Posted in Encouragement, Personal Helps

Stuck in the Holding Pattern

From the first time you consciously commit your way to the Lord, your brain whirs into overdrive. Ideas for the future. Dreams of what you might do. Plans for getting there. Stories about your heroes who’ve done it before. You let the Lord lead you into all the preparatory stuff like college, connections, and specific tasks. You ace every checkpoint and soar into a place of infinite possibilities. You’re prepared! You’re available! You’re willing! And, uh, you need a place to land! Um, any time now! … Hello?

I was full to the brim of Bible training and ministry experience, finishing a degree in education, and praying to land in a unique place of service. I was willing to go literally anywhere in the world, just so long as it was new and needy. But the unthinkable happened. Shortly before completing my undergrad, my carefully laid-out flight plans crumpled under the weight of a heavy burden, and the Lord directed my steps home to spend my energy on the last task I’d ever envisioned for myself.

I felt like I’d been relegated to a holding pattern, unsure of the next step. So I discharged my duties as necessary, and continued to plan for the future I was bound for, my bags practically packed, waiting for the chance to go. One by one, friends took jobs, found new ministries, began to have families. I even watched some squander opportunities I would’ve killed to have. I often complained to the Lord that He should’ve given me the chance; I had the drive and the desire to wear my fingers to the bone for Him. Nothing changed. I watched as several of my own circle settled into the same holding pattern I was in, waiting for clearance to land somewhere, anywhere.

If you’ve explored this blog very much, you’ve probably read about this holding pattern by another name – The Twilight Zone. You’re probably well acquainted with it. Once your plan of action stops being influenced so heavily by “home rules” or a prescribed college task list, you automatically start looking for a new grounding element to fill the void. The present seems so weak and temporary next to your long-term goals.

My current place of ministry is not a temp job or an internship.

In the past year or so, I’ve come to realize that the Lord’s will for me was not a matter of waiting, but of doing. He’s put me squarely into the place of ministry He needed me in right now. “Occupy till I come” doesn’t mean “sit in that chair til I tell you to move”. It says that until we receive further instructions, we take what the Lord has entrusted to us and milk it for all it’s worth. Invest it. Grow it. Get it to the next level. I may use it someday, but that’s not the point. My current place of ministry is not a temp job or an internship. It is my job. It is exactly what the Lord needs me to do right now.

  1. Know for sure you’re in God’s will. 99% of the time, you know instinctively what put you here, God or your own choices. For the other 1%, Jesus made sure we had an app for that: there’s the presence of the Holy Spirit Who is practically begging to be asked for assistance. “If the Lord brought you to this place, He will bring you through this place.”
  2. Jump in. Center your schedule around the house of God, and invest into the lives of the brethren in your church. Find a soulwinning partner and make it a regular “thing”. The work of God isn’t a temp job, no matter where you are; it’s your primary responsibility. Do not allow a secular job to pull you out of church, ever – God will not bless where He is not the priority.
  3. Pray about today. Too often I find myself praying so fervently toward the future that I completely miss what He had for me today. “In heaven God’s will is done, and the Master teaches the child to ask that the will may be done on earth just as in heaven, in the spirit of adoring submission and ready obedience.” (Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer) Am I prepared to do His will with the immediacy that His angels do, or am I waiting to see a bigger picture?
  4. Choose to be a servant. We tend to act like angsty spiritual starlets waiting for the perfect agent to “discover” us, but once we realize who we are next to Jesus Christ, everything else sort of awkwardly falls away. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” Jesus’s great purpose was to redeem mankind back to the Father, but it was kind of a long 33 years getting there. Was that “holding time” wasted, just a sort of period to spend going to work, eating, sleeping, and attending synagogue until the Cross came to Him? “Wait on the Lord” takes on a whole new meaning when you decide to be a waiter and serve Him and His children.
  5. Grow. Grow closer to the Father. Grow in your knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Word of God. Invest in solid, proven books and resources by people of God, and grow your spiritual mind. No one is going to hand you this stuff or put it on a required reading list any more. You’re on your own. Grow in deference to the Holy Spirit – He is not a mere proof of salvation, He is a private instructor. But He’s not going to force you to show up for classes.
  6. Realize there may be no “permanent” place. “We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing, that He is preparing and fitting us for some extraordinary thing by and by, but as we go on in grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, in the present minute.”

That’s Oswald Chambers, if you didn’t notice it in the sidebar. God allows many folks to settle into a “permanent” place of ministry; Chambers wasn’t one of them. The Lord moved this teacher through several smallish, unremarkable ministries before parking him in Egypt as a chaplain in WWI, teaching the gospel and discipleship. Here he died at just 43, not a martyr, not a war casualty, but a very ordinary man who couldn’t recover from a surgery. Chambers was effective for God, not because he was groomed for a great work, but because he had a solid handle on the idea that God’s sovereignty means there is no “someday” in God’s plan.

There is no holding pattern. None. Whatever He chooses to do with you in the future, your ministry is NOW.

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Author:

Hi, I'm Rachel - independent Baptist, PK, Commonwealth Baptist College graduate, insatiable coffee drinker, improv pianist, and bibliophile. Words I want to live by: "We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing, that He is preparing and fitting us for some extraordinary thing by and by, but as we go on in grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, in the present minute." - Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)

7 thoughts on “Stuck in the Holding Pattern

  1. Love the thoughts you shared. From a different side of the coin 😉 I have always felt “secure” thinking I will be in the ministry we are in for the rest of my life. But, I have come to realize that is NOT true. I have seen multiple friends change their place of service this past year and it threw me for a loop! The thoughts you posted here are so encouraging. Thank you for being surrendered! I love your blog!

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    1. Thank you, Mrs. Young! I think sometimes it goes deeper than a geographical location or a specific church, too… The Lord tends to give us “uncomfortable” roles sometimes just to shake up our perspective a bit, force us to surrender all over again. I’m glad it’s in His hands; my job is simply to obey.

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  2. I love this! It’s crazy how we always make these grand plans but then things never turn out how we expect them to. I have a chronic illness that I’ve been battling for years now. I’m 22, and if you had asked me 5 years ago where I’d be today, it would NOT be here. God had a different plan for my life and it is really hard not being in control of your future and things not going as you planned. But God has been so faithful. I too wanted to do “big” things. I wanted to serve Christ with all of my life. For a long time I thought my illness would keep me from doing that. But now I realize that God has plans for me right NOW and wants to use me right where I’m at. Thanks for sharing your heart with us 🙂

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    1. Amen, Elizabeth! You are living proof that God can use illness to glorify Himself. I think we get the idea sometimes that negative circumstances are “misfortunes” when they’re really opportunities. *hugs*

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  3. Hey! I love your blog! And I’ve never had a problem viewing it but this time it isn’t working! Doesn’t matter if I view the whole site or mobile. It’s not fitting on the page or something. Anyway thought you’d want to know in case it’s a problem on your end. I’m still gonna share it hoping it’s just my problem! LoL thanks for your words of wisdom and encouragement! 💝Sarah

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