Navigating Adaptive Challenges

When I first read this paragraph from God’s Country: Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church by Brad Roth, my mind leaped to a scenario exactly like Roth described: a community losing its missional bearings and directing its energy into constructing a recreational building.

In the church, we so often favor the concrete work before us rather than the cloud work of moving forward in prayer. No doubt this is why church building projects become popular when congregations lose their bearings. Building projects are a way to transmute adaptive challenges (How do we grow? What’s our calling?) into something tangible, something that can be broken down into a checklist. They’re a way to turn the uncertain cloud into something concrete–literally.

-Brad Roth in God’s Country, page 111

Yet, as I thought about this scenario, a strange feeling swept over me. I couldn’t forget the words “transmute adaptive challenges” and “something tangible, something that can be broken down into a checklist.” I realized that I am tempted to do this, too.

Even though I am not tempted to help with a needless construction project, I have my own way of trying to navigate changes in a way that makes me feel more comfortable. I’ve seen this over and over in my life. When I feel restlessness come on and I begin thinking, “What am I doing here? What’s my purpose? How can I grow spiritually?” I get out the paper and pencil and make myself a list.

(There’s that pesky temptation to make a checklist.)

Moving to a new town, new culture, and new local church has brought great adaptive challenges. I’m not always sure of who I am, what I believe, and where I’m called.

I don’t think it’s wrong to evaluate my life and jot down ideas that God brings to my mind. Will and I love to do this together periodically, and we are often energized by a sharpened sense of purpose. But I can take planning and list-making too far because I don’t like sitting in uncertainty, when perhaps uncertainty is precisely the place in which God wants me to rest for a while.

When I am feeling sure about my life direction, I plunge ahead without much thought to what needs to change within my mind and heart. However, I’m starting to think that the greatest inner growth is nurtured in spots of uncertainty.

Instead of asking, “God, what do you want me to do now?” maybe I should ask, “God, what do you want to teach me now? How do you want to show your grace to me?” 

At times, the best way for me to navigate adaptive challenges may be to wait in the cloud of prayerful silence, in the fog of uncertainty, for God to speak.

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:25-26 (ESV)

What challenges are you facing right now?


8 thoughts on “Navigating Adaptive Challenges

  1. Anne Weaver

    Sure can relate to this! It brought tears this morning as I read since I’m floundering right now, not even sure how to proceed. The bleakness of winter goes on and on and the hope of Spring seems far away. Yet I’m encouraged to wait -to ask of God what He wants me to learn! Blessings to you -your words minister life! Sugarcreek, Ohio


    1. I’m sorry, Anne. The cold, gray days of winter seem to lend themselves to much introspection and sometimes depression. I’m praying right now that you will feel the warmth of God’s presence and new hope for life ahead.


  2. I’m realizing that prioritizing prayer over my checklist really comes down to whether or not I actually believe that God will work. Sadly, many times I think my efforts accomplish more than God’s. Thanks for sharing that quote!


    1. Faith can be so hard, especially when it involves a long season of waiting. I’m challenged myself to be more intentional about prayer, not just at devotional times, but throughout the day as I go about my work.


  3. Lovina Baer

    Missing old relationships, feeling insecure about the new, even though I wouldn’t want to go back. January is chilling and seems short on comfort for all the sorrow that exists in our world. I long for companionship and quietness all at once and I’m not sure how to get that together!


    1. New relationships are hard, but you will grow with them! I totally get your desire for companionship and solitude both. I think God created us to need those things! And yes, January is tough. May God be near you today.


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