Some situations we face in life are problems to be solved. Others are tensions that need to be managed. Wisdom is knowing the difference. So let’s think about this…
There are some challenges which are problems that are completely solvable. For example, a failed exam is a problem that CAN be solved. Yes it can! Remember, it’s not the end of the world if we don’t achieve the results we’d been hoping for. In the worst case scenario, there’s always the possibility of a fresh start. A lot of our financial worries are completely solvable too. With the help of careful budgeting, some wise stewardship and a few cut backs here and there, most of our financial problems can easily be rectified – usually a lot quicker than we’d even think. These are just two examples of many problems than can be solved.
However, there are some circumstances we face in life which are tensions that are to be managed. These are situations we can do little or nothing about. The most frustrated person in the world is the one who spends their time trying to solve life’s tensions. Tensions are not meant to be solved – they’re to be managed.
When I started out in ministry, I would spend time with older, wiser ministers who I wanted to learn from. I remember once travelling with a pastor who I highly regarded (and still do!). He was driving to preach at a church and I was accompanying him on the journey. As we drove along the M1, I could see him growing more and more annoyed by the traffic. As the journey progressed, he was shouting at other drivers, red faced with anger at the state of Britain’s roads. He ranted and raved about what needed to happen and how other drivers needed to learn the rules of the highway code. By the time we arrived at the venue where he was to preach, he was completely flustered! His complaints had made no difference whatsoever to the standard of driving on Britain’s motorways. He’d made the mistake of trying to solve a tension that was unsolvable from his driving seat! This was a tension to be managed – not one he could solve. This is just like some of our challenges in life.
When we don’t understand the difference between problems that can be solved and tensions that are to be managed, we will inevitably find ourselves trying to solve things that are not meant to be solved. The apostle Paul shared a powerful lesson he learned about this in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. He was challenged by a ‘thorn in the flesh’. This was most likely a reference to some kind of persecution, perhaps someone who’d previously been connected to his ministry and who had turned against Paul. So he prayed three times for God to remove this person from his life. Each time God replied ‘My grace is sufficient for you’.
Interestingly, God didn’t answer ‘Yes’ to Paul’s prayer. Nor did he reply ‘No’. He simply reminded him of His grace. This was enough to uphold him. This situation wasn’t a problem Paul could solve. It was a tension he had to manage. However, God showed Paul that his grace was what would sustain him through it.
This is a huge encouragement for all of us when we face tensions in life. It’s God’s grace that will carry you. When you have unanswered questions, lean into God’s grace. When you don’t understand what’s going on, lean into God’s grace. When you find yourself feeling frustrated and confused, lean into God’s grace. When you’re faced with circumstances that are beyond your control, resist the temptation to try and fight them. This is not a pressure God ever wants us to bear. Just lean into God’s grace. All you need to know is that you are loved, accepted, forgiven and HIS child.
God’s grace is what will keep you safe and sane through every tension you face in life. Be encouraged. God’s got your back, more than you can possibly know. With his help, you’re going to be just fine, whatever tensions you might face.