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Challenge by Choice

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I Peter 5:6-7 NIV. Recently, I had a question from a potential ministry partner that got me thinking. Curious about how we assess and implement the appropriate level of difficulty in our programs, he asked me if we practice Challenge by Choice. In the field of adventure based counseling, and in many other outdoor education circles, “Challenge by Choice” is a term that refers to allowing a participant to choose if and to what level they will participate in a challenge. This contrasts with the mindset of “Impel to Challenge,” where participation is not optional and facilitators see it as more of their role to motivate participants through compulsory challenges. As an outdoor adventure facilitator, I’ve spent many anxious moments on the edge of a cliff with terrified students. I greatly value the testing and strengthening of one’s faith that comes through surmounting seemingly unsurmountable obstacles, but I also recognize that as an “expert” I have a huge amount of influence on participants. I must be careful that influence is never exercised in a way that is forceful or damaging. It is so crucial to be patient and compassionate, while at the same time being encouraging and confident in the student and the activity itself. There can be a fine line between stretching and scarring a participant, and I never want to be guilty of the latter. As I pondered the recent inquiry, I thought about how the Lord handles challenges in the lives of His precious children. God has asked me to do many things that frankly scared the wits out of me. At times He has seemed harsh and unyielding. At times it seemed that the challenge was too much to bear. The reality is that God’s compassionate hand is always near to those who humbly trust in Him. He is patiently and lovingly overseeing the refining process in our lives. He knows just the level of challenge we need. Even though we may be crazy with anxiety over our situation, we can trust that He is really in control, and the testing is for our good and for His glory. We can be certain that our Heavenly Father knows what He’s doing and that this test will be redemptive and end at just the right time if we simply cast all our cares upon Him, confident that He cares for us.

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