Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tolerance for Adversity and Uncertainty

“I’ve never been one who thought the Good Lord should make life easy; I’ve just asked him to make me strong (Gookin).” -Eva Bowring

“As a cure for worrying, work is far better than whiskey (Gookin).” -Thomas Edison

“Your disability is your opportunity (Gookin).”
-Kurt Hahn

“Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy (Gookin).”
-Robert Heinlein

Tolerance for Adversity and Uncertainty is one of the seven leadership skills that the National Outdoor Leadership School teaches. This skill includes the following:

• Turn challenging situations into opportunities.
• See choices as many workable options and combinations, not either/or.
• Learn to endure, even enjoy, hard work and challenge.
• Live in rhythm with what you cannot control; control what you can.
• Use humor. Keep things in perspective.
• Under stress, work to make focused decisions and stay connected with others (Leach).

Tolerance for adversity and uncertainty is a leadership virtue and a learned skill. In traveling this wilderness life, we must be strong and stay on course. Discipleship demands tolerance for adversity and uncertainty as well. As followers of Christ, we are always challenged by our awareness that all is not as it should be and all is not what it will be. The world that we live in is a fallen world and the challenges, temptations, and adversities are endless, they are guaranteed. Consider the following verses from Jesus and the James:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world ("The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version") (John 16:33).”

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him ("The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version") (James 1:2-5).”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you ("The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version") (Mt 5:10-12) .”

We were not meant for this world, at least not this world as we know it. The imperfections of this fallen world, and the repercussions of the sin, and the death that it brings, has distorted the good that was intended by God in this beautiful creation of His. There are dangers and obscurities lurking around every corner. Life seems to be difficult, uncertain, and trying. The bad times can seemingly outweigh the good ones and we can find ourselves living from one “acceptable” situation to the next, sometimes rejoicing in the mediocre, because “it could always be worse.” Life is tough and can be brutal in the hands that it deals. It is not intended to be this way. The one who can endure and persevere through this by the grace and power of God is blessed and looks to the different reality of the life of Christ.

Paul talks about being content with our lives in Colossians 3:3-4. He tells us that we are dead to our old lives and have become alive as believers into the life that was intended for us, the new life. Paul tells us that we have a taste of this life now, but there is more to come and we can look forward to a new creation and we can look past this present fallen world and its present obscurities, he says it this way:

“Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ (Peterson).”

Indeed we live in obscurity, especially in this fast paced worldly environment where image and status can be everything, and stock is placed in the temporal. However, we must remember, as Paul suggests, that our real life is hidden in Jesus and that our old sinful lives are dead. One day we will see Jesus as He is and will see ourselves as we should be in light of, and because of, who Christ is. Paul is making the point that we are to suffer like Christ. We are to endure hardship and have tolerance for adversity and uncertainty like Jesus. We are to be patient and wait. He says we are to be content with obscurity, like our Lord.

There will be a time when all is as it should be. Until then, may we have tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, may we have faith and trust in Jesus and rely on His strength, wisdom, and victory over obscurity.

May we have a blessed obscurity because of our clarity in Jesus,


Gookin, John. Wilderness Wisdom. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003.

Leach, John Gookin and Shari. The Nols Leadership Educator Notebook: A Toolbox for Leadership Educators. Lander, WY: The National Outdoor Leadership School, 2004.

"The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version." Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo: NavPress, 2002.

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