How can I deal with problems?
Every human being in the world faces problems in his life. The way in which people deal with such problems, react to them, or let themselves be affected by them, varies. This depends on the personality and the mental attitude of each individual, and also on his experience… There are some types of people who are just crushed by their problems, while others triumph over them. There are also right ways and wrong ways of approaching them. I shall try to consider both kinds:
1. Running away from problems:
The way of escape was that followed by our ancestors Adam and Eve, when they fell into sin. The Bible says: “they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. ” (Gen. 3:8).
This running away, however, did not solve the problem, they still had to face it.
Another way in which people react to their problems is with:
2. Unhappiness and tears:
A child’s way of facing a difficulty is to cry.
This childish behaviour, though, remains in some people
even after they are grown up, and this is frequently the case with women, who then show a tendency to confront any difficulty with unhappiness and crying, without attempting to find any kind of practical solution.
This was the case with St. Hannah when God had closed her womb, so that when her rival Peninnah taunted her, Hannah
” did not eat ” (1 Sam. 1:7).
Yet her depression, tears and refusal to eat did not solve her problem until in the end she took refuge in God.
What happened to St. Hannah also happened to an important king like Ahab.
When Naboth the Jezreelite refused to give him the vineyard, the Bible says: “Ahab went home, sullen and displeased ” (1 Kin. 21:4). However, that depression did not solve Ahab’s problem, but rather led to a solution in which his wife, Queen Jezebel, intervened to provide him with a practical way of dealing with it – being wrong one – as we shall see… Many wives resort to unhappiness and tearfulness in trying to solve their problems.
For instance, a husband might go home to find his wife in floods of tears, perhaps for some trivial reason, so he tries to solve the problem, but then she goes on to cry for some other reason, and then for a third. Hence crying becomes her fixed line of action in dealing with anything that opposes her desires. To accompany the tears there are her complaints, and depression, and making a crisis out of everything. All of this tends to make the husband despair of this domestic situation, and want to escape from the house with all its gloom. Thus the woman causes harm to him, and also to herself, and all without achieving any positive result!
3. Pressure and insistence:
A person might have a desire which he wishes to fulfil by any method, but finds opposition to it from his father or mother or boss, so he keeps on insisting on having what he wants, and putting pressure on them in a way that he thinks will lead to their consent in the end.
Delilah used this kind of insistence with Samson, until he revealed his secret to her! She kept asking him to reveal his secret, and each time he eluded her by not telling her the truth. But she persevered in putting pressure on him and then chided him saying: ” How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies.” And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart, … ” (Judg. 16:15-17).
This kind of nagging or insistence might lead to someone giving their consent reluctantly, and without really wanting to.
The surprising thing is, though, that the person who has the desire rejoices at this consent, without caring whether the person who has given this assent really approves of it in ‘ his heart, or whether he resents having to give it. The Israelites urged God to appoint a king for them, though He was not in favour of this desire, and considered it a rejection of Himself (1 Sam. 8:7). Nevertheless, He yielded to their insistence and gave them a king, against His own wishes. That king was Saul, ‘and the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul'(1 Sam. 16:14).
Potiphar’s wife tried to force the righteous Joseph to make love to her, but he fled from her (Gen. 39:10), and as a result of her attempted seduction, Joseph had to suffer banishment and years in prison. It also resulted, however in this woman having a bad reputation for generations. Thus is a case where insistence brought a very unhappy result!
The Jews pressed Pilate to crucify Christ.
Although he tried in every way to escape ,from their urging, they just put even more pressure on him. He told them that he found no fault in Jesus, that he found Jesus to be a righteous man, and saw no reason to crucify Him. Pilate also asked them if they really wanted him to crucify their king?!
To which they replied: “We have no king but Caesar”. When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person…. You see to it!” To which the Jews replied:
“His blood be on us and on our children. ” (Matt. 27:24-25)
So the result of their insistence was that the governor gave in to them and ordered Christ to be crucified! Do you imagine that they gained anything from their insistence?!
Some people resort to violence as a way out of their difficulties.
The prophet David got into a problem with Nabal of Carmel, when the latter refused to give David’s troops any food. Thus David decided to solve the problem by force. He girded on his sword and ordered his men to do the same. Then he threatened that by morning not one male who belonged to Nabal would be left alive. (1 Sam. 25:13 & 22).
Was David’s method right?! No, not at all. Abigail, Nabal’s wife, rebuked him for it, for having decided to shed blood and take revenge for himself. And David thanked her for giving him wise advice. (1 Sam. 25:33).
One of the results of David’s use of force, was that the Lord didn’t permit him to build the Temple, saying to him: ” But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood.” (1 Chr. 28:3).
When Moses used violence to solve a problem between an Egyptian and a Hebrew, by killing the Egyptian (Ex. 2:12), God did not use him for some time, but made him spend forty years tending sheep until he had learned to be gentle, and until it could be said of him that: ” Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth ” (Num. 12:3) It was only after Moses had developed this final character trait that God used him to look after His people.
Peter was wrong when he raised his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. When confronted with the problem of his Master’s arrest, Peter thought of solving it by violence, but the Lord rebuked him saying: “Put your sword back in its place… for all who take the sword will perish by the sword ” (Matt. 26:52).
A father can also fall into the mistake of being violent when he exercises his authority with force at home, and beats his wife or children and causes them harm. This could be true of the priest too, who uses the authority he possesses to excommunicate or ban, in the wrong situation.
5. Trickery and Cunning:
Rebekah used this method so that her favourite son, Jacob. could receive the blessing of his father Isaac.
She clothed Jacob in a goatskin so that his body would seem hairy, like that of his brother Esau (Gen. 27). Isaac, not noticing the trick, bestowed his blessing on Jacob. But do you think Jacob benefited when he deceived his father in this way?- No, he didn’t, rather the opposite, for he lived as a fugitive, in fear of his brother Esau, and later became himself a victim of deception, when his uncle, Laban, married him to Leah, instead of Rachel (Gen. 29:25), and also changed his wages ten times (Gen. 31:41).
Jacob was also deceived by his sons, when they informed him that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. (Gen. 37:33) And in the end, Jacob summed up his life story saying: “My years have been few and evil… ” (Gen. 47:9).
Jezebel used a method of cunning in order to acquire the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. She contrived to get a malicious charge against Naboth and it was announced that he had blasphemed against God, and then brought false witnesses to testify to it. So Naboth was taken outside the city and stoned, and thus Ahab inherited Naboth’s vineyard. It appeared that the trick had brought a solution to the problem, but God sent His word to Elijah the Prophet, to say to Ahab: ” Have you murdered and also taken possession?” ‘ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours. ‘ ” (1 Kin. 21:17-19). This also turned out to be the fate of Ahab’s wife, Jezebel. (2 Kin. 9:36).
Cunning – like violence – may lead to a swift result, and appear to be a solution to a particular problem, but it isn’t from God.
God may permit the defeat of such evil plots, just as he brought Ahithophel’s advice to nothing, so that it was not able to harm David (2 Sam. 17..23). Thus David was saved, but Ahithophel hung himself out of grief that his advice had failed.
6. Does committing a crime solve the problem?
Some people resort to committing a crime in order to solve their problems, or to attain their goals. This was what Cain, the first killer on earth, did. What was the result? The result was that he lived the rest of his life in fear and terror, as a wanderer and fugitive on earth, afraid that anyone who found him would kill him (Gen. 4:14).
Absalom also resorted to crime when he set fire to Joab’s field so that he could meet the king (2 Sam. 14:30).
7. The weapon of betrayal:
Some people resort to “the weapon of betrayal” in order to achieve their objectives. Absalom betrayed his father, David, in order to try and take over the rulership, but his treachery only led to his own death (2 Sam. 18:15). Likewise, when Judas resorted to betrayal, he did not gain from doing so, but ended up hanging himself (Matt. 27:5).
Even though betrayal has brought a certain satisfaction to some people, or has achieved their goal – most often something really mean or base – they have nevertheless all failed, and ended up despising themselves.
While a person might be able to bear the contempt of others towards him, he is rarely able to bear his self-disgust! When the reality of his inner self is revealed to the traitor, he despises it and it becomes unbearable.
Yet in spite of all this, the weapon of betrayal still exists. How easy it is for the traitor to achieve his goal by deceiving his loved ones, or his benefactors, or by betraying a friend if he feels he is a rival… even so, it leads to nothing.
8. Trying to solve problems by nervousness:
Suppose a highly-strung person comes across a problem, and wonders how to solve it. He might try to confront the matter with shouting, causing a fuss, by getting angry or uptight, by swearing, making threats or promises, by using a sharp, loud voice and harsh tones. But none of this can solve his problem.
Getting into a state of nervous agitation is a dissatisfactory means.
It indicates a lack of strategy, a failure to convince or discuss with others, and an attempt to cover up this failure with an outer show of force, which bears witness to an inner incapacity. Or it could be a way of trying to strike fear into the other party, or to get rid of him by this method. It is not, however, a spiritual method, nor is it a socially respectable one, and the difficulty is still there just the same…
It may bring on the person who is like this, various health disorders, such as high blood pressure, nervous tension or stomach ulcers, or diabetes etc., as well as other psychological problems, and can cause many complications in social relationships, as the person attempts to rectify the harmful results of his anger and its effect on other people, but finds no solution.
9. Resorting to drugs and such like:
Another type of person, when facing a problem which he can’t seem to solve, may resort to drugs, to the various sorts of tranquillisers, sedatives and sleeping pills, such as Valium, Librium etc. To this category of persons we can also add those who imagine that they can solve their difficulties by alcohol and getting drunk, by smoking or taking barbiturates or illegal drugs.
A person cannot solve his problems by these kinds of drugs, or smoking. He is only trying to distract himself, which isn’t a solution to his problem, but rather an escape from it. The problem is still there…
Resorting to such drugs is an admission of defeat in facing the difficulty, a failure to bear it, and a failure to solve it. And since it doesn’t produce a positive result, the person taking drugs finds the problem just the same, as the effects of the drugs wear off. He may then try to increase his dose, which likewise brings no result, thus he ends up nervously exhausted and in despair until, that is, he attempts to reach a beneficial practical solution.
Some people may try to solve their problems another way, which is:
10. Breaking off friendships and having arguments:
When such a person’s social relationships fail, he resorts to breaking off his friendships and starting arguments, to hostility and causing division. This is what happened to Jeroboam when he failed to reach an understanding with Rehoboam. The ten tribes split up and made themselves into independent kingdoms (1 Kin. 12). This division lasted for many centuries, and was not a solution to the problem but rather made the matter worse. The same thing happened between the Jews and the people of Samaria, and also between the Jews and Gentiles… and Jesus Christ came to heal this unsolved problem, and repair relationships between the two people.
But what about you? Do you resort to this course?
11. Confronting the difficulty with lies:
What a lot of people, when facing a problem, try to solve it by lying, or making things up which are not true. They imagine that lying will cover up the problem! when the matter is exposed, they cover up the lie with another, and so on and so forth.. Lying creates an atmosphere of distrust, and the problem gets more complicated.
Another distorted way of approaching problems is by:
12. Being obstinate and rigid-minded:
Such a person, on meeting a difficulty, insists on having his opinion, his point of view, regardless of the awful and disastrous consequences that might follow, and this may change the situation to one of a stubborn impasse and make it even more involved.
All this arises from inner pride, and over-reliance on self. Obstinacy never achieves a good result, because it is an attempt to force the other party, and if that party does not give in, then a clash is inevitable.
The way to deal with this is to try and reach a mutual understanding, and to give up any erroneous fixed attitude.
There is, however, a way which is the complete opposite of obstinacy, and equally wrong, which is that of:
13. Fear and submission:
Some people, when they are hard pressed and feel an inner inadequacy, submit to their particular situation, and passively take whatever happens to them. But this is not a solution to the problem, but just a surrender to it.
If all these methods of facing problems are wrong, what then are the right ways?
The Right ways to Deal with Problems are;
A. Firstly, try to solve the problem by wisdom and intelligence:
Not by ‘nerves’, or obstinacy or making yourself nervously ill. Do it by wisdom and, as the Bible says, with: “meekness of wisdom. ” (James 3:13) It says in Ecclesiastes: ” The wise man’s eyes are in his head, But the fool walks in darkness. ” (Eccl. 2:14).
In case some people might protest at this by saying that not everyone is wise, and not everyone has this gift, the reply to that is:
B. Seek advice and get the opinion of those who are wise and have experience:
Where the individual is not content with his own opinion, knowledge or experience, he can supplement it with the opinion of his elders.
Another successful method of solving problems is:
C. Prayer and Fasting:
What the individual is incapable of solving, is very easy for God to solve. And prayer and fasting are two ways of bringing God into one’s difficulties.
The Bible is full of stories about God solving problems, and the success of the means of fasting and prayer. Queen Esther and her people resorted to this, and so did the people of Ninevah. Likewise David, the prophet, took refuge in his psalms and fasts, and so did Nehemiah, who said: ” when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (Neh. 1:4).
To be truthful, though, we ought to put prayer as the foremost of our means, before wisdom and seeking advice, or a combination of the two together. For the Bible teaches us first of all to pray, just as it tells us to be wise and seek advice.
But there is still another important matter which is:
D. The need to be patient and give the problem time to be solved:
This means patience until God arranges the solution of the problem, at the time which He considers appropriate. For anyone who does not wait patiently, will end up in a state of constant anxiety and nervous exhaustion. Furthermore, in all these things, for a problem to be solved, yet another factor is required, which is:
This is necessary because no-one can solve his problems when he is upset.
Calm, peaceful nerves give scope for correct thinking, while an upset state exhausts the soul and paralyses thought, so that the person does not know what to do.
Then it remains to solve the problem by effective and positive action, it can’t be done just by wishful thinking.