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There is one truth on which you can hang your hat when it comes to problem-solving: God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:10). God’s grace is broader and deeper than our problems, which is why, when working through issues, our starting point must begin from this Christian worldview. I realize God’s all-sufficient grace sounds too simplistic, but that does not matter. What we think about truth is not what makes truth true. God’s Word is true. Period.
There is no unfixable problem outside God’s empowering grace, though God’s favor does not mean there will be a satisfying resolution to our issues according to our timetable or expectations. It does mean there is grace for whatever the sovereign Lord writes into our narratives. He is God, and we are not. This presuppositional beginning will define our journey and determine how we finish.
For the Christian, the starting point is always God. He is the window through which we think about life, especially our problems. A person’s belief system is the foundation for which they work at problem-solving. A Christian can’t attempt to solve their problems without a theologically precise understanding of God, bringing us to the all-important question: Is God your starting point? Is He the window through which you see, discern, and solve your problems?
Let’s assume you are a Christian and have a God-centered worldview. If so, you can be fully confident that you will be okay regardless of the twists and turns you may experience (Philippians 1:6). There is unmerited grace for the outcome; you can rest in God’s sovereign scripting. This kind of God-centered presupposition brings rest even in a storm, releasing you from forcing or manipulating an outcome according to how you want things to be. As Proverbs informs us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). That’s not your perspective; you want God’s thoughts about your problems (Isaiah 55:8).
If the Lord says no, you do not want a yes. You want what God wants even if His ways bring a bumpier-than-expected path (1 Corinthians 1:25; 2 Corinthians 1:8–9). Christians think this way because they are assured personal peace through present trials, plus an ending beyond anything their finite minds could imagine. (See Ephesians 3:2–21; Philippians 4:6–7.) Of course, your faith does not mean you should blindly accept everything that comes into your life without biblical analysis. The implication is that when circumstances lead you down a path not according to your liking, you should resign yourself to fatalism.
Personal problems are not a call to lie down, give up, or turn inward as though there is nothing you can or should do about them. God allows problems in your life for many reasons. A problem is your call to trust God while working out the redemption He is working in you (Philippians 2:12–13). Problem-solving is your opportunity to discern God, know God, and mature in God while seeking to understand what He has in store for you. Because you are working above the net of God’s grace, you can confidently move forward, knowing that all will be well with your soul.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
How do you approach your problems? Do you begin problem-solving knowing everything will be okay? Can we be honest? I think most of us start our problem-solving task with the desired end in mind, and if we can accomplish that end, we will be okay. That mindset begins this way:
But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind (Job 23:13–14).
If your strategy is like what I have described, it’s time to rethink your problem-solving strategies. If your primary goal is to change your circumstances, you may set yourself up for ongoing suffering and continued relational dysfunction. I am not saying you should not pray for changes in your circumstances (Matthew 26:39; 2 Corinthians 12:8). Who knows? It may be God’s will to change things to exactly how you want them. But if not (Luke 22:42; Daniel 3:17–18).
Yes, pray. By all means, ask the Father to change things for you. That is an excellent prayer because God can do the impossible (Luke 18:27). If He wills, He can do this, or He can do that. (See James 4:15.) The problem is when we try to steer God’s hands toward an outcome we think is right. If there is a temptation to guide God’s hands, we must change our minds, realigning our thoughts to God’s. James called this arrogance, which He categorized as a sin.
Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that,’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:15–17).
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 (Genesis 50:20).
The Lord is the only person who is wise, strong, and holy enough to permit suffering in our lives for the sole purpose of a favorable outcome. What we think is exclusively for evil can be turned on its head and used for our good, His fame, and the benefit of others. Not knowing God’s full mind on a matter is why it is dangerous and unwise to begin our problem-solving efforts without a God-centered presupposition. Who knows, maybe the Lord has brought us into a suffering-filled season for the express purpose of doing things in our lives and relationships that could only happen through disappointment.
Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this (Esther 4:14)?
It should cause us to wonder how often we have pushed against the purposes of the Lord as we tried to truncate His work in our lives because we did not like what He was doing. The answer to Mordecai’s question is, “God brought Esther into the kingdom to spread the Lord’s fame.” The Lord elevated her for the express purpose of putting His name and His people on display throughout the known world. He allowed sin and suffering to accomplish His good objectives. Mordecai had the correct worldview. His starting point determined how he worked the problem and how things ended, and all those things worked together for good (Romans 8:28).
It is not wise to read the Bible in a detached way. The stories of Joseph and Esther make sense, and we nod in affirmation to the goodness of God through their trials. Then the tests happen to us. The truth taught in Sunday school loses the momentum that should sustain us, especially when Joseph’s and Esther’s problems become our problems. When suffering comes to our door, our theology can fall flat as our minds stray from God-centered purposes. 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.
The cross of Christ is the most counterintuitive event in human history. The disciples stood at the foot of that hill, looking up at a dead man on a tree. He was supposed to be their leader (Mark 8:31–33). On that day, their dream died. The death of Christ threw them for a loop. There was a season when it appeared they would never recover from their disappointment. Peter denied ever knowing Him, and the whole gang spiraled into dysfunction (John 18:27). Nothing will try your faith more than when you want something so much, but you’re unable to attain it. Unfulfilled requests are what makes the gospel so profound. It also makes preaching the gospel to ourselves every day so necessary. Peter and his team had to go back to the basics. They needed a gospel realignment. With a shattered faith, they needed severe downtime with God to reorient their hearts to His truth rather than to their dreams.
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49).
They were of no value to God or their constituency because the gospel they claimed to believe in was not the animating center of their lives. They were unbelieving believers—Christians who believed in God, which punched their ticket to heaven, but their belief did not give them what they needed to live well on earth. Perhaps this is you. If you are stuck in a funk and cannot make any headway out of it, let me appeal to you to spend less time trying to get out of it and more time realigning your heart to the Lord. You may never fully understand what He is up to in your life. Your faith is buoyed by who God is, not by having all the answers to your problems.
Maybe God does not want to change your circumstances. If the main thrust of your mental energy is about changing your circumstances, you are making a huge mistake. Think Joseph. Think Esther. Think Jesus. Think Paul. Reflect on any person in the Bible who did not get what they wanted. Maybe God wants to change your circumstances. I do not know. I know He wants to change your heart, and if He changes your heart, your circumstances will have less control over you. The end game is not your best life now but finding shalom with God, even when life does not make sense.
That is what Peter and his team had to do. The gang had to reconcile the fact that they were not going to get what they wanted, when they wanted it, and how they wanted it. Jesus was not going to be their king—not at that time. They had to become okay with their unchangeable circumstances. Once they reconciled that in their hearts, they turned their problems and their world on its head (Acts 17:6). It is possible that what you perceive to be right is wrong. Eventually, Peter discerned this, and afterward, life became less about what he wanted and more about what God wanted.
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words” (Acts 2:14).
One of the most powerful verses in the Bible, when considering the context of the dire situation, is Acts 2:14. There are times when a passage jumps out at you. I remember many years ago when this passage jumped out at me. It begins by saying, “But Peter, standing . . .” It is staggering when you put this passage in context with the most recent events in Peter’s life. One of the last times we saw Peter, he was not standing or defending the faith. He was cursing and denying the faith. But then something transformative happened to this man. He did not get what he wanted. He got something far better. It was so much better that he went from denying the Lord to proclaiming the goodness of the Lord.
Perhaps your life or circumstance never changes. I don’t know. What I do know is your desired outcome cannot be your starting point. When Peter’s ambitions became his point of departure, 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 we want. If what we desire collides with what the Lord gives us, this is our first problem to solve.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).