We had been up in the air for close to 30 minutes, circling the airport around and around with no clearance to land.

On the flight home from Los Angeles to Manila last month, we were placed in a holding pattern for close to 45 minutes before the plane was allowed to make its descent and touch down. Not a comfortable place to be.

Many times in my life God has placed me in a holding pattern.
A holding pattern is defined as “the oval or circular path of an aircraft flying around an airport awaiting permission to land.” It’s not an easy state to be in. Your patience and faith are tested, sometimes to its limit, depending on the length of time you are put there.
The past week’s events reminded me of the holding patterns that God puts us through sometimes.

A few days ago, after more than two months, 16-year-old Miko Habana’s tracheostomy tube was finally removed. In a week or so, his parents may be able to bring him home from the hospital. Last Sunday, a former PAL colleague and friend of mine was rushed to the Asian Hospital’s ICU due to brain aneurysm and heart attack. Three days later, she was gone at 45 years old.

Life can change in an instant. Suddenly, we find ourselves placed in a holding pattern.
In April this year, Miko collapsed, in the heat of the noonday sun on the baseball field of Manila Polo Club during practice for the upcoming Palarong Pambansa. At the time, Miko’s prognosis was not promising. However, God had other plans. A high school senior at the Ateneo, he missed classes, but is now making slow but wonderful recovery and progress that was not at all expected by his parents who are both medical doctors.
It is the waiting that expands our spirit. It is in the waiting that our faith grows.
I found this piece on the net today on “God’s Holding Pattern.”

“Many times God will allow a painful situation or a painful circumstance in our life to “swallow us up.” This season in our spiritual growth is a holding pattern. We can’t move to the left or the right. All we can do is sit, like Jonah sat in the belly of that great fish, so God can have our undivided attention and speak to us.
“God put Jonah in a holding pattern because He needed to speak to his heart. Jonah was all alone. There were no friends to call, no colleagues to drop by, no books to read, no food to eat, no interference, and no interruptions. He had plenty of time to sit, think, meditate and pray.
When we’re deep down in the midst of a difficult situation, God can talk to us. When He has our undivided attention, He can show us things about ourselves that we might not otherwise have seen.”
A Few of God’s holding patterns

1. When you are sick and have prayed but God has not healed you yet, you are in a holding pattern.
2. When you are having problems with your children and you have put them on the altar, but God has not delivered them yet, you are in a holding pattern.
3. When you are praying for a sick child and he or she has not yet been given the gift of healing, you are in a holding pattern.
4. When you are in a broken relationship and you have given it over to God, but it has not been restored yet, you are in a holding pattern.
5. When the doors slam shut before you can knock on them, and God has not opened another door, you are in a holding pattern.
6. When you are looking for a job, waiting for interview or test results, and seeking financial provisions but it has not yet arrived, you are in a holding pattern.

“Deep in the belly of a difficult situation, there are no interruptions because God has our undivided attention. All we can do is sit, think, meditate and pray. There are no mountains that are high enough, valleys low enough, rooms that are dark enough, or places that are hidden enough from Him.”
I’ve learned to develop patience now that I am much older. My mentor likes to remind me, “Trust the process, Cathy.” Even in the midst of difficulties, we must still thank Him, count our blessings and, while we’re waiting, remember three things:
“The pattern has a purpose.
The pattern has a plan.
The pattern has a process.”
Surrender is the operative word. I know, easier said than done. The years and many experiences have taught me that He is always there—never a day, a minute or a moment too late. Sometimes the holding pattern serves as a form of protection, too, although we do not know it at that time.
Safe passage is always given when we least expect it.
If you find yourself in a holding pattern today, pray and wait on Him. Ask for grace to live your life productively, in spite of. In His time you will experience the peace that passes all understanding, and before you know it, it is time to land.

Originally published in “Roots and Wings” in the Lifestyle section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on July 4, 2010

2 thoughts on “How one’s patience and faith are tested by holding patterns

  1. I found this blog via Margarita Holmes, when she shared this online. thank you for this beautiful blog. Like you we are all facing the uncertainties of this season. I am in HK while social distancing is being relaxed, we faced months of social unrest and it has been hard on everywhere regardless of ones political stance. The arrival of the Covid 19 virus added more concern and uncertainties. then just like that, our jobs disappeared over night, budgets were cut and now i am living on my savings. each day i faced my fears of running out of funds and thoughts of loosing everything i made in the last 30 years. then as social distancing was relaxed the bars and restaurant reopened, protests came back and now we face worries about the political consequences which will affect all of us. these are dark times. but at the moment we are or some of us are in a holding pattern knowing that once we landed, it could get worst… its a very dark thought.. But these quiet times did forced me to spend more time with God, like you, i spent more time in deep reflection and prayers. i learned to journal and on the first day wrote 20 pages and as i look back, i realised it was a dialogue between me and God. i have questions and stated my fears and anxieties, God responded with his words of wisdom that somehow seemed to pop out of nowhere and repeated at different times of day. I went through days of despair and realised i have been grieving for the lost of the life before Covid and already i am allowing myself to think of the worst possible outcome. not a good thing. thankfully i have friends who consoled me and counselled me, i also learn to upgrade my skills and retool myself the last 24 hours a verse kept coming to me and its the third time from three different and unconnected sources: psalm27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. now if that is not a perfect description of a “Holding Pattern” then i dont know what it is! this season during its many quiet moments allowed me to listen and hear the silent whispers of God. I discovered the writings of the Late Henri Nouwens and today after much struggle, i picked up my Japanese bamboo flute, a Shakuhachi and started playing warm up sounds. the Shakuhachi is a deceptively simple instrument. its only got 5 holes and no valves, no reeds just an open ended mouthpiece and it is a very difficult instrument to master. it was meant to be a Zen instrument played by itinerant Komoso monks that has long since died out. this is my 11 year with this instrument and today, after temporarily overcoming my despair and taking to Heart the message from God, I was able to transcribed a Bluesier version of Amazing Grace only to find out a simpler version has been transcribed and published online. still it helped me weather the storm of despair. Thank you for this beautiful blog, it allowed me to relate and to know many of us are going through similar circumstances. i hoped i can hear from you. Blessings on a quiet sunday in June 2020.


    1. Thank you so much for your sharing. There are a lot of gems here. I’m glad you have discovered many things about yourself, and developed a deeper relationship with our Father. The pandemic has many gifts and I’m sure you will find even more gifts along the way. Keep safe and healthy! Thank you for your kind words ❤️


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