Most everyone experiences them, but almost no one plans for them or enjoys them. Dilemmas are situations that require a choice between options that are often equally undesirable or unfavorable. It could be a problem that seems to defy a good solution.
However, dilemmas can be used by God to grow us in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus and enable us to better understand His ways. Dilemmas, problems, and difficulties can be used by God to focus our faith, fashion our character, and further equip us for service. These are all good things in the economy of God.
Godly Wisdom and Insight
An elderly pastor in Burkina Faso at an Orality Training Workshop shared some of his journey as a young man. He and his wife (or wives) had suffered the loss of their first nine children, either at childbirth or in infancy. Most likely because of a lack of clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. It was during that season of his life, when he was introduced to the gospel, became a follower of Jesus, and later became a pastor. At that time, the village witchdoctor told him the reason for the loss of his children was because he was not offering enough sacrifices to the idols. Furthermore, if he continued to follow Jesus, the spirits would take his life. The elderly pastor’s response was, “I would rather die for Jesus, than to live for the devil.” Well into old age, this pastor was well respected in the community of believers as a man of great wisdom and insight.
God will make a way
Over the past three decades of the work of Living Water International, we have heard many stories of how God has worked in the darkest and most difficult circumstances. It helps put things in perspective when we face problems, dilemmas, and hard times. Scripture is clear about these things, and we know that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Crisis and hard times will come to all of us at some point and in some form. The good news is that we are not lift to our own devices. God will always make a way as we look to Him.
Looking to Jesus
There is a man whose wife has a degenerative brain disease called Alzheimer’s. He faces dilemmas every day, sometimes several times a day. This a very difficult and challenging time, but the man finds that meditating and reflecting on Scripture passages and stories gives great comfort, direction, and wisdom. He says that one of the most encouraging biblical stories is that of Jehoshaphat, recorded in II Chronicles chapters 19 and 20. The principle we learn is when we face insurmountable problems, we can take the attitude and disposition toward the Lord, that, ‘We have no power to face these problems or difficulties, and we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.’
Seeing the Invisible
When facing various kinds of dilemmas, we can recognize that we should not lose heart, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the Corinthians. He goes on to say, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on the things that are seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
We often hear sayings like.
- Every cloud has a silver lining,
- Let your pain drive your passion.
- Every negative has a positive.
- When the world gives you a lemon, make lemonade.
- Every disadvantage has an advantage.
- Every need can become an opportunity.
- Every adversity carries with it an equal or greater benefit.
- It’s always the darkest before the dawn.
- God can turn courses into blessings.
The difference between being defeated by or being victorious over our circumstances is our attitude. It’s a matter of choose and looking for God’s redemptive opportunity in them. One of my long-time friends and mentors from years ago was the late Manley Beasley. In his lifetime he faced many problems and difficulties, and even terminal diseases, but through them all the Lord greatly used him. While being hospitalized, he introduced many staff and medical professionals to the Lord. Manley had profound insights into the life of faith and several of his contemporaries referred to him as a ‘Prophet of Faith.’ Going through all the pain and suffering was one of the keys to his deep spiritual insights and understanding. His impact continues today through the many lives he impacted.
Purpose in Suffering and Pain
It’s great to know that we don’t have to learn just from our personal experiences. The late Paul Billheimer, in one of his many books, Don’t Waste Your Sorrows, shares great insights into God’s eternal purpose for believers experiencing life’s greatest adversities. He points out that it is not just the experience, but how we react that determines our spiritual growth through sorrow, suffering and pain. There are so many lessens we can learn from those who have gone before us. Many have written and spoken on these topics. We have the Scriptures, as well as history to learn from.
Jerry Wiles, North America Regional Director of International Orality Network, and President Emeritus of Living Water International. He is an author and radio program producer and has been a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows and traveled extensively as a public speaker.