Use a systematic Method
We have been laying the foundation thus far in this lesson for the use of a systematic method of problem solving based on Christian principles. Many books have been written to help people with all kinds of problems. This is a complex subject, and there are many approaches to it. Our purpose is to give you some guidelines which, if followed, will help you to deal with your problems with the right attitude and with a Christlike spirit, allowing God to provide the answers!
Step 1. Identify the Problem
Not all problems are easily identified. Others are. Suppose I need money, or have unpleasant neighbors, or notice that my eyes are getting weak. These kinds of problems are easily identified. If, on the other hand, I feel unhappy but don’t know why, have trouble sleeping, or feel uneasy but can’t explain what has caused the feeling, I may have to give myself to specific meditation and prayer to discover the source of the problem. I may even need outside help to discover it.
a. First you need to identify the source of the problem. We talked about sources of problems in chapter 1. Once this has been established, you will be better able to face up to the problem. When you have defined it as something that really can be changed, you are ready for the next step.
b. You may need to look for deeper causes. For example, suppose I am short of money for food and I will not receive my pay for several more days. The cause may be that I have been careless with my money and used it for unnecessary things. I can solve the problem easily by planning more carefully in the future. But if I find that the necessities of life are greater than my weekly income can cover, on a regular basis, then I must find a more permanent solution. The deeper cause is that I regularly need more money than is available to pay for my necessities. I must either increase my income or cut my expenses.
Step 2. Commit Your Problem to the Lord
God is greater than any problem you may have. Lift your eyes away from your problem and to the all-knowing, all-wise, all-loving, and all-powerful Jesus Christ. He cares about you (1 Peter 5:7). Talk about the problem to God. That is, say it out loud in your own words. God knows what the problem is, it’s true, but He wants us to come to Him in prayer. There is something very important about being definite in prayer. One dear Christian lady I know writes down her prayer requests and the date when she began praying about each of them. Then as the answers come she records that date also. She says it strengthens her faith to go over the record and see how faithful God is. It also reminds her to give thanks for answered prayers. As you turn your attention from your problem to the Lord, you will feel that a great weight has rolled from your shoulders. The worry must leave, because you are trusting Christ. The burden must go, because He has said, “Come unto me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 TEV). “Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 TEV). This is the true meaning of commitment: concern enough to do what has to be done, and a trusting heart that does away with worry and fear.
Step 3. Consider All Possible Solutions
We have already discussed in chapter 2 the ways for finding solutions. Sometimes there is more than one solution to a problem. What you want to do is find the best solution. Apply these steps to each possible solution:
a. Discover the scriptural principles that apply to the problem. Reject any solutions that do not measure up to these principles.
b. Seek answers in all the appropriate (right) places. Use your resources.
c. Seek God’s will.
Step 4. Consider the Possible Consequences of All Alternatives
Think of the possible consequences for the couple who decided divorce was the solution to their problems. The results of a broken home affect not only the husband and wife, but also the children. A wrong solution can create greater problems than those you started with. That’s why it is so important to reject any solutions which cannot be supported by scriptural teaching. Use your resources to determine what consequences might result from any decision you make.
Step 5. Choose One Solution and Act on It
You have identified your problem, and you have committed it to God in prayer. You have carefully studied God’s Word to find His teaching concerning your problem or related problems. If necessary, you have discussed your problem with a Christian friend, pastor, or counselor. Now you have used your best judgment, guided by the Holy Spirit, to decide what is God’s will for you in this situation. It is now time to act upon the decision you choose. Believe that God will help you and He will be with you as you take this step toward solving your problem.
Step 6. Evaluate the Results and Make Any Needed Adjustments
I have included this step because we need to evaluate the results of the solution we chose. Sometimes after we have acted to solve a problem, we find that it was not the best choice— further adjustment may be necessary. Don’t despair if you have acted according to your best judgment, after committing your problem to God and asking for His direction, and then you find that somehow your solution failed to achieve the desired results. Problem solving is learned through experience. It is not a talent we inherited at birth. This is a time to look within yourself to see if you have fully committed yourself to God’s will and are ready to follow wherever He leads you.
Remember, too, that not all inconvenient situations are problems in the sense of needing solutions. If it is something that cannot be changed, a different kind of adjustment is needed. For the solution to this kind of problem, let’s look at Method B.
Step 1. Identify the Problem
Use the same procedure as in Method A.
Step 2. Commit It to God
Use the same procedure as in Method A.
Step 3. Expect God to Work for Your Good
When the apostle Paul found himself behind prison bars, he knew he could not change the situation. God did not release him from prison that time, as He had done earlier in Paul’s ministry (Acts chapter 16). But Paul expected God to work for his good anyway. As a result the Lord used him in a wonderful way to spread the gospel even in prison. The real solution to this kind of problem is to joyfully accept what cannot be changed, and allow the situation to be a growing experience for you—forming you into the likeness of Christ and making you a more caring, compassionate human being. Remind yourself often that “in all things God works for good with those who love him” (Romans 8:28 TEV). It is unhealthy to dwell on how things “might have been, if only . . .” Such thoughts are a waste of time and energy. You can expect God to work for your good no matter what your situation may be.
Rejoice And Give Thanks
The last principle in the Christian response to problem solving is to give God the glory. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Praise God continually. Whenever your mind is not occupied with necessary business, develop the habit of letting praise flow silently to God. This simple practice will transform your mind. Praise Him for His faithfulness, for standing with you in all your problems.
Like Paul, share your good news with others! Paul wrote about the faithfulness of Christ when he penned the letter to his friends the Philippian Christians (Philippians 1:12). He didn’t want them to feel sorry for him! He said joyfully, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel” (Philippians 1:4-5). Paul also shared with them some of the things he had learned as he allowed God to work out the problems in his life:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).
When we recognize that Christ is the Master of every situation that comes into our lives, that He cares about us, and that He is always working for our eternal good, we can do nothing but praise Him. He is worthy of our praise! We are ready now to consider specific problems which are common to many people, and which you may face.