Problems and How To Contend With Them Biblically-2
Chapters 3 and 4
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Chapter 3: Problems: God's
Tools Of Transformation
Chapter 3 Problems: God's Tools Of Transformation
Understand How God Uses Problems To Transform Us
"Several years back I came across some material that was invaluable in helping me understand how God uses problems in the lives of His Children as tools of transformation, transforming us to be Christ-like. The main points of the outline are not my own but taken from David A. Clemens notebook entitled Living -- Volume 3 published by the Bible Club Movement.
THE NATURAL RESPONSE TO PROBLEMS
How do you view the problems that come your way? Too often we look at and our problems in a negative light. We respond to them naturally, from the perspective of the natural man. We look at the trials of life as enemies. We allow problems to upset us, frustrate us and make us angry. And that's not all. The truth be known, we often grumbled and complained when problems come our way. But, as a believer we must confess this as sin and realize that we must look at problems from a Biblical point of view and respond accordingly. Let me explain further.
THE GODLY RESPONSE TO PROBLEMS
God uses problems as TOOLS OF TRANSFORMATION, for good, to develop Christ-likeness in us. We should be thankful for that. Paul's words apply -- 1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. The Godly response to problems is thankfulness that God is using them to transform us into Christ-like people.
PROBLEMS: GOD'S TOOLS OF TRANSFORMATION
Job came to understand the purpose of the problems God was allowing in His life. We read in Job 23:10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
Likewise, Peter understood how God uses problems too. He tells us we can rejoice in problems because problems refine us and encourage us to get the sins out of our life so that when we meet the Lord face to face our lives will glorify, praise and honor Him -- 1 Peter 1:6-7 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ
That brings me to the paramount scripture passage that confirms the conforming power of "all things," even problems, that God allows to come into a believers life. Paul wrote in Romans 8:28-29, "all things work together for good to them that love God to them who are called according to his purposes. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son..."
Since God does use all things, even problems to conform us to Christ-likeness we need to look at
The Third Principle of Biblical Problem Solving: Understanding How God Uses Problems To Conform Us To Christ-likeness
HOW GOD USES PROBLEMS
GOD USES PROBLEMS TO...
Let's consider each point individually.
One of the most devastating character traits that can mark an individual is PRIDE. In Proverbs 16:5 says, "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished."
The attitude of pride curtails the believers usefulness for the cause of Christ. God wants to use us effectively. He wants us to be like Christ...humble (Phil. 2:1-8). To accomplish that end, He may use problems to humble us. That's what he did with Israel. Deuteronomy 8:2 says, "And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led the these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee..."
Let me bring things down on the level we live. I have been asked numerous times throughout my years of ministry questions like, "If God really loves me, why doesn't he take away this physical difficulty." Or "Why did God allow this to happen to me?" Perhaps the answer is the same one Paul realized in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul needed to be humbled so he could be used by God. God knew something about Paul the even he did not know. That was, his emerging pride would keep him from being fully used by the Lord. So, the Lord allowed a some sort of ongoing physical problem in Paul's life. But, God took care of the problem by providing the necessary grace to be able to bear the problem. Paul recognized he MUST rely on God for his strength. The truth is, "the thorn in the flesh" problem was the secret to Paul's power because it kept his focus on the Lord! Problems may be used by God to humble us. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (I Pet. 5:5).
Finally, problem solving is hindered when pride is in the picture. God calls for humility (meekness) on the part of those who are trying to resolve problems. Galatians 6:1-2 says, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
For Americans, it is rather easy to adopt a self-sufficient, "I can do it myself, I don't need any help" attitude. But problems can bring us back to reality. We need God and His direction in our lives! Jeremiah 10:23 hits the nail on the head when it says, "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Self-sufficiency is will lead to disaster. We need God! Perhaps Paul said it best when he wrote "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;" 2 Corinthians 3:5
It did not take Israel too long to learn that lesson during the Exodus. The wilderness experience Israel went through made it necessary for them to depend on God. There was little "I can do it myself" after a few weeks in the desert when their provisions were gone and their water supply was spent. Deuteronomy 8:4 that despite their grumbling, complaining and desire to return to Egypt God was dependable -- "Thy raiment (clothes) waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years."
I hate to admit it, but we are too self-sufficient. We are so busy that we don't take the time to let God talk to us through his Word or talk to Him in prayer. Our attitude toward the Lord is "Don't bother me now, I'm busy."
When self-sufficiency creeps into our lives that the Lord may deem it time to go to his tool box and take out a PROBLEM and send it our way. Why? The words of Christ recorded in John 15:5 explains it quite well -- "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." Nothing of lasting value can be accomplished apart from dependence on the Lord. God may allow problems into our life so that we will get our eyes off of ourselves and back them back on Him.
The Lord may allows problems in our lives to chasten us. That's one of the reasons Israel faced their wilderness experience according to Deuteronomy. 8:5 "Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD chasteneth thee." The Hebrew word translated "chasten" has a two-fold meaning related to our education. First, it refers to physical chastening. Second, it refers to verbal instruction. Let's take a closer look at these.
Let's move on to the second aspect of the Hebrew word "chasten."
1. Problems Provide Opportunities to Learn Obedience
Hebrews. 5:8 "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things that he suffered."
Christ learned to obey through the problems He faced. If Christ learned that way, we should not expect any different. I think that's why Peter says we should not be surprised when we face "fiery trial." He understood that there are some lessons we would not learn unless we were faced with problems. Let's look at I Peter 4:12-13 "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
Problems teach us obedience.
2. Problems Provide Us With The Opportunity To Put Theory Into Practice
There is a wealth of Bible verses and biblical principles that we all know. That's good. The Bible tells us to hide God's Word in our hearts. But it is not to stop there. Just knowing is no enough. The Pharisees knew the law inside-out. They memorized it and quoted it, BUT, they did not practice it. You see, KNOWING THE WORD IS THE THEORY LEVEL. But, we MUST take it a step further. WE MUST IMPLEMENT or apply THE WORD to our daily lives. Problems provide the perfect opportunity to put theory into practice. James reminds us "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:22) When you know what the Word says and do not do what the word says, that is sin (James 4:17).
3. Problems Help Us Break Old Sinful Habit Patterns
"Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God." I Peter 4:1-2
This verse is saying that the Lord uses physical suffering to help us to break some kind of sinful habit pattern and replace it with something that honors God.
I've seen that work. I went to visit a man in the hospital one day. It was no secret that he was backslidden. He knew it and I knew it. We started out with the small talk and joked a little bit. But then a serious look came over his face. He said, "God put me on my back so that now the only place I can look is up." As a result of that hospital stay some sinful habit patterns were broken.
God may allow a problem to come our way to interrupt our routine, open our eyes and allow us time to break a sinful habit and develop new, Christ-honoring behavior.
4. Problems Motivate Us To Real Learning
I'm not sure how much real learning took place in my first three years of college. I did OK. By that I mean I crammed enough to pass the tests. But, my REAL learning began when I became the Assistant Pastor of a Church. Teenagers and adults began coming to me with their questions and their problems. That put the pressure on me. It was now my problem as well. It was a whole new ball game. It drove me to the books and THE BOOK, the Bible in search of answers. You see, "real learning occurs when the student wants to know the reason for and the solution to a problem that relates to him personally.
Turn to Psalm 119:67, 71, 75 and read them. "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word...It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes...I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me."
The psalmist suggests that his problems motivated him to learn and live God's word. Why was that motivation needed? All to often, when things are going well, we just go with the flow. We do what comes naturally, we do what we feel like doing.
The psalmist knew that real learning, lasting learning occurs in response to problems that come into our lives.
"Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:3-4
There is a little saying that goes, Christians are like tea bags. They aren't much good until they get into some hot water. That pretty much what James is saying.
Though we may not like it, it seems that problems are designed to toughen us up spiritually and make us strong so that we can endure. That's what 1 Peter 5:10 says anyway -- "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."
A good illustration of what I am saying is Joseph. He live a life of ease in his early days. He was a softie. He was a self-centered, egotistical, spoiled brat. He was daddies favorite and everyone knew it. His brothers envied him and hated him. In addition he had a superiority complex. He thought better than the other kids in the family and let them know it. His brothers wanted to kill him (see Gen. 37). It is obvious that Joseph did not have much strength of character at this point in his life. But God used problems and trials at the hands of his brothers, Mr. & Mrs. Potipher and a prison inmate to develop his character so that he would endure and be able to be used by God. God uses problems in the same way in our lives. May we cooperate with God and in the end say as Joseph did to his brothers, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good...." (Genesis 50:20).
Let's move on to the last way God uses problems.
2 Corinthians 1"3-4 "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."
When we learn to handle our problems according to the principles and promises of God, we have the responsibility to help others to do the same thing. Learning to handle problems Biblically prepares us to help others who are going through tough times.
Problems are a part of our educational curriculum in God's College of Conformation. All believers are working for their Ph.D. in Christ-likeness (whether they like it or not) . We must not look at problems as the enemy but ask the Lord to help us to understand His purpose in the problem we face and cooperate with Him so as to grow in Christ-likeness through the problem.
GOD USES PROBLEMS TO...
Chapter 4 Principles Of Biblical Problem Solving
Define The Problem Accurately
We have already looked at three very important Principles of Biblical Problem Solving
That brings us to the Fourth Principle of Biblical Problem Solving -- Define The Problem Accurately.
The first step in defining the problem accurately is to find out what kind of problem you are dealing with. The place to begin is to generally decide whether the problem is changeable or unchangeable. Let's consider changeable problems first. Changeable problems can be as simple as a flat tire, squeaky door, burnt out light, an annoying (but not sinful) personal habit. Or they can be complicated problems like financial difficulties, personality conflicts, problems with children's, addiction to drugs, etc. These are all changeable problems!
Examples of such problems are diseases, disabilities, problems with bosses or losses.
If you conclude that a problem is beyond your power to change, be very careful. Be sure that it is not a matter of not wanting to deal with the problem. There is a vast difference between not wanting to work out a problem and facing a problem that is beyond your power work out. If you conclude that you are dealing with an unchangeable problem, you deal with it differently than you do a changeable problem. Here's how do deal with problems that are beyond your control.
Psalms 62:5 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.
Unfulfilled expectations will lead to frustration and bitterness. I have seen this happen many times when counseling with people who are having conflicts with those who are their authorities. Appeal to your authority but leave the results up to God. If your authority does not change it is not up to you to nag them into changing, coerce them into changing or manipulate them into changing.
Yet, I have heard people say, "I cannot handle this situation!" Perhaps you cannot but in a situation that is beyond you power to change you can handle the situation with the Lord's help!!! One example is the Willis family who lost their six youngest children in a freak van accident. Phil. 4:13 is proving true in their lives.
Psalms 62:6-8 He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved. 7 In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. 8 Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Though I have used Paul's "Thorn In The Flesh" many times in our study of dealing with problems Biblically, I must used this passage again to illustrate how we are to deal with unchangeable problems, particularly health or physical problems. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
I can share many examples where people have faced ongoing, unchangeable problems. God is in the business of helping people deal these problems victoriously. He will help you if you will let Him.
Let's move on. If you have generally looked at your problem and concluded that there is the possibility of change, then what do you do? You should...
EXAMINE THE CHANGEABLE PROBLEM CAREFULLY
A study of Nehemiah is helpful in understanding how to define a problem accurately. Nehemiah begins by asking God for help. This corresponds to our second principle of Biblical Problem Solving, Inviting The Lord's Help. Read Nehemiah 1:4-11.
Turn to Nehemiah 2:1-16. In this passage we will see that Nehemiah begins by carefully examining the situation. In examining a problem you need to do two things --
Turn to Nehemiah 2:11-16. You will note that Nehemiah did not begin by notifying everyone that he was going to be examining the problem. Why? I because the real problem is often masked when people are aware that a problem is being evaluated. For three days Nehemiah quietly observed what was going on. Verse 16 notes, "the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did..." Nehemiah was inconspicuous but careful.
While it is true we should not make mountains out of mole hills, I have found that there is often more to a problem than first meets the eye. For example, when my son was in middle school there came a time when he did not want to go to school. He just did not feel well. At first it was no big deal, but it continued. Upon investigation we discovered that there was an older boy who was picking on him, knocking his books on the floor, punching him, etc.. He had told the teacher but the teacher ignored the problem.
Locked hand in hand with discovering the scope of the problem is the next step --
Nehemiah 2:19-20 reveals that Nehemiah knew where his opposition would come from and he planned accordingly.
You can find out how big a problem is and who is involved by observation, asking questions and listening carefully. I want to focus on the last two, asking questions and listening carefully. Three scriptures that apply here.First, the Bible tells us in Matthew 12:34 "...out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." (Note: If you are seeking to define your own problem ask yourself these questions as well.)
Second, carefully listen and weigh the responses before you make a judgment. Proverbs 18:13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
Third, remember, there may be another side of the story that you need to hear in order to define the problem accurately. Proverbs 18:17 He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.
That brings me to the questions to use when trying do define a problem. These questions were developed to help individual define their own problems but they can be adapted for use in other problem solving situations.
Situation Oriented Questions
Feeling Oriented questions
How Did You Respond or Behave?
What Did You Think?
What motives are involved?
You need not apply every question to every problem situation but if these questions are answered honestly it will help you define the problem you are facing accurately.
Let's test some of these questions on a problem that is presented in Acts 6:1-4 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. 2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
What happened? -- the number of the disciples was multiplied...their widows were neglected
With whom did it happen (who was involved?) -- the Grecians against the Hebrews...the twelve...the multitude of disciples.
What emotions were expressed? -- there arose a murmuring
What did they want? -- their widows were neglected in the daily ministration and they wanted that to be stopped. But the Apostles did not want to have to stop ministering the word and praying to operate a "Meals on wheels" program.
You will note, once the problem was defined, a solution was offered and accepted. (vs. 3-7).
When you are examining a problem carefully you 1) probe to see how big the problem is 2) investigate to see who or what is involved and finally you
Have you heard the old saying, Two wrongs don't make a right? Unquestionably this present day proverb applies to the Biblical problem solving environment. Let me explain how this works. Let's say a friend gossips about you and you find out about it. It really ticks you off because what she said was not true so you call her up to straighten her out. When she answers the phone you say --
"Some kind of friend you are! After all I've done for you, you turn around and spit in my face. What kind of Christian are you anyway? I've never done such a low-down, underhanded, fowl thing to a friend in my life. I've got to wonder if you are a Christian. You own me an apology dearie! But even if you do apologize I don't know whether I can believe you after what you said about me. I think I'll just let you stew in your own juice for a while...Good bye." Then you slam down the phone.
What's wrong here? Galatians 6:1 reveals the answer. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." The attitude was wrong! A haughty, self-righteous attitude is evident in this hypothetic-cal response. To be sure, the initial offense was wrong. But just because someone sins against us, does not give us a license to sin. God holds us responsible for our attitudes just as much as he holds the other person responsible for his/her offense. Two wrongs don't make a right.
There is another attitude that is devastating to problem resolution, particularly within families -- an unforgiving attitude. Proverbs 18:19 points out that this attitude is particularly widespread among family members. The verse says, A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions (disputes) are like the bars of a castle. The word "brother" may refer to any family relationship. In more than two decades of ministry the problems that have most often alluded solution are problems between husbands and wives, parents and children and problems between siblings. But this is not an exclusively family oriented sin. Others hold this attitude too. In fact, the New Testament notes that an unforgiving attitude is the product of self-centeredness and depraved thinking. Turn to 2 Timothy 3:1-3 "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good..." The key word is "trucebreakers" which is the Greek word aspondos which means one who refuses to forgive. The same Greek word is translated as implacable in Romans 1:31. This Old English word is defined as one who will not be pacified. Any way you slice it, an unforgiving attitude is sin.
A haughty, self-righteous attitude and an unforgiving attitude often block problem solving efforts. But none is more devastating to solving problems biblically than a bitter attitude that seeks revenge. A common phrase that expresses this attitude is, "I don't get angry, I get even!" That is a wrong attitude! When we are sinned against, we must resist the desire to get revenge. Revenge is not your right. You must leave that to God (Romans 12:17-19).
There are numerous other wrong attitudes that you should check for such as know it all attitude, selfish attitude, an ungrateful attitude, a rebellious attitude, etc. They do not belong in the believers life. The truth is, that improper attitudes complicate problems and make biblical problem solving extremely difficult.
After you have evaluated your attitude, you should ask yourself, "Have I displayed the proper emotional reaction?" James 1:20 serves as an important reminder For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. We must remember that our disposition is to be Christ honoring at all times, even when we are under pressure. Now, that's impossible if you are walking in the flesh, but it IS possible if you are walking in the spirit (Ephesians 4:29-32). How you respond in pressure/problem situations will indicate whether you are walking in the flesh or walking in the spirit.
Anger, jealousy, hatred and fear are all emotional reactions that can muddy the waters and hinder biblical problem solving. Let's look at them briefly.
To be sure there is such a thing as righteous anger but our anger seldom falls into that narrow category. Our anger, most often, is of the sinful kind. Note the following scriptures --
Ecclesiastes 7:9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.Proverbs 14:17 He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.
Psalms 37:8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
Proverbs 16:32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
Proverbs 19:11 The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression (overlook an offense).
James 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
James 1:20 serves as an important reminder -- For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Jealousy coupled with hatred forms a hideous two headed monster. Now while it is true that a person can exercise Godly jealousy and hatred (2 Corinthians 11:2; Psalm 97:10) that is seldom the case. Our jealousy & hate is usually of the same kind as Joseph's brothers as Genesis 37:4 reveals. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.
Then there was the jealousy of King Saul. We will look at the whole story in just a moment but I want you to see just this verse -- 1 Samuel 18:8 And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?
Jealousy and hatred are twin sins that hinder problem solving.
Though problems are to be dealt with tactfully, many times people will not face what needs to be faced because they fear the response of those involved. Proverbs 29:25 is true, The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. We must not allow fear to hinder us from responding Biblically. Remember Psalms 118:6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?
In summary, we must remember that our disposition is to be Christ honoring at all times, even when we are under pressure. Now, that's impossible if you are walking in the flesh, but it IS possible if you are walking in the spirit (Eph. 4:29-32). How you respond in pressure/ problem situations will indicate whether you are walking in the flesh or walking in the spirit.
Let's look at a Biblical example of someone whose attitude & responses were right even when he was sinned against. Turn to 1 Samuel 18:5-15.
It is obvious from the text that King Saul was jealous of David. In fact, Saul tried to kill David. But did you see how David responded to Saul? Verse 14 says, David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the LORD was with him.
When we are facing problems we need to model our behavior after David and behave ourselves wisely. Even when we are sinned against, God holds us accountable to respond properly. We do not have the right to respond sinfully. Don't complicate problems by a bad attitude or improper response. That is just adding fuel to the fires of sin. Follow the wise words of Proverbs 26:20-21 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. 21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
In conclusion, defining changeable problems accurately requires:
The next step in defining the problem accurately is
Three Obstacles That Hinder Identifying Root Problems
What is "autonomy?" It is the condition or quality of being autonomous; independence. When it is applied to a person is means acting independently of God, deciding for your self what is right and wrong. So, how does autonomy hinder getting the real problem so that it can be solved?
Years ago, more than 25 by now, I heard Dr. Warren Wiersbe say, "At the heart of every problem is a problem of the heart." That little saying stuck in my mind and I have found it to be true over and over again. Heart problems, spiritual problems, are at the root of our problems. Why? Because every problem we face presents us with a choice. We can either trust and obey the Lord and do His will which will bring us closer to mental-emotional stability (Isa. 26:3-4), or, we can act independently and do our will which will bring us closer to mental-emotional calamity (Isa. 57:20-21).
All we have to do is look at what King David's hidden adulterous relationship with Bathsheba did to him mentally, emotionally and physically. Listen to David's own words in Psalms 32:3-4 -- When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. 4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
Psalms 51 deals with the same incident. You can easily see from reading this passage that doing his own will in the Bathsheba incident made him feel dirty, cost him his joy, made him doubt his salvation and was the source of great feelings of guilt. But you can also see from both Psalm 32 & 51 when he dealt with his problem Biblically, confessed and obeyed the Lord mental-emotional stability returned (Psalms 32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.)
I like how David closes Psalms 32 --(10-11) Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about. 11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
Remember, every problem we face presents us with a choice. We can either trust and obey the Lord and do His will which will bring us closer to mental-emotional stability or, we can act independently and do our will which will bring us closer to mental-emotional calamity.
Over the years I have found that one of the main reasons that married people initially seeks counseling is to get their partner to change. Rather than focusing on what they should do to better the situation, each is hoping that their partner heard what the pastor said because their partner sure needs it and they are really to blame to the problems in the marriage. "If my wife would just be submissive" he says. "If my husband would just cherish me" she says.
When you blame another person or circumstance for your problems you are saying, "I'm not responsible for this problem. It's not my problem. You can't hold me accountable for that!"
The fact is, that blame shifting is as old as Adam and Eve. Let's read Genesis 3:9-13. Nobody wanted to take responsibility for the problem. Too many people spend too much time and emotional energy trying to fix the blame instead of working on identifying their part of the problem.
In their book How to Counsel from Scripture Martin & Deidre Bobgan suggest two questions that will help bring attention away from blame to responsibility.
The fact is, we are all accountable to God regardless of what the circumstances are or what someone else does to us! Romans 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
The "victim mentality" is BIG in our day. Everyone is a victim. And, when you are a victim you are not responsible for the things you think, word you say, emotions you feel or actions you take. In short, you are not held responsible for your sin when you are a victim in our society. The Reginald Denny case, Bobbit case and the Menendez brothers case illustrates my point.
Though that may be societies attitude, that is not to be the Biblical attitude. Through the power of God Christians have the opportunity and ability to be victors instead of victims. Think for a moment of the case of Joseph. He was hated by his brothers (Gen 37:4-8) envied by his brothers (Gen. 37:11), kidnapped by them and sold into slavery (Gen. 37:28). From there, things got worse. He is falsely accused of attempted rape and put in prison (Gen. 39). Joseph could have adopted the victim mentality and when his brothers came before him years later he had the authority to have them skinned alive. Who could have blamed him for murdering them? God would have held him responsible that's who!
Joseph refused consider himself a victim. There is no hint that he was bitter. Joseph had trusted God and knew that God had a purpose in allowing all this to happen. Joseph was a VICTOR ! (See Gen. 45:3-8; Gen. 50:15-21)
In summary, there are three obstacles that hamper dealing with root problems -- Autonomy, Blame shifting, & A Victim Mentality. Don' be responsible for throwing them in someone's path.