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Can you help me with (what I’m going through)? I’m struggling, and I want my (problems) to end. Will you advise me? How can I work through (this)? Will this (situation) ever go away?
Problems come and go as sparks from fire fly upward. Trouble and trials began with the fall of humanity, and they will not go away until Christ comes to rescue us. Working through pain is part of the human experience, but it does not have to defeat you (2 Corinthians 4:7–10).
God’s grace is broader and deeper than your problems, which is why, when working through problems, your starting point must begin from this Christian worldview. I realize God’s all-sufficient grace sounds too simplistic, but that does not matter. What you think about truth is not what makes truth true. God’s Word is true. Period. It does not require your intellectual ascent to make it so.
There is no unfixable problem outside of God’s empowering grace, though God’s favor does not mean a resolution to your problems will be according to your timetable or expectations. It does mean there is grace for whatever the sovereign Lord is writing into your life narrative.
When you begin addressing your problems, you have to start at the right place. Your beginning will not only define your journey, but it will determine how you finish. Your beginning is your presupposition. That is your starting point. Everything that follows flows out of and is affected by your presuppositional worldview. For the Christian, the starting point is always God. He is the beginning. He is the window through which we think about life, especially our problems.
A person’s belief system is the foundation for which he or she works at problem-solving. It is not tenable for a Christian to attempt to solve his or her problems while detached from a theologically precise understanding of God.
Let’s assume you are a Christian, and you have a Christo-centric, faith-based worldview. If so, you are set up for the best possible outcome. 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 favor for the outcome, and you can rest in God’s sovereign scripting. This kind of God-centered presupposition brings rest even in a storm. It releases you from trying to force or manipulate an outcome according to how you want things to be.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death (Proverbs 14:12).
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8).
The reason a Christian thinks this way is because he or she is assured personal peace through present trials, plus an ending that is beyond anything his finite mind could imagine. (See Ephesians 3:2–21; Philippians 4:6–7.)
Your faith does not mean you should blindly accept everything that comes into your life without biblical analysis. It also does not say, when circumstances lead you down a path that is not according to your liking, that 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 do about them 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. And 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.
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 starts 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 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 you try to steer God’s hands toward an outcome you think is right. James called this arrogance, which He categorized as sin. If you are tempted to guide God’s hands, you must change.
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).
The Lord is the only person who is wise enough, strong enough, and holy enough to permit suffering in your life for the sole purpose of a favorable outcome. What you think is exclusively for evil can be turned on its head and used for your good, His fame, and the benefit of millions.
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).
Not knowing God’s full mind on a matter is why it is dangerous and unwise to begin your problem-solving efforts without a God-centered presupposition. Who knows, maybe the Lord has brought you into a suffering-filled season for the express purpose of doing things in your life and relationships that could only happen through suffering.
Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this (Esther 4:14)?
It should cause you to wonder how often you have pushed against the purposes of the Lord, as you tried to truncate His work in your life because you 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 raised her up 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 purposes. Mordecai had the right worldview. His starting point determined how he worked the problem, as well as how things ended, and all of 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 you nod in affirmation to the goodness of God through their trials.
Then the trials happen to you.
When suffering comes to your door, your theology can fall flat as your mind begins to stray from God-centered purposes. The truth taught in Sunday school loses the momentum that should sustain you, especially when Joseph’s and Esther’s problems become your 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.
The cross of Christ is the most counterintuitive event in human history. The disciples stood at the foot of that hill on that day, 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 went spiraling into dysfunction (John 18:27).
Nothing will try your faith more than when you want something so bad, but you’re unable to attain it. Unfulfilled requests are what make the gospel so profound. It is also what makes preaching the gospel to yourself 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 serious downtime with God to have their hearts reoriented to His truth rather than by 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 was not the animating center of their lives. They were unbelieving believers—Christians who believed 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 seem to make any headway out of the funk, let me appeal to you to spend less time trying to get out of your funk 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. Think Joseph. Think Esther. Think Jesus. Think Paul. Reflect on any person in the Bible who did not get what they wanted. If the main thrust of your mental energy is about changing your circumstances, you are making a huge mistake. Maybe God wants to change your circumstances. I do not know. I do know that 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 is finding shalom with God, even when life does not make sense.
That is what Peter and his team had to do. They 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 possibility, 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 . . .” When you put this passage in context with the most recent events in Peter’s life, it is staggering. 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.
Praising God is my hope for you. Your life or circumstance may never change. 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 you want. If what you want is colliding with what the Lord is giving to you, this is your first problem to solve.
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