Hurrying to answer the ring, Cheri slammed her toe into a Little People garage toy and lost her balance as she reached for the phone. Then — wham! — she fell flat on her back. Literally.
I was the caller, and I thought it odd that my friend didn’t say “Hello.”
“Cheri, are you there?”
Still no sound.
My friend caught her breath; the fall had knocked the wind out of her. What would have been our usual give-and-take on God’s answers to her problem of persistent anxiety turned into my helping her figure out the extent of her back injury and getting first aid.
God brings people across your path with any number of needs: encouragement, loving correction, prayer, hands-on help, and hope. Who has He brought into your life lately who needs your help? How have you ministered to them? In what ways have their problems drawn them closer to Jesus? How has God used their problems to deepen your faith?
My first concern for Cheri was evaluating her injury as best I could 500 miles away over the phone. I intentionally spoke calmly:
I asked her if she had hit her head. No.
If her breathing had improved. Yes.
If she could wiggle her toes and fingers. Yes.
I asked where she felt pain. My back.
“I’m feeling better,” she reassured me. “I need to ice my back.” I remained on the line as she slowly made her way to the freezer where she fetched a bag of frozen vegetables as a make-shift ice pack to place on her lower back.
Worrisome “what if” thoughts began intruding my friend’s mind. She feared she wouldn’t be able to pick up her daughter after school. She feared her husband would be angry with her and call her “stupid.” She feared her back wouldn’t get better. She feared she wouldn’t have enough money for a doctor’s visit.
As I had on many occasions, I reminded her that God cares for her and that He sees her pain (Gen. 21:17, Matt. 1:23). She wanted to keep talking but I’m no doctor or nurse, and she needed to phone her husband at work and ask her next-door neighbor to come over. I asked her to text me soon.
A few days later, Cheri texted me and told me her back pain was continuing and had kept her from sleeping. I insisted she see a doctor right away and trust God to provide the money for the medical expenses. We prayed together. She made an appointment for that afternoon. X-rays revealed a spinal compression fracture. Her doctor referred her to specialist, prescribed pain pills, and told her to rest and not to twist, bend, or lift.
God Wants Your Attention
As God providentially orchestrates people’s lives, he uses all kinds of events to draw their attention. He uses problems as opportunities for them to grow more spiritually mature. James 1:2-4 describes this process: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trial of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” This joy is true happiness that comes from knowing that God is in control of everything: He counts the stars in the sky (Psalm 147:4) and the grains of sand on the shore (Psalm 139:18). He numbers our days (Psalm 39:4).
God has also used supernatural events to get people’s attention, such as Moses and the burning bush or Balaam and the talking donkey. More often, though, God uses ordinary things to get someone’s attention: a troubled marriage, rebellious children, addictions, sexual sin, and so on.
When facing a problem, may I encourage you to ask five questions that help people see what God wants them to see? Paul Tripp provides these questions in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. They point you toward resolving problems biblically.
- What was going on? This question focuses on your circumstances.
- What were you thinking and feeling as it was going on? This gets you to examine your heart.
- What did you do in response? This further reveals your heart’s response to the circumstances.
- Why did you do it? What were you hoping to accomplish? This uncovers the motives, and possibly the idols, of your heart.
- What was the result? The question uncovers the consequences that result from the thoughts and motives of your heart.
Join the Conversation
What problem is God using to get your attention or the attention of someone you’re counseling? How do these questions help turn a problem into an opportunity for spiritual growth?