Waiting on God

Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House

Jesus gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised.’ To wait is the Lord’s command to the disciples at the time of his Ascension. This time of waiting Acts 1:14 tells us was a time spent together—the disciples, with Mary mother of Jesus, the other women, and his brothers joined together in constant prayer. This waiting time was not a time of a passive absence of activity; it was one of deepening fellowship and utter dependence on God. This is what waiting must be for the Christian.

A great amount of life is spent in waiting — of being in between. It is a consequence of the nature of being human that so much is beyond our control; creation is so ordered as to make us dependent on other people and the unfolding of circumstances and consequences. The natural reaction is to fuss and fret and try to take back control of the situation. It is seldom possible to reclaim the timing of the events and processes to which we are subject.

Learning how to wait helps us to learn how to pray. The disciples, Our Lady and their companions were in ‘constant prayer’ during this profound Novena {nine days) between Ascension and Pentecost. It was a time {we can speculate) both of deepening awareness of what had happened over the past forty days, and preparation through penitence and praise to receive the Holy Spirit. It was a time of absolute openness and complete dependence on the Holy Spirit.

There is a ‘waiting upon God’ that is an attitude of patiently seeking the way forward or listening attentively to his call to follow. If you are in this predicament then consider the example of the ‘first Novena’. From it we can learn the following: this time of waiting is part of God’s purpose and activity; it is not an abandonment of us. It is a time that should not be a solitary one; it is very important to seek friendship and fellowship in the waiting. In the same way one might ask a friend to accompany one to wait for a hospital appointment, it is important to have someone to share this waiting on God which has nothing like an appointment time attached to it.

It is also important to keep working away at the task in hand. There is always something which can be done with and for God in the present situation. There is always unfinished business to attend to. To wait does not mean to stop. Waiting can provide an opportunity for restoration and preparation. It is during the Novena that Peter calls the community together to tell them ‘it is necessary to choose one of the men’ to replace Judas. In this way the apostolic number was restored and the community of faith was prepared for the outcome of waiting.

Waiting is a testing of trust, but in the testing is an invitation to deeper fellowship and faith and it draws one nearer to God whose patience is neverending.