It’s just going to take some time. Time will heal. Or simply: with time my dear, with time.
Time is powerful. It heals, transforms, renews, dulls, and decays. It raises rulers and silences them. It turns infants into the aged. It chisels the face of mountains and then turns them to dust. And as humans, we are all its subjects. We feel its effects and are subject to its demands.
One of the most tangible tolls of time is the manner in which it weighs upon our relationships. I don’t relate to my parents the way I did when I was in elementary school. In the same way, I won’t be able to relate to my one-year-old daughter the same way I do today in several months from now. Time demands relationships to change—the change being characterized less by goods and bads and more by difference.
Thus, the question needs to be asked: How does God relate to time? In what ways does time affect our relationship to Him?
One of the loftiest and, admittedly, most puzzling doctrines for us as temporal creatures is the timeless and eternal nature of God. We often assume that the eternality of God refers to God’s immortality, but this fringes on over-simplicity. Stephen Charnock defined eternity as “a permanent and immutable state . . . a perfect possession of life without any variation; it comprehends in itself all years, all ages, all periods of ages; it never begins; it endures after every duration of time, and never ceaseth; it doth as much outrun time, as it went before the beginning of it: time supposeth something before it; but there can be nothing before eternity.”
Jonathan Edwards masterfully explains, “The eternity of God’s existence is nothing else but his immediate, perfect, and invariable possession of the whole of his unlimited life, together and at once.” In other words, in respect to time, there is no change in God whatsoever—no growth, no diminishment, not a trace of alteration. He remains untouched by the winds of time. He is without beginning or end, and He has no temporal succession—that is, He doesn’t move through time as we do. The eternality of God is simply the infinitude of God applied to time. By His eternal essence, God is the only being completely unaffected by the passage of time—He gains and loses nothing through the span history.
God even sees time in a unique manner. While the creature understands time sequentially—present slipping into past just as future slips into present—the eternal God views past, present, and future in a single, divine instant. He sees past and future with equal vividness, as if all of time were at once before Him: “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Ps. 90:4). In the New Testament, Peter aptly explains, “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).
God’s Actions and Relationships
We, who are tethered and bound to time in every conceivable manner, are often confused and disoriented by this lofty view of God. God is categorically other in His relationship to time. As a result, many have questioned the ability of an eternal, timeless God to have meaningful relationships with His creatures. If God is timeless, how can He hear, let alone answer, the cries of His time-bound creation?
The concern is that a genuine relationship is nullified between a time-bound creature and a timeless God. But this is simply not true. God acts in time—He is the author of time, is the governor of time, and has relationships with His creatures who are bound by time. The Lord executes His decrees in time. But God does not undergo temporal succession—He does not in Himself experience the passage of time—even though the works of His hands are very much in time and space. The actions and relationships of the Lord are a product of His eternal will—His eternal will exists outside of time, and then it breathes numerous temporal effects into being.