By Kelly Edmiston, @kellyedmiston Student minister at First Colony Church of Christ.
“I am not sure this was such a good idea,” I told my friend through tear-blurred eyes and hysterical sniffles. You know, the kind of hysterical sobs where you can’t get enough breath in to relax and stop crying. I was referring to my current life situation of parenting a barely two-year old and a newborn baby at the same time. These words came shortly after I found myself using the bathroom while nursing the newborn and holding the screaming two-year old on my lap during his tantrum.
My friend looked back at me, and with the greatest amount of sympathy she could muster said, “Well, I think it’s too late now.”
What she was trying to say, I think, is that some situations in life are un-fixable, unsolvable, and beyond our ability to control.
- the loss of a job
- a family crisis
- a chronic illness
- parenting (from young children to teenagers).
In this post, I consider how we are to live our spiritual lives in the midst of life’s unsolvable situations.
Great Christian thinkers – as ancient as Gregory of Nyssa and as contemporary as A.W. Tozer –insist that the aim of the spiritual life is the soul’s transformation and that struggles, trials, and tribulations are the way in which Christians are transformed.
Tozer put it this way: “The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things.”
When we encounter unsolvable situations or problems, they can expose what I am going to call “false beliefs.” For example, I live with the false belief that I can, for the most part, control my world and the people in it. Once that false belief is exposed, I can either continue to grasp for control, like a reckless child with a blindfold anxiously swinging her birthday bat higher and higher for a piñata she will never reach. Or I can put the bat down, and let someone taller and more able initiate the cascade of candy. To put this is spiritual terms, I can accept my false belief and let it wear me out or I can take it to God and allow God to renew my mind to the truth.
The truth is that I do not possess control. And despite what I have led myself to believe, I never have. Parenting small children, especially multiple ones at a time, exposes my false sense of control and invites me to live in the truth or not.
The truth is that God is in control. That God is good. And that God will lead me through this if I will let God lead out.
The people of Israel faced an unsolvable problem as they approached the land of Promise and found it occupied by foreign nations. Moses told them,
“Don’t be shocked or afraid of them! The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.” Deuteronomy 1:29-31Did you catch that? The Lord brought them to this place. This place? Standing before the Promise Land that they expected to march right into after following God through the tumultuous years of the desert only to find it enemy occupied territory?! Surely the Lord did not bring them to this place. There must be some mistake. Don’t miss the significance here. The Lord brought the beloved chosen people of Israel to stand before the land and see it occupied by giants. The Lord brought the people to face their fears and insecurities of not being big enough, strong enough, or equipped enough to conquer the land. The Lord brought the people of Israel to this unsolvable situation in order to teach them to depend, not on themselves, but on God.
And Moses tells them, in depending on God and not on self, God leads, God fights, and God cares for you in the midst of this unsolvable problem.
Perhaps the people of Israel, eyes full of terror and fear, looked at each other, then looked at Moses, and said something like, “I am not sure this was such a good idea.” So they turned around and headed right back to the Red Sea that God had just parted for their safe passage. They went back to wandering in the desert for years and years and years.
What if the God of Israel has brought you to this place, to this unsolvable situation, in order to teach you to depend on God and not on yourself?
For those seeking to live the spiritual life, unsolvable problems can become the vehicle for this process of spiritual formation and transformation. It is in the standing before our fears and shortcomings that our false beliefs can be exposed and renewed. It is in these moments and seasons (and sometimes years) that we can experience God’s leading, God’s fighting, and God’s care for us in fresh and new ways.
So stand with me before the enemy-occupied territory of our lives. Take a good long look at whatever flavor of control you deal with: fear, manipulation, or self-reliance. And let’s resolve that it is too late to turn back now. Instead let’s follow God into the place God has led us. And let’s experience together that God is as good and faithful today as God always has been.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the First Colony Church of Christ.
 A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016), 7.
 Bill Loveless. Christ is Life Ministries bible study. Book Four.
 I say unsolvable situations can lead to spiritual formation because I do not believe this to be true of all unsolvable situations. For example, an obvious caveat to this statement would be the case of someone being victimized or someone who is involved in unhealthy patterns of behavior or rebellion against God, the assumption being that the person’s unsolvable situation is in the context of them seeking to live a spiritual life pleasing to God.