Solving problems - Getting to the heart of problem solving

By Rick Thomas

In the beginning - When you begin addressing people problems you have to begin at the right place. Your beginning will not only define the journey, but it will determine how you will finish. All problem solving flows from our presuppositions. In the beginning, God…Gen. 1:1 (EVS). Regardless of how your life rolls out, you know there is grace for those outcomes and you can rest in God’s sovereign choices for you.

A God-centered presupposition releases you from forcing an outcome according to what you had hoped. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. – Pro. 14:12 (EVS). For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. – Isa. 55:8 (EVS). The Christian does not want a “yes” to his prayers if the LORD does not want a “yes”. The Christian wants what God wants even if it creates a less comfortable situation – 1 Cor. 1:25.

This does not mean we should blindly accept anything that comes into our lives without analysis. It also does not mean when circumstances are not according to our liking, we should resign ourselves to morbid fatalism. Personal problems are not a call to lie down, give up, or turn inward as though there is nothing we can do about them or should do about them. God presents problems to us for many reasons.

This makes problem solving our opportunity to discern God, know God, mature in God, while seeking to understand what He has in store for us. Let’s begin here - If your main goal is to change your circumstances, then you may have set yourself up for ongoing suffering and relational dysfunction. I am not saying you should not pray for changes in your circumstances (Matt. 26:39, 2 Cor. 12:8). Who knows? It may be God’s will to change things to how you want them.

However, it may not be His will. God uses sin sinlessly - As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. – Gen. 50:20 (EVS). This is why it is a dangerous and unwise thing to begin your problem solving efforts without a God-centered presupposition and world view. Who knows; maybe the LORD has brought you into a sin-filled season for the express purpose of Him being magnified.

When suffering comes to our door, our theology falls flat and our minds begin to stray for God-centered purposes. The truth we were taught in our Sunday school classes has no power to sustain us when Joseph and Esther’s problems become our problems. Esther and Joseph lived in the comfortable tension of Gospel irony. What the world meant for evil, God meant for good because He was working His redemptive plan in the lives of His children.

Back to the basics - The cross of Christ is the most counter-intuitive event in human history. The disciples stood at the foot of the hill that day, looking up at a dead man on a tree. He was supposed to be their leader (Mark 8:31-33). Their dream died. Nothing will try your faith more than when you want something so bad but you are not able to attain it.

This is what makes the Gospel so profound. It is also what makes preaching the Gospel to yourself everyday so necessary. If you are stuck in a funk and cannot seem to make any headway out of the funk, then let me appeal to you to spend less time trying to get out of your funk and more time seeking to get onboard with God–finding out what He is up to in your life.

Time to stand up - Maybe God does not want to change your circumstances. Think Joseph. Think Esther. Think Jesus. Think Paul. Think about any person in the Bible. If the main thrust of your mental energy is about changing your circumstances, then you are making a huge mistake. Maybe God does want to change your circumstances. I do not know. I do know He wants to change your heart. And if He changes your heart, then your circumstances will have less control over you.

Sometimes what we perceive to be right is wrong in God’s reckoning. Eventually Peter discerned this and life became less about what he wanted and more about what God wanted. This is my hope for you. Your life or circumstance may never change. I do not know. Maybe it will. Maybe it will not, but that cannot be your starting point. When Peter’s desires became his starting point, he denied the LORD. When he exchanged his desires for the will of God, he got something transcendent.

Problem solving begins with the LORD, not with what you want. If what you want is colliding with what the LORD is giving to you, then that is your first problem to solve.

Call to action • Do you believe your problems are greater than God’s grace? Why did you answer that way? • Name three bad things in your life that the LORD used for your good and His glory? • Are you struggling now? If so, have you surrendered the outcome to the LORD or are you still trying to control the outcome?