Wise people see trouble coming and get out of its way, but fools go straight to it and suffer for it.Proverbs 22:3 – ERV
Trouble and problems are an inevitable part of life, but we can choose how we respond to them.
What do you do when you see trouble or problems coming your way? I tend to handle life’s troubles in one of two ways: denial or defeat.
My denial looks something like this:
Denial feels good temporarily, but it prevents us from learning how to faithfully handle the challenges that inevitably arise in life.
And then there’s this poor kid, who perfectly encapsulates to me the feeling of defeat.
Sometimes, when I become more aware of my issues, I feel so inundated with difficulties that I am completely overwhelmed.
So how can we get a faithful perspective on our problems? By changing our perspective and seeing problems as opportunities.
Physical or emotional pain can make me doubt that God has a purpose or plan, but he always comes through and helps me through every problem. And, the Bible teaches us that God can bring good out of everything that happens in our lives:
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.Romans 8:28 NLT
Here are a few things that may help you change your perspective, and begin to see your problems as opportunities.
Painful problems can lead to pleasant places
One of the most difficult problems in my life has been debilitating physical pain.
At 19 years old, I was a Division 1 athlete on the track team at my university. I pulled a muscle in my back, then ran the PAC-10 Championships injured and permanently damaged my spine. The pain that followed lasted over 20 years.
Regardless of training and various treatments, I could not get well. I had to learn to modify my life with those difficulties. A scripture that got me through this time in my life was Psalm 16:5-6:
Lord, I have chosen you alone as my inheritance. You are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion. I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands.  Your pleasant path leads me to pleasant places. I’m overwhelmed by the privileges that come with following you, for you have given me the best!Psalm 16:5-6 TPT
This scripture called me to choose God alone as my utmost prize and joy, and to trust him with my destiny and its timing. And then it promised me that God’s pleasant path would lead me to pleasant places, even if I couldn’t see it at the time.
I did sports in high school and college, always identified as an athlete. I thought my destiny was to be an Olympic athlete, to compete with the best.
After getting injured and never being able to compete again, my identity went down the drain. I didn’t understand or know my purpose anymore. My life wasn’t turning out to be what I had thought and I was angry.
Maybe that is how you feel this year as we battle many different crises that have affected all of us in unique ways. Psalm 16 was shown to me many times, and I felt even more angry. How could it be true?!
In the New International Version it describes it a little differently:
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.Psalm 16:6 NIV
These “boundary lines” of an injury certainly did not feel “delightful.” My injury was unexpected, unplanned and I couldn’t get a way around it.
The Bible teaches us that time, chance, and unexpected problems happen to everybody (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12). When problems hit our life, we can choose to trust that God will work through them to lead us to pleasant places.
For me, the pleasant places were deeper relationships. Being injured stopped me in my tracks and with that, made it possible for me to spend more time building relationships. I started dating and met my husband, all because at that moment my priorities had to shift.
Also, in becoming a Christian, my dream shifted from being an Olympian to reaching out to Olympic athletes so I could help them have a relationship with God.
When we choose to trust God, we can find a path to pleasant places even in the midst of painful problems.
- What boundary lines has God placed in your life that are meant to shift your priorities to discover his purpose?
- What “pleasant places” do you think God could lead you to in the midst of your problems?
Problems can teach us to pray
There is power in telling someone your problems. If you’re like me, you like to keep your problems to yourself. You may feel you don’t want to complain too much and worry you’ll lose your friends if you do. However, it is detrimental to our faith and health if we keep our problems to ourselves.
Hannah is a married woman in the Bible who wanted children but she was barren. Her husband tried to comfort her, but it didn’t help. So she cried out to God. Unfortunately, she was accused of being drunk because as she prayed her lips moved but no words came out.
Hannah answered, “Sir, I have not drunk any wine or beer. I am deeply troubled, and I was telling the LORD about all my problems.  Don’t think I am a bad woman. I have been praying so long because I have so many troubles and am very sad.”1 Samuel 1:15-16 ERV
In God, we find the safety and security to share all our problems, just as Hannah did. Maybe you tell yourself you can handle things, but you just need more time. Or maybe you have tried to get help with your problems only to be accused or misunderstood like Hannah was.
Like Hannah, who was deeply troubled, we sometimes experience deeper pain in our lives than even excruciating physical pain.
Telling God my problems is easier because I don’t like disclosing to people when I am having a hard time. I remember resenting people always asking me how my back was doing. It seems like a simple enough question, but I always had thoughts run through my head like:
- How much do I tell them?
- Do they really care to know or are they just being polite?
- Do I want to hear their opinion on what I should try?
- Can’t we talk about something else?!
Praying through pain was hard for me. But eventually I gathered quite the arsenal of scriptures that helped center me back on God and focus my prayers.
I began telling God about my pain, the disappointment I felt in being left out, and the brokenness I felt of not having the same abilities as others. All this helped normalize my feelings and give me more self-control.
Praying through my problems also gave me peace and calmed the panic I felt in my heart when my back pain would flare up. And once I had shared my problems with God, I always found it easier to talk to my friends too.
- What can you change about the way you pray through your problems?
- Who can you allow into your life to support you?
Problems can help us change lives
One of the stories in the Bible that is really helpful to read in times of trouble is that of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Joseph went through a lot of problems; he was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused, thrown into prison, and forgotten.
How did Joseph keep such a faithful perspective, even through intense difficulty? He saw God’s good purpose in all the bad things that happened to him:
As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day.Genesis 50:20 NET
God didn’t cause the bad things that happened in Joseph’s life, but he stayed with Joseph every step of the way and turned difficulties into opportunities for good.
Eventually, Joseph became a leader who saved many people from dying from a famine. Similarly, God can change our perspective on our problems by giving us a good purpose in our pain.
Because of what I’ve been through, I’ve been able to change the lives of and give hope to many other people suffering pain, whether physical or emotional. God’s good purpose gives me a spiritual perspective on my pain.
- How do you think you could use the troubles you’ve been through to give hope to others?
Problems can deepen our faith in God
Whatever problems you are facing, God gives us a safe way of dealing with them.
My first reaction to my injury was a determination to get back on the track, then depression when nothing was working. I didn’t realize God was working behind the scenes all along to deepen my faith in and appreciation for him.
His purpose for me all along wasn’t to just develop a talent or a skill in running, it was to develop a love and care for him and people. We can’t give up when we face problems, no matter how much they pile up. With God we can get out of any trouble; nothing is too hard for him!
“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says GOD, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!”Psalm 91:14 MSG
God will be with us when we go through tough times. He can get us out of any trouble, help us handle any problem. Will you turn your problems into purpose today? Even if you have been avoiding or blaming, you can turn to God this moment and he will listen.
Tell God your problems. Ask for help and gain a different perspective. Find someone you can tell your story to and help, and believe God will come through for you.