A while back I wrote an article that was intended as a reminder that God is always there for us and working His will to our benefit, even in life’s most difficult moments. The general idea was that we don’t have to know everything in order to trust Him.

But, as you probably well know, there’s a huge distance between intellectually grasping what the Bible says and learning to accept it. When you’re in the midst of one of those difficult situations, you can read and re-read all of those biblical promises… but all that knowledge doesn’t do much for you today. Sure, it’s some comfort for the future, but the here and now still is what it is, and that can be hard to handle sometimes.

So what do we do? While those well-meaning clichés like “While you’re waiting for God to open a door, praise Him in the hallway” are sometimes offered, they don’t help all that much, either. So beyond reminding yourself that God cares for you, what can you do when you’re waiting on that job, childless, single, stuck in a less-than-ideal living or work situation, or in some other hardship that seems hopeless?

Work on your spiritual life.

There’s always something to work on in our spiritual walk of faith. Sometimes while we’re waiting on an answer to prayer we find ourselves with more time than we’ll have once that prayer is answered. The excuses for putting off spiritual development will always be there. I’m sure you’ve heard the old list of excuses – “Just let me get out of school and start my career, Lord, then I’ll serve you.” Then it’s “just let me get married… Just let me have kids… Just let me get my kids through school… Just let me get to retirement.” It’s at about that time that many Christians excuse themselves from the work of the church. Instead of waiting for the next step in life, why not purpose to grow today? Dedicate yourself to overcoming a particular weakness. Develop a spiritual discipline you may have neglected. Learn something new about the Bible. Rather than dwelling on the challenges you’re facing in life, put some time, energy, and focus into something that will pay off long term, no matter how God directs your life.

Invest in other people’s lives.

One of the best ways to quell the anxiety and uncertainty that comes while we learn to trust God is to serve others. As opposed to focusing on ourselves and the things we want or need, service gets us thinking about other people. In this way we can emulate the love that Jesus has for us, and putting our knowledge about God into action is just another way in which we can grow closer to Him and trust Him all the more as we see His love working through our actions. Find someone you can serve. Put people on your prayer list so you’ll be reminded to think of them each day and check in on them occasionally. Spend some time with somebody who could use some encouragement. Sometimes in looking for ways to encourage others we say the very words we need to hear. Learning to put others first and to serve them is one of the best ways to make use of the time we have while we wait on God.

Pray. Pray. And pray again. 

Of course, this article is about what to do when you’ve already prayed and are waiting on an answer. But it’s critically important that we remember to just keep praying. With prayer, the temptation often arises to say “I tried that.” We get the idea of prayer, and we know that God hears us… it’s just that sometimes it feels like it’s not doing anything. Just keep praying.

Read Luke 11:5-13. You’ll notice two separate parts that teach us the importance of prayer. At first, Jesus gives a mini-parable, saying that sometimes persistence is required to get the job done, so don’t give up. He follows that with the reminder that God is the perfect Father, and He won’t give us stones or snakes when we ask for loaves and eggs. You’re talking to the all-powerful Creator, He’s listening, and He’s going to do what’s best for you. That’s why we persist in prayer – to be reminded of that, even when we’re not always getting the immediate answer we’re looking for.

It’s okay to pray for what you want specifically, but always leave the request open to God’s will, because what we want is not always what’s best. Pray for Him to grant you contentment until He answers your request. And then keep on praying. No matter how long you go without an answer, don’t give up on Him.

There’s hardly anybody who has the luxury of going through life without hitting some kind of hardship, some time of anxiety and waiting. Truthfully, those are often the best times to strengthen our faith and learn to trust God all the more. Even when you know what the Bible says about trusting God, we often have to see Him work in our lives in some way to be reminded that He’s with us. So, rather than questioning God when times get tough, take time for extra effort in your spiritual life. Invest in the lives of other people. And keep on praying. We know that God cares. Let’s purpose to get to work so we can see that truth in action.

Jack Wilkie is the author of “Failure: What Christian Parents Need to Know About American Education” and is the speaker for Focus Press’s “The Lost Generation” seminar. To schedule a seminar at your church, contact jack@tampaseo.expert.