TRIAGING YOUR PROBLEMS
I was struck the other day when reading F.W. Boreham’s, WHEN SWANS FLY HIGH, as he discussed an apparently unsolvable problem he was facing, by his observation about many of life’s problems: “But the problem soon solved itself.” (p. 112) Shortly after reading this I was doing my morning devotions and had come to the story of Jehoshaphat in Second Chronicles where he too was faced with an overwhelming problem. But the gravity of his crisis and the urgency and enormity of its dire consequences if left unattended meant that this problem would never solve itself. If it is granted that some problems certainly do solve themselves, and it is similarly true that some other problems are solved by our diligence, there is surely yet another category of problems and King Jehoshaphat’s problem was definitely in this category.
Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). Then Jehoshaphat was afraid…
Second Chronicles 20:2-3a
It is of course one of life’s guarantees: problems will happen. The late David Cartledge once said to me that the capacity of a person’s leadership was measured by the size of the problems they deal with. The bigger the problem, the bigger the leader needs to be to deal with it. If this be the case, as I think we can agree it probably is, then I shamefully confess that I have not always been a very big leader. Too often I have let relatively small problems fluster me. And because practice makes perfect I can testify on behalf of Dr. Boreham that many of life’s problems do indeed seem to solve themselves.
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
But Jehoshaphat’s problem was never going to solve itself and, quite frankly, there will be a few problems you are confronted with that will never solve themselves and like King Jehoshaphat’s problem they will never be solved by our diligent efforts either.
Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
Second Chronicles 20:3-4
Some problems get worse if they are incorrectly assumed to be the type of problem that will solve themselves. The ancient masters of problem-solving all started by categorising problems into either of three categories (“triage”) :
(i) Problems that solve themselves,
(ii) Problems that are solved by diligent attention and efforts,
(iii) All other problems.
Distinguishing our problems into on of these categories is like triaging our problems. Jehoshaphat was quick to triage his problem into the third category. But how does anyone deal with a problem so big, so overwhelming, so grave that no amount of personal effort could ever resolve it? People we work, study, live with, face these type of problems and despair. The doctor tells a nervous mother the news that her young child will not be coming home today as they have found something concerning in the blood tests. A teenager has a moment of consciousness and feels a jolt of pain. The only thing they can recall about this day was driving off and looking at their phone after receiving a message. They then notice they can’t move their arms or legs and the shock takes over. A man drives home to his double-mortgaged house and wonders how he’s going to tell his wife that his business partner has fled after cleaning out their life-savings from all of their joint bank accounts. Yes, some of life’s problems are category (iii) problems! And Jehoshaphat gives anyone overwhelmed with Category (iii) problems a strategy for how they can be dealt with.
¶ And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said, “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.
Second Chronicles 20:5-6
I currently have problems in all three categories. My category (iii) problems at times overwhelm me. I take great heart from the way Jehoshaphat responded to his category (iii) problem. There is a lot to learn about leadership from this chapter of his life. As I consider how we as a church have to raise an additional $300,000 over the next six to nine months to fund our building extensions, I look to the principles this beleaguered King of Judah used for his overwhelming problem.
- He led his people in worship of God in truth and didn’t try to solve his problem on his own. (2Chron. 20:4-6)
- He reminded everyone of how God had provided what they needed in times past. (2Chron. 20:7)
- He reminded God of His promises to them and prayed the Scriptures to God. (2Chron. 20:9)
- He presented their precise need to God in prayer. (2Chron. 20:10-12)
- He opened his heart and mind to God by heeding the voice of God. (2Chron. 20:14-17)
- He led Judah in worship of God. (2Chron. 20:18)
- He made the House of God and the worship of God a top priority by having the Levitical singers and musicians set the tone of each day. (2Chron. 20:19-21)
- He then acted on what God’s Word said and waited for God to do what He promised. (2Chron. 20:22-30)
And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly.
Second Chronicles 20:14
No matter what number your problems can be categorised as, (i) (ii) or (iii), there is a God in heaven who longs for us to turn to Him in dependency with whatever need is overwhelming us. Your problems don’t need to be level (iii) before you can look to God to meet them. In fact, a great strategy for dealing with any problem is to ask for God’s help and do all we can within our resources, expertise and power to solve them. But there will be times when you have to tackle a category (iii) problem. When that time comes, remember King Jehoshaphat and what he did.
Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them rejoice over their enemies. They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the LORD. And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.
Second Chronicles 20:27-31