This article was written by Frank Viola and was published in his exclusive Unfiltered update list which goes out every week to his email subscribers. If you enjoy this update, you can get these Unfiltered updates by signing up here. It’s FREE.
When a plane is in mid air and cannot descend, it circles itself repeatedly until it’s given permission to land.
We call this a “holding pattern.”
Many of you are in a holding pattern right now with respect to one or more areas of your life: be it your spiritual life, your ministry, your business, your health, your career, and/or your relationships.
You’re in constant motion, circling ground you’ve seen before, but you’re making no progress.
In this article, I want to share a few insights I’ve discovered about how to react when you’re in a holding pattern.
- Recognize that you’re not alone. Recently, I conducted a survey on my Facebook wall and 95% of those who responded said they were stuck in a holding pattern in some arena of their lives. So take comfort. There’s nothing wrong with you.
- Accept the fact that much of life is waiting. It’s never easy to wait. We must wait on friends, family members, employees, employers, doctors, email responses, phone calls, God, etc. Waiting is a huge chunk of life on this side of the veil. Consequently, the virtue that most of us have a love-hate relationship with (meaning, we love to hate it!) — patience — is required. Our technological world has addicted us to immediacy, but God seeks to work patience (endurance) into us. And Jesus Christ is Patience incarnate. So embrace the wait.
- Use the time for preparation. Paul didn’t begin his apostolic ministry until many years had passed after his conversion. Moses spent many years of doing much of nothing preparing for His ministry. Jesus spent most of His adult life as a Nazarene artisan before He began His life-changing ministry. Regardless of what you’re waiting on — a career, a business, a new or restored relationship, a ministry, a partnership, etc. — the holding pattern is your time to prepare.
- Refuse to lose hope. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, discouragement is normal and it’s not a sin. Despair is what you want to avoid because despair means you’ve lost faith and hope, the two ingredients that move God to act on your behalf. More on this later.
- Don’t let your mind go to certain places. When in a holding pattern, your mind can easily go to dark places of worry (about the worst possible outcomes) as well as temptation. Last month, I gave you a proven strategy to defeat worry. Resist it like the plague. Believe that the Lord knows what He’s doing and will turn your trial into gold.
- Discover the intended lesson. We often get stuck in the weeds and fail to see the big picture that God is seeking to paint in our lives. Poke your head above the clouds and get perspective. Each holding pattern contains a specific lesson to teach us. Consider before the Lord what that lesson is. Asking, “what can I learn from this?” transforms the holding pattern from a roadblock into a life lesson.
- Stand on the promises of God. Here are some Scriptures that have encouraged me to have faith and hope during the holding patterns of life and avoid despair:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:7
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” ~ Mark 11:24
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
“… [We] are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. In hope against hope he believed … Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now was good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.” ~ Romans 4:16-21
Consider that when God promised that Abraham and Sarah would have a son, Abraham was 75 years old. It wasn’t until Abraham had his 100th birthday — 25 years later — that the promise came to pass.
Try to imagine a 25-year holding pattern. I suspect that yours and mine are much shorter.
If you apply these seven principles, you’ll inevitably make it to your destination. And when you look back, you’ll discover that what first felt like a disheartening setback was a valuable learning experience in disguise.
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