Everyone has problems. The question is, what’s the best way to solve them?
In this short article, you’ll meet Emma and learn three solutions to problems that fail:
- “It’s not important”
- Giving up
- Going half-way
Nervously, Emma looked down at her hands, one clutching the other. I asked her what she desired most of all. She met my eyes and words rushed out. “I don’t want it to happen again.” It is the pain of abuse. (Names and some details have been changed.)
In her childhood, a family friend sexually abused her. Now in her 30s, she worried her boyfriend might be manipulating her. For example, he tells her what to wear and discourages her to have friends.
Like Emma, many people seeking counseling in person or by Skype first try one of three ways to handle problems.
‘It’s Not Important’
The “it’s not important” way of handling a problem might be termed “denial” or “minimizing” in secular psychology. I prefer biblical words; in this particular case, lying.
The word lying sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But to say that childhood sexual abuse is not important is a lie. In fact, what happens in our childhood influences us throughout life.
Emma never pretended the childhood sexual abuse was unimportant. However, she said it was “not important” that her boyfriend insists that she wear certain clothes and get rid of others and that she stop spending time with friends.
She reminded me of Katelyn, another counselee, Katelyn said that her husband’s drinking was “not important.” Her father was an alcoholic, and she had learned to cover for her dad. . .and now her husband. Saying problems are “not important” fails in solving them.
Wishing It Away
Emma toyed with “wishing it away” as the way to handle problems. At first, Emma didn’t mind that her boyfriend wanted her to spend all of her free time with him. She liked his attention and imagined the possibility of marriage. But she said her mom noticed the boyfriend’s controlling behavior and cautioned her.
Emma and I opened the Bible to 1 Corinthians 10:13. It reads,
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Do you see the comforting phrase “he will provide the way of escape”? Sometimes overwhelming problems may prompt a person to give up, to quit. Discouragement is a biblical term for it. Unabated, discouragement can turn into depression, even despair.
Jay Adams, PhD — whose work as a pastor and author reignited the biblical counseling movement in the 1960s — writes that Christians need “to understand that God provides a ‘way of escape’ with every trial; Christians are never in a box.. . .Knowing that there will be a way out, an end to the problem, is itself reassuring.”
Some counselees, after identifying a problem and seeing “a way of escape,” might choose to go half way. They’ve begun to establish new biblical life patterns and experienced early success.
Remember Katelyn? She began to lovingly speak the truth to her husband and shared with him how his drunkenness negatively affected her and their children. He listened and tossed out the booze — most of it anyway. She hoped this was a turning point. Have you every been close to solving a personal problem but it kept hanging on?
Often, when you handle a problem half way, it reappears. Very sadly, Katelyn’s husband returned to drinking, replacing what he dumped with fresh stock.
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12, ESV).
When you make new patterns, don’t you need encouragement to keep on keeping on? For instance, Lilia made huge strides in overcoming people-pleasing. Her husband and friends remarked on her transformation. She smiled more often and acted upbeat in general while she continually prayed to the Lord, desiring to please him most of all. Knowing her new patterns were, well, new, she said she shared her problem with people-pleasign with the women in her weekly Bible study. They encouraged her in her new patterns.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV).
The Real Solution
When you decide to deal with problems according to Scripture, then you are changed. Specifically, your thinking. As you begin to think about your problem the way God thinks about it, and adopt a biblical worldview, you’re dialing in to the real solution.
The Bible uses words like “trial” to describe the difficulty you’re facing. You can view the trial as an opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness (James 1:2-4).
Emma and I have kept in touch. She learned new patterns of thinking and replaced people-pleasing with reverence of God. She also learned to speak the truth in love instead of failing to deal with hard emotions and memories. Wouldn’t you too like to handle problems successfully? We invite you to contact us.