Problems are a normal part of life. They vary significantly in intensity. Problems may be as minor as a sore toe or as painful as a dying parent. It could be lost van keys on a school morning or an interpersonal relationship problem.
As humans we tend to classify problems as bad, undesirable, and unwanted.
Problems have plagued mankind for millenniums. Prophet and peasant alike have asked, “Why?” We struggle to understand why a loving, all-powerful God wouldn’t fix our problems.
Problems come to us from a variety of sources. Some problems, like weeds and pain, are a direct result of living in a fallen world. Other problems fulfill the law of sowing and reaping, resulting from our own poor choices. Though not always easily identifiable, the Christian may also face problems directly from Satan and the powers of darkness.
Even though we won’t always be able to identify the exact source of our problems, we can rest in the fact that most, if not all problems, are divine appointments either arranged by, or at the very least, allowed by God. Certainly, if God allowed or arranged them, these problems must hold possibilities for the child of God; opportunities to learn or grow by.
In fact, these are not problems or accidents to God. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:9).
So what is the nature of the possibilities couched within our problems?
Problems reveal what is in our hearts.
Think about the problems Daniel of old faced. Raised in an apostate setting, he was torn from his parents around the age of 15 and placed in the court of Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man on earth at the time. While there, he faced problems relating to the king’s food and wine, strange dreams, jealous peers, illegal prayers, and lions to name a few.
What did his problems reveal about his heart? “Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him” (Dan 6:3b).
What do our problems reveal about our hearts? What is our first reaction when a problem confronts us? Impatience, anger, and jealousy? Or gentleness, meekness, and quiet resolve.
Problems become possibilities to reveal to us and to our neighbor what spirit is residing within us.
Problems give opportunity to trust God.
The most famous sufferer of all times was a man named Job. By God’s consent, Satan in a dramatic way, took away his family, his wealth, and his health. Yet through it all, we have no record of God telling him why. Heaven remained silent as he suffered through the boils and the accusations from his friends.
When God finally did speak, he spoke of the wonders of the universe, the marvels of the sea, and the cycle of the seasons. He cited the strength of the ox, the stride of the horse, and the behavior of the ostrich. He taught with divine wisdom the ways of mountain goats, the young lions, and the ravens in the nest.
And Job was left to conclude that if God had the power and wisdom to create, understand and sustain this marvelous physical universe, there was reason to trust this same God, even through difficulties. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15b).
Every problem we face is an opportunity to prove God’s power. If we have faith to trust God even when we don’t understand, our problems become possibilities to share a tremendous testimony to others.
Problems help us find each other.
No one would choose a difficult life of problems, pain and suffering. But when there is no choice, there remains some consolation. Natural disasters and times of crisis have a way of bringing us together. As we work through the difficulties, we remember our own mortality, and the fact that people are more important than things. We remember that we need each other, and that, above all, we need God.
Recently, our extended family was gathered in our home, when suddenly the joyous reunion was interrupted by cries for help. Our 2 year old nephew had a stubborn piece of hard candy lodged half way down his throat, refusing to go down or come up. Through the tense minutes that ensued, it became evident that we needed help—now! While I called 911, the others gathered to beg for help from God. After five desperate minutes, the candy finally dislodged and came out. This problem produced multiple opportunities. We had a renewed awareness of our own frailty, and how priceless each one in the family is. It was also an opportunity to affirm to our children where we go in times of desperation. It became an opportunity to share a testimony with the EMT’s. Would we ask for this to happen if we could choose? No, but it did something for each one personally and for us as a family that might not have been gained any other way.
When we experience God’s comfort in our problems, our capacity to help others is increased. This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2Co 1:3-4).
Problems bring eternity into focus.
Life as we know it will not continue. Time is short. We weren’t created to stay here. God is preparing a much better place for us. But when life is good and we live in comfort and ease, it is natural for us to shift our focus from the eternal to the temporal.
One of the reasons God allows easy lives to be overturned by problems and difficulties is to make us long for something better. The situations that are out of our control and threaten to overwhelm us actually help to shape our perspective. And as we perceive more clearly the rest, peace, and freedom that awaits the child of God, we long for home.
This may create mixed emotions and desires in our hearts as we long both to fulfill our earthly responsibilities and at the same time long to be with the one who died for us. Paul was working through this dilemma when he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Php 1:21-24).
What is our perspective of problems? Are problems bad? Are our problems difficult for God? Are we prisoners to despair when life becomes difficult?
Don’t miss the possibilities that are disguised as problems in our lives. God undoubtedly has a purpose and a plan in allowing them.