The pastor of a church was attending a luncheon with several church members one evening when one of the ladies of the church approached him and said, “I want to register a complaint.” The pastor braced himself for some criticism he thought this person was going to have about him or the church. But she quickly responded, “Oh pastor, don’t worry, my complaint isn’t with you or the church.”
The pastor responded, “I’m glad for that. So, what can I help you with?”
The woman responded, “That’s just it. I want to talk about problems. I seem to have more than my share right now — more than I think I deserve and maybe even more than I can handle.”
The woman continued, “I believe in God. I say my prayers, live a decent life loving my neighbors and all, but I still have problems. And to be honest, some of them are quite overwhelming. What I want to know is that if God is so kind, caring and loving, why doesn’t he distribute problems with more fairness? In fact, why do we have to struggle with problems at all?”
She continued, “When I became a Christian, I thought that would be the end of my problems. But I have as many problems as I ever had; maybe even more! Why become a Christian if it doesn’t assure us freedom from problems?”
Have you ever felt God has let you down because of the problems and struggles you face in your life? This lady was asking a question many Christians, including pastors, have been asking for many years. “If God really loves me, if he really cares about me, why do I have all these problems? Why doesn’t he just zap them all away?”
Have you ever felt like that? I have. The past 37 years of pastoral ministry have been involved in pastoring churches in which people everywhere have problems. And I have discovered people everywhere, from every walk of life deal with problems.
There are three lessons I have learned about problems that help me deal with problems in my life. First, there is nothing inherently wrong with having problems. Having problems doesn’t necessarily mean your faith is weak or there is something wrong with you spiritually. Even Jesus had problems.
Second, clear thinking and careful planning do not make us completely immune from problems. It certainly can help, but it will not make us completely immune from problems.
And third, loving and serving God faithfully does not make us immune from problems. I see Paul as one of the most faithful servants of God described in scripture, yet he had many problems throughout his life as he followed and served Jesus.
I find this scripture so helpful in facing problems from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Paul uses the help and comfort he received going through his own problems to give help and comfort to others going through problems.
Then, Paul describes the severity of his problems and the solution he discovered. In verses 8-10 he writes, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts, we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us …”
What he learned, and what I am learning, is to rely less on myself in trying to fix my problems by myself and learning to rely more on Jesus. That means I pray, and I seek his help and trust living the way I know he wants me to live. Since God has the power to raise the dead, as he raised Jesus, I can be assured he also has the power to help me through my problems.
On Jesus, we have set our hope that while he may not deliver us from problems, he will deliver us through our problems! (Isaiah 43:1-3) And he will be with us through those problems as we seek him! We are not alone!
• The Rev. Daniel R Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.