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I was on a flight a few years ago and the airport we were due to land in was experiencing some congestion on the runway due to inclement weather. Following procedure when this happens, the tower put us in what’s called a “holding pattern,” which is essentially when the tower says “fly around in a big circle while we get stuff sorted out on the ground, ok?” The pilot complied.

Now, to the pilot’s credit, there were no issues or rough air in the few minutes that we waited for our clearance to land, but I couldn’t shake the uneasiness that I felt while we circled the airport. I think I was anxious because I knew that holding patterns are a temporary state. There is only a finite amount of fuel, and you can’t just indefinitely “hold” in place above the ground. In my mind, we were in a sort of “mid-air detour,” and like any real control freak does, I viewed the detour as the worst possible thing ever.

I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.- Psalm 120:1

While reflecting on this week’s verse, I kept coming back to this concept of feeling “locked in a holding pattern.” I grew up in a Christian home, so I’ve heard essentially every variation of “give your problems to God” you can think of. Songs, scripture, children’s books, you name it. I am well aware of who I’m supposed to take my troubles to.

The problem is that I’m impatient once I’ve “taken my troubles” to Him. I feel like if I can overcome my pride and ask for help, I deserve a quick and clear answer. More often than not, though, it feels as if I’m in a holding pattern. With an eye on my fuel gauge, I’ve asked God for help and my only immediate answer, if any, is “wait.”

I hate to spoil it, but there’s no big dramatic end to my story. After a few minutes, the pilot announced that the tower had given us clearance to land- that all the issues on the ground had been solved, and we could safely come home. But just imagine for a second if a different type of announcement was made. What if the pilot announced to the cabin “hey guys, the tower isn’t giving us clearance to land, but I really want to land this thing so just hang on.”

Imagine how ridiculous that would be! The pilot obviously had the expertise to fly the plane, but while suspended in that temporary holding pattern, they lacked the perspective to make that kind of call. When the tower says “we’ve got this handled, but you need to wait a minute,” the pilot shows deference. It’s a system that works because it involves trust between those in a holding pattern, and those with the perspective on the ground.

I’m thinking back to all the times in my life where the pressure from waiting got to be too much for me. When I left my holding pattern early. God, in all His graciousness, hasn’t let me crash and burn yet, but I can definitely tell the difference between a graceful descent, and having to use a parachute. 

If you’re waiting on an answer right now, I’m there with you. I know holding patterns are scary, and frustrating. I know it’s looking like we’re low on fuel. Hang in there. You’ve taken your problems to Him, and He hears you. Your answer is coming. 

Catch you on the descent.