Question: "What does it mean that "He has made everything beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11)?"
Answer: “Timing is everything.” This is a maxim that comedians, campaign managers, and marketing directors live by. It indicates that there’s always an ideal time to introduce an idea or perform an action, in order to maximize an intended effect.
In many areas, when one’s timing is off, the likelihood of success is diminished.
“God’s perfect timing” is an aspect of divine sovereignty. In God’s perfect timing, He only acts when it is optimal for what He wants to accomplish in His kingdom. In His omniscience, the Lord sees everything that is going on in the world in any given moment of time—which involves trillions of details that only the Spirit of God can fully grasp.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon says, “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). What does this mean, especially in regard to God’s perfect timing?
The declaration that God has made everything beautiful in its time is preceded by one of the most famous passages in Scripture:
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8).
In 1965, the folk rock band The Byrds recorded a song, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” that used a portion of this passage and helped contribute to its recognition in pop culture.
Solomon follows his catalog of human experience with the statement that God, in His sovereignty, has made everything beautiful in its time. That is, He optimizes the outcome of all things, both what He has made and the products of mankind’s activity—even the more challenging aspects of human suffering. He does this in a way that is not only glorifying to Him but healing to those who look to Him for peace, purpose, and salvation. In the words of commentator Joseph Benson, God will work all things out “so that, all things considered, it could not have been better” (Commentary on the Old and New Testaments).
There are a multitude of scriptural passages that indicate the perfection and beauty of God’s timing:
“When the set time was fully come, God sent His son” (Galatians 4:4). Jesus introduced his ministry with the words, “The time has come” (Mark 1:15). And we have the promise that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT; see also Genesis 21:2; Isaiah 46:10; 60:22; Habakkuk 2:3; Matthew 24:36; 26:18; John 7:6; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Ephesians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:1; 1 Peter 5:6–7; 2 Peter 3:8; Revelation 1:1).
From a human perspective, God’s timing often does not seem perfect, and it’s hard to see how the events of the world can ever be made “beautiful.” Consider the disappointed reactions of Mary and Martha when Jesus arrived four days after their brother died—after He deliberately delayed His arrival (John 11:1–44).
We are admonished repeatedly in the Bible to “wait on the Lord” (e.g., Psalm 27:14; Hebrews 6:15). Peter tells us to not forget that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness” (2 Peter 3:8). If we are patient and wait on the Lord, we will eventually see the beauty of God’s handiwork—all in His perfect timing.