The Spiritual Practice of Waiting
By Fr. Daniel Pinell
When I hear the word waiting, it can bring back some painful and uncomfortable memories. When I was 9 years old, my parents decided to take us to Disney World in Orlando for a vacation. Being from Nicaragua, this meant going to the US embassy and waiting, for what felt like interminable hours, to apply for a tourist visa. One fateful morning we woke up around 4 am, had a quick breakfast around 5 in the morning, and we arrived promptly at the US Embassy in Nicaragua around 6 am, already an immense crow gathering outside. We left the Embassy around 4 pm, with no food in our stomachs other than our quick breakfast. In one moment of desperation, I cried to my parents “I want to go home! I don’t care about going to Disney World anymore!”
I’m sure some of us can share uncomfortable experiences like these. We remember those moments and the pain it brought us, but we may also remember our short-sightedness, and when the power of hindsight is afforded to us, we may conclude the waiting period to have been worth it. Waiting is rarely a pleasant experience, but it is one that can bring many spiritual gains.
The Bible is full of references to waiting as a spiritual practice. Consider, for example, Isaiah 64:4:
From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
Isaiah 64 is a prayer of one who is waiting for God. When we wait on God, it doesn’t mean that we get to be inactive. This is a call of active waiting. It is not call to do nothing and wait until God delivers us. This is a prayer of one who knows that true redemption comes only from God, while also knowing full well that we are to be instruments of that redemption.
The Hebrew word for wait, haka, refers in its purest form to a patient, confident, and expectant faith, one that is truly simple in its unwavering trust in the divine promises. In other words, God calls us to a hopeful waiting.
There will be moments in our lives, if we are not in them already, where God will call us to wait. Maybe we are in the middle of a transition, where we know God has called us to a new place or situation but has not given us release from our current one. Maybe God has given you a promise that has not yet materialized. Maybe you feel like you are done waiting, and have lost hope.
In those moments of waiting, I encourage you to hold on to the promises Christ has given you. The best way to do that is through intimacy with Him. This is the work of waiting: to press on in prayer so we can be reminded, on a daily basis, of the promises we have in Him. Remain connected to the vine, and your waiting will bring fruit. If you, however, decide to wait and do not much else, you will quickly lose strength and grow discouraged. Waiting becomes a burden. When we wait on the Lord, God prepares us for what is to come. It is in these precious moments of intimacy that God grows our hearts closer to Him and nourishes us with the hope His unfailing promises bring.
If you find yourself waiting on God, I pray that you will remain close to Him, as He prepares your hearts and minds for the work He has prepared for you.