Problems are very interesting. I have been thinking about problems. One man’s problem is another man’s opportunity. What is a problem today, tomorrow we will hear you thanking God for it. Someone once said that problems are the salt with which life is eaten. I have put here a list of things I have been learning about problems. They are in no particular order, probably as a reflection of the chaotic way problems come to us sometimes.
1. Solving problems makes us stronger
There is a story about how some tribes in South America prepare a tree to be used as the main shaft in a ship. It is said that the other trees around it are cut down. Then the tree is exposed to high speed winds. By harvest time, this tree ends up being stronger than all the other trees. If you are that tree, as you grow up you would probably complain and feel as though your owner/grower does not care about you. But in the end, being chosen as the strongest tree around must make you proud.
The problems we solve today will prepare us for the problems that we will face tomorrow. Some of the things we do easily, sometimes without even thinking about it, in a state of unconscious competence, were not easy to do in the beginning. Practice does make perfect.
2. A problem identified is a problem half solved
You may have heard this said several times. It may not feel so at the time you identify your problem but we all want to know what we are facing in order to plan how we are going to deal with it. We want to know the size of the animal we are dealing with so that we can measure ourselves up against it to see if we have the resources required to adequately fight it. In so doing we can see if we will need help outside of ourselves or if we have what it takes on our own. The danger here is to get into ‘analysis paralysis’, where we spend so much time, energy and other resources studying, talking about, doing research, evaluating approaches that we do not have time or resources to deal with the problem. Identifying a problem also enables us to match a solution to it. Some problems are temporary and will be solved even without our intervention. Sometimes all we need to do is wait. It is a bit like the difference between a bacterial and a viral infection. With a bacterial infection, we just take antibiotics to help our body to fight it. In the case of a viral infection however, we only deal with the symptoms like coughing, vomiting etc and just wait it out. Some problems are imagined. We think there is a problem but there really is none. I have been pleasantly surprised to find this to be the case in some relationships, a little communication and voila! problem solved.
3. It is not a problem if it does not bug anyone enough to want to solve it
If we consider point A to be the place we are at and point B to be the place we want to be, it will take several actions steps to move from point A to B. If you are content with being in point A and see no need of making any effort to move from there, you will remain there until you do something. Now this may sound painfully obvious, but it is not necessarily as obvious in practice. We need to be uncomfortable enough or disgusted enough of dissatisfied enough with point A to want to move away from it. We also need to be attracted enough to point B to want to go there. This is the challenge of motivation. I like all manner of ‘light-bulb’ jokes but one of my favorites is the one about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light-bulb. Answer: only one, but the light-bulb has to be willing to change.
Sometimes we like to complain about our problems not because we want them solved but because it gives us some sort of excuse for where we are. Some of us would be completely lost if all the problems we complain about were to be suddenly solved. Our problems have become such a part of our identity that deep inside, we do not want them solved. In John 5:6 Jesus asked a guy who had been sick for 38 years if he wanted to be healed. I mean, duh! Not really. Jesus was not asking a stupid question. There are many people today who do not want to be healed. “They do not want to receive divine help in their problems. They do not want to be helped out of their weakness. They love their weakness, their helplessness. They are always craving the attention of others through their helplessness. They sometimes flee assuming responsibility for their own lives. I have even seen people turn their backs on a way of deliverance they knew would work because they did not want to be healed.” (Ray Stedman)
4. All of us have problems
Sometimes it takes sharing our problems with others to realize how big or small our problems are. A lot of us are spoilt either by our parents in their bringing us up, or by ourselves as we have grown and continue to take responsibility for our lives. When I spend time talking to various people in the casualty section of Kenyatta National Hospital or in the wards, it suddenly does not feel so bad that my DsTV is disconnected or that I have only two pairs of shoes. Even as we speak there is someone on their knees pleading to God to give them the chance that you have now. Think about it. It is only a matter of perspective.
A lot of us think that rich people do not have problems. It seems to us that if we were Bill Gates or Chris Kirubi then we would have no problems at all. I don’t think so. I think we would have a whole new league of problems. The rich also cry.
5. If you take too long to solve a problem, the solution can become a bit of a problem
There was a time our son locked himself in our bathroom. We had one of those door-knob kind of doors that once locked, you could only unlock from the inside. Trying to explain to a three year old how to unlock such a door, hardly being able to reach the door knob proved to be quite a challenge. There were few options. Of course waiting for him to starve and become thin enough to slide him out under the door, though considered, was not a good option. I don’t even think I actually suggested it. But you know there many things that we just think and never really say out aloud. Anyway, we got a guy who came and basically removed the door knob. Not neatly enough to be able to put it back though. We had to get a new one. The door knob, not the guy.
Getting a new door knob took a while. Actually a few weeks. We actually got used to putting our hands through the big gaping hole in the door to get into the bathroom. When we finally got the knob replaced, we suffered a lot of pain several times as we knocked our knuckles on the door knob. I actually thought of removing it again, another idea that, though thought of, was not suggested or shared out aloud.
How do you identify, deal with or solve your problems?