June 02, 2016

How to Downsize Your Problems

Written By Cary Schmidt

“And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12)

Have you felt overwhelmed by problems you can’t solve? Have you struggled to find solutions to issues you can’t wrap your brain around? Have you been crushed by a mountain that you expected to climb?

This week, our grand-twins, Chad and Charleigh, were at our home for the day. They are now mobile, so keeping track them is a challenge.

Dana came into our bedroom to find Chad staring up at her from the bathroom door. The uncertain look on his face gave Dana pause, “Chad, what happened?”

He hesitated, and then pointed toward the toilet and said, “Uh-oh!”

Dana smiled and said, “Chad, what did you do?”

He continued pointing, and said, “Uh-ohhhh…”

Upon further investigation, she discovered that Chad had decided to let the TV remote swim in the toilet. Uh-oh is right. Dana laughed, lifted Chad into her arms, and retrieved the remote. In Chad’s hands, the remote was doomed. But in Nana’s or Papa’s hands, the “uh-oh” wasn’t really much of a big deal.

Have you considered the magnitude of your problems in your hands? And have you considered how their magnitude changes when they are placed into God’s hands?

In recent years, God has taken me on a growing journey of rediscovering what it means to “cast all my care upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7) and to “let the peace of God” rule in my heart and “keep my heart and mind.” (Philippians 4:7)

The last four years have been a delightful, harrowing journey of watching God honor the faith and answer the prayers of His people. We have watched Him lead His church forward one day at a time. It’s been a delightfully arduous journey of feeling overwhelmed, but then seeing God unfold His provision at just the right time.

The short version of the story begins with weakness and fear. I stepped forward, not because I was full of faith, not because I was confident, not because I was seeing obvious or easy success. I stepped forward because God called undeniably.

I had no knowledge of the magnitude of the challenges, which could have scared me away. Yet, at the same time, I had no knowledge of the special and wonderful people with whom we would serve, or the joyful victories God would provide, which would have drawn me forward in faith.

Upon arriving at EBC, it was immediately apparent that, as a small church family, we were looking at challenges bigger than all of us put together. The financial needs standing in our way seemed insurmountable. The problems laughed at strategy. They were like an impassible mountain range dwarfing a little band of people. (Yes, I regularly feel like a Hobbit.)

Our church building needed about a million dollars of renovation and repairs. Our monthly cash flow was negative by a large amount. With about six-months of reserve savings remaining, it appeared that only the miraculous intervention of God could recover the ministry.

I confess—my initial response to these challenges was fear and self-pity. The voices in my head stifled the faith that initially caused me to obey God. At times I moped, as if God owed me better circumstances. Wrong response.

Some nights I would go for a walk around our church campus after sunset. Every time, the shadow of the large, deteriorating building loomed over me like Goliath, and every time it shouted at me like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings shouted “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” It seemed to say, “I will crush you! God sent you here so that I could break you!”

Most nights, I would agree. “Yes, you probably will. Yes, He probably did…” The perplexity was paralyzing at times.

Eventually I would pray. Why is it that we fear first and pray last?

One rainy night, God gave a different perspective. My walk around the building unfolded with the usual condemnation.

Then, in desperation, I looked at that looming building and said, “God, that building is yours. This church is yours. These problems are yours now! I’m giving them to you. I followed you here; and I surrender! I’ll do my best to follow you and invite others to do the same.”

That was the last time the building ever talked to me. It has been submissive ever since.

There is a kind of problem that defies planning and human solutions. These are good problems to have because they force us to our only option—prayer. They give us opportunity to see God do what only He can do.

The irony is that the building is actually a blessing. Yes, it was in disrepair, but it’s a great building. It’s also the product of the great and generous faith of a generation of believers preceding me.

So we prayed. As a church family, we brought our needs and requests to God, and we committed ourselves to gospel ministry—to preach the gospel to the lost, to baptize them, and to disciple new believers. We made a conscious decision to put gospel ministry first and to let God care for the financial and facility problems.

That was nearly four years ago. How we marvel at the difference in the view from here looking back. Then, we could not see a way forward, except prayer and preaching the gospel. Now, we marvel at how God heard our prayers, made the crooked places straight, and intervened in ways that only His infinitely creative mind could conceive.

It’s only to His glory, because the intricacies of this story could not have been conceived or scripted by men. Nobody is that clever or powerful.

God has reaffirmed repeatedly that He blesses the preaching of the gospel; He provides for His church; and He is the one leading forward.

A Personal Challenge to You:

Your problems in your hands are an “uh-oh” experience. Looking at messes, you will be tempted to run, hide, fear, or mope. Facing challenges, you will be tempted to resent or despise what God is doing.

Yet, your problems in God’s hands are dramatically downsized by His massive power. That mountain screaming at you, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” can become as insignificant as a cable remote in the toilet.

Do what Jesus did. Go offline in life. Get alone with your Heavenly Father, and spend some extended time in prayer with Him. Intentionally quiet your world and place your life back into His hands. Make your problems His problems. He welcomes you. He’s waiting for you.

Look up at Him and say, “Uh-oh!” With infantile faith, feebly point in the direction of the mess. You will see Him smile. You will feel Him pick you up in His arms. You will see Him reach into the mess and start to redeem what seems to be lost. You will experience His love hold you together. You will sense the dramatic downsizing of your problem. You will rest in His care.

Then, your world will look different. His grace and power will be bigger than all of the “uh-oh’s” put together. His care and goodness will trump all the problems and challenges. What overwhelmed you with fear will fall powerless at His feet. Your problems will become submissive to His plan. You will become restful in His presence. Your heart will settle. Your thirsts will be satisfied.

Your frantic, frazzled self will calm into a comforted, composed self that enjoys great tranquility in God’s grace.

Your overwhelming world will bow before you over-arching Saviour.

Everything changes when you stop letting your problems scream at you, and when you place them into the hands of your mighty God.

It doesn’t take a lot of faith. Just look up, say “Uh-oh,” and point!