The term “holding pattern” usually refers to the flight pattern maintained by an aircraft
awaiting permission to land. I remember flying into O’hare airport many years ago and getting stuck in a holding pattern. I don’t remember exactly why we were stuck – it was weather-related – but I do remember how I felt waiting. I felt a complete lack of control over the situation which created great anxiety in me. I feared that we would run out of fuel or have an accident with another plane also stuck flying above Chicago. It was hard to keep myself from imagining the “worst case scenario”. I was concerned for my family members waiting to pick me up, that they would be upset, worried, and/or frustrated having to wait for me. And the nausea I felt due to the turbulence was almost unbearable (thankfully, I did not have to use “the bag”).
Even if you have not had this experience in an airplane, I’m sure you have been in situations where you had to wait for something, struggling with similar emotions. At least with my airplane story, the ordeal was over in a couple of hours. Many “holding patterns” involve waiting for months or even years before there is a change or resolution, and in many cases, the change is not what we had hoped for.
Some of my most significant “holding patterns”:
Three years of pre-med studies at the University of Illinois, not knowing if I would get into medical school
Months of waiting and preparing for our wedding
Ten years of waiting and wondering where God would have us go to serve Him overseas
Going two weeks past my due date with Bethany, waiting to go into labor
Months of waiting to see where I would be “matched” for my residency in Internal Medicine/Pediatrics
Two weeks of uncertainty as to whether or not the baby I was pregnant with between Bethany and Joshua would stay in my womb or be taken to heaven before she had a chance at life on earth
Years of waiting until I was “fluent” in Arabic (sometimes I feel like I’m still waiting)
Months of waiting before I became pregnant with Jonathan, each month that passed finding it harder and harder to hope
Waiting with my children for things like university acceptances; job offers; graduations; weddings
And our current holding pattern, years of waiting to understand fully why God called us back to America, getting only bits and pieces of the full explanation along the way
I have learned that God does not forget us or abandon us in our holding patterns. He gives us the gift of His presence and peace along the way. He blesses us with fellow pilgrims who have been through similar things and can encourage us to press on and not lose hope. He strengthens and refines our faith and shows us what is truly important and real. He gives us glimpses and inklings of what the end of our holding pattern will look like.
I stand silently before the Lord, waiting for Him to rescue me. For salvation comes from Him alone. Yes, He alone is my Rock, my rescuer, defense and fortress. Why then should I be tense with fear when troubles come? My protection and success come from God alone. He is my refuge, a Rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust Him all the time. Pour out your longings before Him, for He can help! Psalm 62:5-8 (TLB)
Save me, O my God. The floods have risen. Deeper and deeper I sink in the mire; the waters rise around me. I have wept until I am exhausted; my throat is dry and hoarse; my eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to act. Psalm 69:1-3(TLB)
My eyes are straining to see Your promises come true. When will You comfort me with your help? I am shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke, exhausted with waiting. But still I cling to Your laws and obey them. Psalm 119:82-83(TLB)
Jesus said “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. Luke 12:34-38(NIV)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? Romans 8:18-24(ESV)
Christ died only once as an offering for the sins of many people; and He will come again, but not to deal again with our sins. This time He will come bringing salvation to all those who are eagerly and patiently waiting for Him. Hebrews 9:28(TLB)
What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. Hebrews 11:1(TLB)
Now as for you, dear brothers who are waiting for the Lord’s return, be patient, like a farmer who waits until the autumn for his precious harvest to ripen. Yes, be patient. And take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. James 5:7-8(TLB)
But don’t forget this, dear friends, that a day or a thousand years from now is like tomorrow to the Lord. He isn’t really being slow about His promised return, even though it sometimes seems that way. But He is waiting, for the good reason that He is not willing that any should perish, and He is giving more time for sinners to repent…we are looking forward to God’s promise of new heavens and a new earth afterwards, where there will be only goodness. Dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen and for Him to come, try hard to live without sinning; and be at peace with everyone so that He will be pleased with you when He returns. And remember why He is waiting. He is giving us time to get His message of salvation out to others. 2 Peter 3:8-9, 13-15 (TLB)