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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Is this the hill I will climb?

Robert Schuller once said, "Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines." Many times we look at a problem as something that will stop us right in our tracks - impeding our ability to move any further until that problem is removed. The "removal" of the problem may be a whole lot bigger than the progress we would actually make by removing it, though! I have a corner fireplace that is brick from floor to ceiling. It takes up a great deal of "space" in the room and makes that corner basically non-functional since we don't burn fires. I'd much rather "remove" it and have the space to spread out the furniture in the room, but to do so would be so much more work than the added square footage would benefit me! What little I'd gain by "removing the problem" wouldn't actually be worth the expense or the effort. There are times when the problem is best left and we just allow ourselves to be "guided" in how we deal with it!

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5 NLT)

Yes, some problems will need complete and total removal - while others may just be obstacles in our path, but don't deserve much more than to learn how to handle their existence. Most think of a problem as something requiring a solution. Have you ever been confronted with something you just didn't find a solution for in this life? We make inquiry, attempting to understand it better, and still the full knowledge of its purpose or solution may not be discovered. I know stars exist, and even that they twinkle in the sky on a clear, dark night. I don't have to figure out how they got there to know they exist. I see them! I don't always have to know "why" a problem exists - I can see it there and appreciate it as an obstacle in my path without fully understanding "why" it exists. Instead, I can see it as a means by which endurance, strength of character, and the right expectations can be established in my life. In this sense, the problem serves as a "guideline", not a "stop sign".

Many a problem may exist as an "unsettled question" - we may never know this side of the grave the solution to that specific question or life problem! To some, this might not be acceptable - but the degree of frustration caused by attempting to figure out the answer to the question may cause us way more grief than it is worth! To most of us, we see problems as things which actually "vex" us a little - they give us unfathomable anxiety and distress. We just cannot get beyond that point in our lives until we remove the problem by "solving it" somehow. This might be how we get to some places of compromise in our lives, though. Instead of allowing a problem to exist and then using it as a means by which we "navigate" in life, we get involved with the problem until it begins to have an effect on our lives. Some problems are like sleeping dogs - they are best left alone!

While I don't advocate just walking away from our problems, I do sometimes think we "own" too many problems that aren't really ours to own! They are to serve as guidelines we may use to keep us from stepping into some pretty gnarly places we may not want to go in the first place. They serve as barriers in some respects, but maybe the benefit of what we'd gain by removing that barrier isn't really going to outweigh the time, energy, and expense it takes to get rid of it. We need to choose wisely which problems we will get knee high in the muck and mire of in order to "deal with them", while we also remain selective about which ones we just navigate around, knowing full well that they won't impact our progress at all because there is a way to leave them behind without changing the outcome of our forward progress and growth one bit. Just sayin!