One spouse quits a marriage. A child rebells. A friend refuses to reconcile differences. A boss pushes productivity levels beyond ability.
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.”
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.”
“Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:9)
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.
- Pray. 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.
- 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).
- Read Scripture. Get God’s thoughts on situations from the everyday ones to the impossible ones. God’s word is a light for our path, so turn on the light (Psalm 119:105).
- Watch where you lean. My own understanding when in a struggle, at least initially, is usually wrought with emotion. 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)
- 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)
- 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 the Bible. (Philippians 4:8-9)
- 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 (i.e., 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.