By Tom Holladay
Finding the strength to start is the first step in putting it together again. That strength begins with our reaction to the problem we’re facing. Our greatest problem is not our problem; it is how we react to that problem. One of the keys to rebuilding is the way we look at problems.
Your reaction to a problem is determined by the way you see that problem. If you look at a problem and think, It’s a disaster; all is lost, then your reaction is going to be despair. If you look at a problem and think, It’s unnecessary; that shouldn’t have happened, then your reaction is irritation. If you look at a problem and think, It’s unfair, then your reaction is anger. If you look at a problem and think, It’s deserved; I did it to myself, then your reaction is guilt or shame.
There is a better way. We can look at every problem and think, It’s an opportunity to trust God. Then our reaction is faith. A faith reaction to our problems will radically change the direction of our lives. Warren Wiersbe wrote, “The optimist sees possibilities in the problems, and the pessimist sees problems in the possibilities. One sees the opportunities and the other sees the obstacles. But the real basis for optimism is faith . . . If we see only the problems, we will be defeated; but if we see the possibilities in the problems, we can have victory.”
Nehemiah describes the problem he was facing this way: “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3). The problem was that the people of God were living in disgrace, and the cause of the problem was that the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins.
In Nehemiah’s day, a city’s wall was not a decoration; it was its protection. With the walls in ruins, any enemy could easily attack. A city’s gates were more than an entrance; they were the civic gathering place—the place where the courts and government met. Without its gates, the city was without leadership.
As Nehemiah faced this problem, he faced the same question all of us face: Will I see only the problem, or will I see the opportunity to trust God in the problem? The Bible clearly shows that our problems are to be seen as opportunities for faith:
- “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2–3 NLT).
- “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
- “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3–4).
The important question always is, “How do we do this?” Nehemiah models some practical steps we can take to begin to react to problems in a new kind of way.
Reacting in a different way is more than just knowing we should think a certain way. That just creates a feeling of guilt. We find ourselves thinking, I know I should have more faith, but I don’t have more faith, and all I can see is the problem. What’s wrong with me? Nehemiah shares some practical things we can do to get out of that trap of guilt-laden thinking.
We see how Nehemiah began to move from the shock of a problem to a reaction of faith in Nehemiah 1:4: “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
There are three choices in this verse for beginning to see any problem as an opportunity for faith: mourn, fast, and pray.
- Mourning is expressing your hurt to God.
- Fasting is focusing your heart on God.
- Praying is asking for help from God.
Moving to a place of faith is not accomplished by just flipping a switch. There is a process for beginning to see your problem as an opportunity for faith that includes mourning, fasting, and praying. You cannot choose most of your circumstances, but you can always choose your reaction to those circumstances.
When someone tells you to “just have faith,” although you know they may have your best interests at heart, it can sound like an unreachable platitude. If you could have had faith, you would have had faith, and the words just make you feel guiltier for not having faith! Nehemiah gives us a place to start in the process that gets us to the place of faith when we face a need to rebuild.
Taken from Putting It Together Again when It’s All Fallen Apart: 7 Principles For Rebuilding Your Life by Tom Holladay. Click here to learn more about this title.
Life crises can throw you into a tail-spin—a lost job, a failed relationship, a struggling business, a financial mess. Where do you start? How do you pull it together? How do you begin again?
Tom Holladay experienced a catastrophe first-hand when a sudden flood in California destroyed his home, his church, and the homes of many church members. Tom and his congregation had to rebuild, and they used the principles in the book of Nehemiah to get back on their feet.
Now a teaching pastor at Saddleback Church, Tom will help you discover seven principles for putting it together again that will give you the direction you need to get rolling on that fresh start. Holladay will walk you through seeing every problem as an opportunity, facing the obstacles head on and taking your first step, knowing how to expect and reject opposition, build on your success, and dedicating yourself to the One who rebuilds our souls.
The task of starting again can seem impossible. And sometimes you just need to rebuild your confidence and regain a sense of purpose. If you’re trying to find the emotional energy, but you just don’t have it in you, let Holladay encourage you. He understands how difficult and rewarding the business of rebuilding is. This book is your encouraging how-to guide to starting again and stepping into a better future.
Tom Holladay is the senior teaching pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Tom’s passion in ministry is to help people discover a love for the Bible and an understanding of God’s truth that changes the way they live. He also assists Rick Warren in teaching Purpose-Driven Church conferences to Christian leaders all over the world. Books he has written include The Relationship Principles of Jesus, Love Powered Parenting, and Foundations: 11 Core Truths to Build Your Life On. He also teaches DriveTime Devotions, a daily ten-minute podcast with more than 26 million downloads. He and his wife, Chaundel, have three children and six grandchildren.