was first entered, and sigh. “Not gonna happen, at least anytime soon,” we feel, even if we don’t say.

But some years ago, a friend pointed out a truth to me that pierces through hazy doubts. Her statement echoed so deeply in my heart, that I’ve been noticing it illustrated in Scripture ever since. Here it is:

God doesn’t usually move immediately; He moves suddenly.

I have a pretty good inner clock, so I easily think God’s late, behind time, letting “perfect” opportunities for action slip by. But just outside your and my line of sight, He is preparing in ways we can’t see.

And then, at the perfect moment, He suddenly lifts the curtain, revealing an element of His behind-the-scenes work that changes the picture dramatically and completely.

When we need Him to show up

God moved suddenly for the shepherds on the Bethlehem hillsides. For thousands of years previously He worked to “set the stage” for Christ’s birth. Then, in the fullness of time, He sent His angels to suddenly proclaim the glad tidings to the shepherds.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host …” (Luke 2:13).

When our assignment is too big

God moved suddenly for the Christians assembled in the upper room after Christ’s ascension. They had a job too big for them, and they were waiting for God’s power to accomplish it. Suddenly, they received not only God’s power, but God Himself as the Spirit filled them.

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2).

When we are beset by outside forces

God moved suddenly for the early church experiencing severe persecution at the hands of Saul. I can only imagine the fear the Christians in Damascus experienced when they heard Saul was on his way to persecute them. Suddenly, however, Saul’s life was transformed.

“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven” (Acts 9:3).

When we need deliverance

God moved suddenly for Paul and Silas in prison. Their bodies were filled with pain, and they faced more pain ahead, but suddenly, God sent deliverance.

“And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed” (Acts 16:26).

Suddenly—it’s God’s specialty. While we are wringing our hands in despair or lowering our eyes in disappointment all the while wondering why God won’t work immediately, He’s setting the stage for a marvelous suddenly.

Do you need God’s intervention? I hope so. His suddenlies infinitely surpass my immediatelies.