What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

God's way 1One spouse quits a marriage. A child rebells. A friend refuses to reconcile differences. A boss pushes productivity levels.

We all – likely too often – find ourselves in situations like these where we feel stunned, frozen and helpless, and we hear these words come out of our mouths in desperation, “I don’t know what to do.”

Ever felt that way? Ever said those very words?

When this happens, I must admit that what I initially want to do is turn on the television or open a book and get lost in a made-up world. You know, pretend my life — and especially my problem — doesn’t exist. I’ve chosen that path many times before, and it works… but only temporarily. Eventually, panic comes back.

Recently when I said the words “I don’t know what to do,” I actually received a helpful answer, one that changed my way of thinking about situations that leave a person feeling at a loss, especially when that person is a Christian. That response? “Do what you can. Do what you know to do.”

My pastor gave me this advice and then elaborated a bit and reminded me that as Christians, we have some very specific activity we always know to do even when a situation seems impossible.

  1. God's Way_scripturePray. From short, spontaneous prayers like Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4) prayed when King Artexerses gave him opportunity to share his troubles to lengthy sessions such as the one recorded in Psalm 88, prayer always exists as an option.
  2. Ask for prayer. Quit thinking you have to go through troubles alone… God wants us to pray for and with each other (James 5:16).
  3. Read Scripture. Get God’s thoughts on situations from the everyday ones to the impossible ones. Psalm 119:105 says God’s Word is a light for our path, so turn on the light!
  4. Watch where you lean. My own understanding when in a struggle, at least initially, is usually wrought with emotion. And when I’m emotional, I don’t think clearly and can’t see anything but the problem. Getting God’s perspective, through Godly counsel and Scripture, gives us a place of strength on which to lean. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  5. Give thanks. So many examples of prayer in Scripture involve spending time thanking God. If you’re not sure why this is, spend a few minutes simply giving thanks for all He’s done for you and all He promises for His people, and you’ll soon realize why giving thanks is such an important activity during a struggle. (Philippians 4:6-7)
  6. Guard your thoughts. Doubt and loneliness rise up at their strongest during a crisis. Don’t allow your thoughts to dwell in the pit. Instead, focus on God’s promises recorded in Scripture. (Philippians 4:8-9)
  7. Wait. Looking again to Nehemiah, we know he waited four months from the time he felt a burden for his people in Jerusalem until the opportunity to ask for the King’s help. Nehemiah didn’t force the issue; instead, he kept doing his job (what he knew to do) and trusted that God would give him the opportunity to act. (Nehemiah 1-2)

Unfortunately, my quality of thinking easily goes down the drain when the emotions of a helplessness hit (especially if I’m tired or hungry and definitely if I’m both). I need reminded of right thinking, which then makes way for the peace of God.

When we finally realize that the statement, “I don’t know what to do,” simply isn’t true for Christians, we see a whole new place of victory even during the struggles of life.

DISCUSSION: What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Perfect Peace

peaceMy circumstances all to often shadow my peace. One kid gets in trouble at school while the other won’t admit a mistake. My husband seems overloaded with work, leaving little time for family, and friends come to me with their problems but refuse to hear solutions. Hard to know peace, let alone “perfect peace” (Isaiah 26:3) when struggle flourishes around you.

Knowing peace is not easy. Actually, I’m not sure how it’s even supposed to happen. Jesus says He gives peace not as the world gives it (John 14:27). The world’s peace depends on circumstances, which always change. Jesus’ peace depends on Him, and He’s consistent. He never changes.

I know others have more serious situations than me, but comparisons don’t create peace either. They give perspective that can help tremendously, sure, but they don’t remove the existence of that which challenges my peace.

The peace we so often pursue remains ever elusive under the shadow of life’s everyday struggles. Maybe we’re chasing after the wrong peace. Maybe we don’t need to chase peace at all.

So what about Jesus’ peace has staying power? His peace is freely given and exists independent of circumstances. He doesn’t expect anything in return for the peace He gives. And because of His peace, I can choose to not allow trouble and fear to create my heart’s condition (John 14:27).

Living in the Peace Jesus gives means to…

  1. Believe (John 14:1). Faith keeps trouble from taking root.
  2. Take heart (John 16:33). The world can’t beat you because it’s already been beaten.
  3. Go about your work (John 20:21). God’s sending means success is sure.
  4. Not force understanding (Philippians 4:7). His peace doesn’t make sense because we think in terms of temporal instead of eternal.
  5. Let peace rule (Colossians 3:15). In other words, focus on Him, and allow His peace to consume you. Don’t fight it.

Turns out, there’s no “how to” with regard to peace. Peace just “is” because it’s a gift. When we fully focus on Christ, we have peace because our focus determines our reality.

DISCUSSION: How does the peace of God exist in your life today?