The Waiting

Tom Petty could not be more right: “the waiting is the hardest part.” Ironically, Petty strummed the timeless lick of “The Waiting” for weeks and weeks to figure out the rest of the notes and the lyrics. His band got sick of the lick, but by that time Petty had the chorus,

The waiting is the hardest part

Every day you see one more card

You take it on faith, you take it to the heart

The waiting is the hardest part

Waiting is hard. You wait for results, inspiration, direction, a sign, and you grow weary. Days pass and you lose hope and focus. How much longer until I know? You console yourself in saying, “this wait will teach me patience, and God knows I need to learn that.” To combat anxiety, you recite, “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). You picture a dull, gray waiting room where all you can do is twiddle your thumbs and watch the door. When will it open? When will I know what to do next?

It’s boring. It’s nerve-wracking. No wonder we hate to wait.

I believe our view on waiting is incorrect. I believe God intends for waiting to be an active, not passive, time. “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10) is our favorite reminder to slow down. In our culture of busyness, this verse feels like a deep breath. We camp out in “be still” and refuse to emerge until God brings us the result, inspiration, direction, or sign we so fiercely desire. We neglect the “know that I am God” part of the verse. What does that mean anyway? Doesn’t our decision to be still and wait on the Lord prove out acknowledgment that God is God?

I’m no Hebrew scholar, but I can tell you that “to know” is a verb. The command to “know God” implies action. But what type of action should we take? Perhaps we ought to do as our Sunday School teachers taught us: to read the Bible and pray. I believe this is the type of action God expects of us when we are waiting on Him. I believe this type of action moves us closer to God and closer to the guidance we seek. When we do this, God reveals more of who He is and more of what we ought to do. With each small step in His direction, the “unknown” becomes the known until, one day, the waiting is over. I know this because it happened to me four years ago, and has happened to me a few time since. In fact, I am in a waiting period even today and this memory brings much encouragement.

Four years ago, I applied to teach English at Temple High School in Temple, Texas. At that time, I lived in Kalispell, Montana and the principal kindly agreed to interview me over the phone. They interviewed me on a Friday and would let me know that following Monday what the answer was. If the answer was yes, I would have three days to drive from Montana to Texas in order to make it to new teacher training. I spent the weekend cramming my Toyota Corolla with boxes, books, and whatever else I could manage to pack in. It was a risky endeavor. What if they said no? All that packing and excitement would be for nothing. But to wait passively in fear of the answer would have been foolish. I had prayed much and sought God in His word, and knew to be ready for whatever might lay ahead. Thankfully, the answer was yes and with the turn of a key, I was ready to move on to where God was calling me.

As for the specific action you need to take as you wait, I do not know. But I do know this: to wait on the Lord is not to wait for Him to bring the answer to you. It is to seek Him and find in Him everything you need. Waiting on God requires stepping out in faith and having the courage to seek His guidance. When you seek Him, you will find Him. When you find Him, you will know what to do.

Tom Petty might encourage you to keep strumming, so to speak, as you wait for the rest to fall into place.

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