The Paper Pulpit
Problems come in all sizes, and everybody has them — some even have lots of them. The reason we have problems is that we know more ways to get into trouble than to get out of it. It would be wonderful if all of our problems could happen when we are eighteen years of age, for that is when we know everything.
According to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, a dense fog covering seven city blocks to a depth of 100 feet is composed of less than one glass of water. That amount of water is divided into about 60 billion tiny droplets. Yet when those minute particles settle over a city or the countryside, they can almost blot out everything from your sight.
Many Christians today live their lives in a fog. They allow a cupful of troubles to cloud their vision and dampen their spirit. Anxiety, turmoil and defeat strangle their thoughts. Their lives are being “choked by the cares of this world” (Luke 8:14). But “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (II Timothy 1:7). Why be fogged in when you can live in the sunshine?
Dr. William Mitchell, in his helpful book, Winning in the Land of Giants, mentions five possible ways of thinking about a problem:
Curse it. Those who do this dwell constantly on the negative aspects of their situation. In other words, they make it worse, perhaps even many times worse, than it was originally.
Nurse it. There is an old Ozark story about a hound sitting in a country store that constantly howled. A stranger who came into the store asked the store owner why the dog was howling. “He is sitting on cocklebur.” “Then why doesn’t he get up?” “He’d rather holler.” Some people are like that hound. They constantly focus time and attention on the problem itself rather than trying to find a solution.
Rehearse it. By replaying the problem over and over in their mind, they find it increasingly more difficult to think about anything else. Dark clouds are always on their horizon. They wallow in their chosen misery daily, and in so doing they make everybody around them as miserable as they are.
Disperse it. A technique used in tackling scientific problems is to break them down into their component parts, and then to work at each part until an answer is reached. Solving the component parts of a problem one after another can, and often does, lead to solving the problem as a whole. This principle will also help us to solve the problems we face in life. If you are facing a problem, maybe even a major problem, why not break it down into smaller parts and deal with each part one at a time?
Reverse it. Accentuate the positive. No problem or circumstance is one hundred percent bad. There is always a glimmer of hope, some ray of light. Recognize the negative aspects of the problem for what they are — distractions that keep you from finding a solution. Dismiss the negativity. To ignore a problem in the hopes that it will go away only makes finding a solution even more difficult. Throwing negative thoughts in the trash can and facing the problem honestly and forthrightly always leads upward, not downward.
To Dr. Mitchell’s suggestions, which I find very helpful, I would add one more resource for solving life’s problems. Why not carry any and every problem to God in prayer, knowing that He loves you and stands ready to guide and strengthen you? King David knew what to do when he found his back squarely up against some wall of difficulty, and he faced lots of them. He cried out to God in prayer, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings, O God, until the disaster is passed” (Psalm 57:1 NIV).
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.