God’s Perfect Timing

John FarrellBy John Farrell9 Minutes

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1).


December 2016 through the first three months of 2017 was an extremely difficult period for our family. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and yet we persevered. Despite health problems, death, and layoffs, we made it through perhaps the hardest part of our marriage and with a stronger faith and relationship.

At the time, if I’m being completely honest, I felt worthless and discouraged, but I now know I was where I needed to be. God made sure of that. He knew what He was doing, and He knew where I needed to be. It’s amazing how hindsight is 20/20.

The Beginning of the End

About a week after Thanksgiving in 2016 my father-in-law, Don, became ill. Being a man who was always a pillar of strength and a source of sage advice, he refused to let his sickness overcome him … or at least let on that he was struggling. However, I first noticed something was wrong at our sons’ Christmas play at church. While everyone was enjoying the show and celebrating, he was standing off to the side, clearly not feeling well.

Fast-forward a couple weeks to December 23 when he was admitted to the hospital. With his health quickly declining, my wife along with her sister and mother took turns by his side. Then on January 3, 2017, he was diagnosed with Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia Type 2 (CMML-2).

His prognosis was grim, and he was given a very short time to live. My wife, her sister, and my mother-in-law were constantly present at his bedside.

Another Bump in the Road

And then, as if to add salt to the wounds, on January 12, 2017, I was laid off from my job, along with about 25 percent of the employees. Although I was shaken by this sudden change, it was a blessing in disguise.

With my father-in-law’s health in rapid decline, my wife needed to be there for emotional support for her mom and help prepare everything for her dad’s eventual passing. Unfortunately, this required her to be away from home more than usual.

Our two elementary-aged sons, who knew on the surface that their grandad was ill, but didn’t realize the severity of his illness, craved stability when my wife’s schedule was disrupted. Having recently been laid off, God made it possible for my wife to help her parents and allowed me to be there for Hayden and Liam. If I had not been laid off, I’m not sure it would have been possible to be there as much as was necessary. Although I hated and was scared of being unemployed, in hindsight, I’m glad I was because my boys needed me during this difficult time.

Over the next month and a half, I applied for new jobs during the day while our boys were at school and my wife was doing whatever she needed to for her parents. Toward the end of February, I had a promising lead on a new job. I met and interviewed with the company several times before they offered me a position.

New Chapters

I accepted the position and started my new role on Monday, March 6. On my first day, I informed my supervisor that my father-in-law was in the hospital and he might be moved to Hospice soon.

That Wednesday he was taken to the Hospice House. His time there was short.

In the early hours of Friday, March 10, 2017, my father-in-law, Donald W. Fink, passed away. My wife, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law were all with him as he took his last breath and slipped away to his eternal home.

My wife later described his passing as one of unexpected joy amidst the great sorrow of their loss. Having lost consciousness on the way from the hospital to the Hospice House, the family prayed for peace and strength. Before he passed away, he started cooing “oohs” and “aahs.” According to my wife, it was the most delightful sound of joy and happiness. She believes that, as he entered heaven, he was greeted by his parents, grandparents, and all his other family members and friends who had preceded him in death. The “oohs” and “aahs” were the audible signs of his ultimate exhilaration.

A Lasting Legacy

While I wasn’t present for his passing, I imagine my father-in-law arriving in heaven and meeting Jesus, who tells him something similar to the lyrics from The Afters’ song “Well Done”: “Well done, well done my good and faithful one.”

The song’s words would take on even more meaning a year and a half later when I joined my wife at her insurance company that her dad had started years before. I worked there for a little more than a year and was constantly reminded of my father-in-law’s impact on everyone he met. Almost everyone who stopped by our little office knew him and shared stories of how he had impacted their lives and missed him.

Shortly after Don passed away, my wife got in her car to drive home from the Hospice House. It was a little after 2 a.m. when she turned on the radio to the soothing words of MercyMe’s “Even If.” Throughout her dad’s illness, the song had been her security blanket and a comfort to her when she was sad.

To this day, both “Well Done” and “Even If” remind me of her dad and the legacy that he left behind in his wife, two daughters, and four grandkids.

Although I couldn’t see it at the time, God had a plan and was in control. He always knows what we need, where we need to be, and when we need it. The words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 remind me that God has a masterplan that He will unveil piece by piece whenever He’s ready and it’s time:

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.

In the events surrounding my father-in-law’s passing, God’s timing was perfect … as it always is.