How to Navigate the Unknowns of Ministry

Leaders like to be in the know. After all, knowledge is power. Knowledge is comforting. But knowledge isn’t always a given. There are seasons in ministry when we don’t know the path ahead because God hasn’t revealed it yet. Leading through times of uncertainty can be disconcerting. But there’s a way to walk through the unknowns full of faith and confidence in God.  

A few years ago my husband and I took a Sunday afternoon stroll on the wooded trails of Raymond B. Winter Park in Pennsylvania. Ron snowmobiled there dozens of times and wanted me to see the area. But things looked a lot different in the summertime. After a couple of hours, we were deep in the woods – lost. We didn’t know whether to forge ahead or turn around. I went into survival mode, scouring for mushrooms and berries, straining to hear any faint sound of running water, and designing a lean-to shelter in my mind. Fortunately, before long we crossed paths with a hiker who pointed us back to the parking lot.

8 Ways to Thrive During Unknown Seasons

1. Don’t panic. Deliberately express your trust in God. Remember His faithfulness. Think about His omniscience in the face of what’s unknown to you. Reflect on His names. You’ll gain a fresh realization of how capable He is of leading you.

2. Feel your dependence. I think God allows uncertainty to remind us of our desperate need of Him. When all is well and the course is mapped out, we can be lulled into thinking it’s to our credit. So, the next time you feel unsure of the future, embrace your dependence on your omnipotent Father.

3. Walk on. When Christian leader and blogger Michael Hyatt faced an overwhelming time of ambiguity, his mentor said, “Just do the next right thing.” As much as we want to see way down the road, at times we can’t. But we can always prioritize and commit ourselves to the next important thing.

4. Stay hydrated. Water is essential to physical life, and Jesus is the source of spiritual life. Spending plenty of time with Him in seasons of uncertainty is the best way to maintain spiritual vitality on an uncharted path.

5. Keep eating. God’s Word is the sustenance we need to stay strong in Him. Through it, He’ll remind us of His sovereignty, provide encouragement, and give guidance. When our steps feel shaky because we don’t know the future, the bedrock of God’s truth provides a sure foundation.    

6. Find shelter. It’s human nature to want to know what lies ahead. But our true comfort and protection comes from the Lord – not from a known future. A time of apprehension is a great opportunity to step into the shelter of the Lord Himself.

7. Seek direction. God delights in fellowshipping with us and directing our steps. He’s not pointlessly keeping us in the dark. So we seek, ask, and knock with both persistence and patience – knowing God is preparing the path and growing us in the process.   

8. Wait for it. We’ve each experienced God “turning on the lights” at just the right time. Sometimes the rationale for His timing is evident. But even when it’s not, we know He’s God and He’s right. Remind yourself of these truths while You wait for God’s direction. Waiting is far better than heading down the wrong path.

Facing an unknown future can make us feel powerless, afraid, and alone. Those feelings can be amplified for leaders, because so much is riding on our discernment and decision-making. Rather than shrink back in fear or forge ahead in raw human strength, the best tact is to gather our close ministry comrades and spend time with our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Father. He’ll guide us in His timing.

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, "This is the way you should go," whether to the right or to the left.  Isaiah 30:21

“When the path is unknown, remember Who’s walking with you directing your steps.”

-Lisa Hosler

How do you move through times of uncertainty? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

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