The Word for Today
How To Solve Problems (1)
‘The people became very discouraged on the way.’ Numbers 21:4 NKJV
To reach the Promised Land the Israelites had to ‘go around the land of Edom.’ (Numbers 21:4 NKJV) This made their journey much longer, and ‘the people became very discouraged on the way.’ There’s a lesson here.
The best way to escape a problem is to solve it. Between you and your ‘promised land’ you’ll face issues that have to be resolved. Recognising obstacles for what they are—temporary tests of your resolve, ability, and faith in God—won’t do you much good if you don’t know how to handle them. So let’s discuss problem solving.
First, recognise that you’ll always have problems. A university student sent this email to his mum at the end of term: ‘Dropped out of uni, coming home tomorrow. Prepare Dad.’ The email he got back said, ‘Dad prepared. Prepare yourself!’
Al Davis, who owned the Oakland Raiders American football team, said: ‘A great leader doesn’t treat problems as special. He treats them as normal. If you’re working, expect problems. If you’re dealing with family, expect problems. If you’re just minding your own business and trying to relax, expect problems. If everything goes according to plan, then be pleasantly surprised. If it doesn’t, and you’ve planned accordingly, you won’t get so frustrated. A problem not anticipated is a problem. A problem anticipated is an opportunity.’
Paul said, ‘To Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory… forever.’ (Ephesians 3:20–21 NKJV) The problem you’re facing today is just an opportunity for God to do for you or through you what you can’t do by yourself.
The Word for Today
How To Solve Problems (2)
‘The Lord is my strength and my shield.’ Psalm 28:7 NKJV
Second, you must identify the real problem. Sometimes doctors can cure you, other times they prescribe medication enabling you to live more comfortably with your problem. But first they have to diagnose what’s wrong.
Philosopher Abraham Kaplan makes this distinction between problems and predicaments: ‘A problem is something you can do something about. If you can’t do something about it, then it’s not a problem, it’s a predicament. That means it’s something that must be coped with; something that must be endured. When you treat a predicament as a problem you can become frustrated, angry, and depressed. You waste energy and make bad decisions. Then when all your attempts fail, you give up and see yourself as a victim.’
Here’s an example: if you’re married, perhaps you are a ‘morning person’ and your spouse is a ‘night person’, or vice versa. That’s a predicament. You can’t change it. You can’t change the way people are wired internally. And if you try, you and your spouse will experience lots of conflict and there’ll be no resolution. However, your difficulty in finding ways to spend time together because of your different bents is a problem, and that can be solved.
And here’s another thought: sometimes God will deliver you from a bad situation and other times He will use it to develop your character and make you more like Christ. Yes, He can turn your sigh into a song! David said, ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.’ (Psalm 28:7 NKJV)
The Word for Today
How To Solve Problems (3)
‘Should someone like me have to run and hide in the temple to save my life? I won’t go!’ Nehemiah 6:11 CEV
Third, you must face the problem. When Nehemiah was threatened by his enemies, some of his friends told him to hide in the temple. But he replied, ‘Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!’ (Nehemiah 6:11 NIV) As a result Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in under two months—an amazing feat.
Years ago a popular American television commercial about addiction and abuse showed a typical family at home. The children were playing, the mother was vacuuming, and the father was reading the newspaper. They could have been a conventional family anywhere, except for one problem: there was a huge elephant in the room with them. Even though they could see it was making life difficult and they had to work around it, they seemed to be ignoring it and pretending it didn’t exist. That ad gave rise to the slogan: ‘The elephant in the room.’ It applies to problems we don’t want to address, so we pretend that everything is fine.
We typically react to a problem in four ways:
(1) Flee it: we try to escape, but the problem always follows us.
(2) Forget it: we hope it will go away if we don’t think about it. But left alone, problems tend to get worse.
(3) Fight it: what we resist persists. And problems are no exception.
(4) Face it: we look at the issue realistically and deal with it. If we’re wise we reach for God’s assistance and ‘boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.”’ (Hebrews 13:6 NKJV)
The Word for Today
How To Solve Problems (4)
‘The prudent give thought to their steps.’ Proverbs 14:15 NIV
Fourth, evaluate the problem carefully and prayerfully. Here’s what King Solomon said about reacting impulsively instead of taking time to get all the facts. ‘The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.’ (Proverbs 14:15 NIV) .‘To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.’ (Proverbs 18:13 NIV)
When patients are in pain they want quick relief. But the doctor knows that the pain must be diagnosed correctly in order to prescribe the right medication and make the patient whole. For you that means asking yourself, ‘Who or what caused this problem? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Has it the potential to do real damage, or will I have forgotten about it this time next week?’ If you don’t diagnose the problem correctly you’ll have to go back and start over again, at which point the solution will probably be more painful and costly.
Mike Leavitt, former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, said, ‘There is a time in the life of every problem when it is big enough to see, yet small enough to solve.’ The key is to find the right time and be patient when implementing the solution. Inexperienced people expect problems to be settled instantly. But experienced people are like the master sculptor who keeps striking the marble block with steady blows of the hammer. Unlike the rookie who expects to split the stone with one blow, he knows if he just keeps working at it he will eventually succeed.
From The Word for Today.