Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Problems and Solutions

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Problems of various magnitude and significance are inescapably an integral part of life on earth. Once encountered, problems need to be solved and the question "What is the solution?" becomes in itself a problem. The best attempt in solving any problem is the one that pursues God's will in the midst of events. For example, the solution to a health problem is not always the removal of the sickness through healing because God's will might be otherwise for the sake of endurance and spiritual growth. The solution in such a situation is the acceptance and the accommodation of the health problem. St. Paul is an example to follow in bearing "the thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7) and rejoicing in his "infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). That was a safe guard against self exaltation that could result from the abundance of revelations and visions.

Problem Solving Strategies

  1. Appealing to the Word of God: The Scripture is the manual to diagnosing and fixing problems. God, our manufacturer, gave us His Word to help us through our hardships. Being well versed in the Holy Bible in order to acquire the mind of Christ will help uncover the will of God and arrive at solutions.

  2. Applying the Word of God: Knowledge of the Scripture should be accompanied with compliance and application of necessary rules and precepts such as forgiveness, reconciliation, and love which are of paramount importance in solving problems. Nowhere do we find a book recommending taking the last seat and becoming the servant of all except in the Holy Bible.

  3. Putting away one's ego: Selfishness and stubbornness are stumbling blocks to problem solving. Conflicts always start from a selfish motive (James 4).

Steps in Problem Solving

  1. Identification of the problem. A problem on the surface is only an external manifestation of a hidden one. Analyzing and identifying the problem is essential in order to avoid hasty solutions. Shifting places or describing people as problematic takes us to a closed door and a dead end. There is a big difference between being a problem or a victim of a problem. In reality, people are victims of Satan and his deceitful ways. Be proactive and explore deeper than just remaining at the seemingly obvious surface by posing proactive questions such as:
    • What other ends are involved in the problem?
    • What barriers to solutions do exist?
    • What is the scene of the problem?
    • How did it happen?
    • Why did it happen?
    • What are the outcomes of certain activities?

  2. Expression of feelings. Expressing wounded feelings in the form of grieving, weeping, or just talking the problem over with a friend or the Spiritual Father can help accelerate the healing process and energize the individual to start all over again. Our Lord Himself expressed His feelings of sadness, weeping at Lazarus's tomb and over Jerusalem for her iniquities. Unfortunately in some cultures expression of feelings is looked down upon. Such curbing of feelings can turn into severe depression.

  3. Running to God in prayers. Drifting away from God not only deludes us in our problems; but actually perpetuates them from generation to generation. Prayer can be either of two types:
    • Prayer to God to implement my decisions and execute my plans in solving my problems.
    • Prayer to God asking for His will to be done even if His will does not coincide with personal desires.
    Without prayer we cannot obtain the wisdom and discernment required for living a peaceful life of righteousness. In addition, prayer generates faith and reduces anxiety.

  4. Exploring several possible solutions. Contrary to false thinking, there are endless solutions to problems and we have to distinguish between solutions and options. Solutions lead to freedom while options lead to escapism. Examples of options are:
    • Doing nothing towards solving the problem
    • Delegating others to find solutions
    • Procrastinating action
    • Postponing thinking about solutions
    The best solution is the one that involves and incorporates God's will. Restrictions to solutions will hamper them. For example, if a spouse has a problem with their partner but do not want to reveal the problem to the other side, they cannot aspire to reach a solution. His Holiness Pope Shenouda III said on the subject, "An optimist is always ready to find a solution to a problem but a pessimist is always ready to find a problem with the solution."

  5. Setting a plan and a time frame. In order to ensure success in problem solving, a plan followed by a time frame for executing the plan should be set in order to establish urgency and commitment in implementing solutions.

  6. Evaluating progress. Periodical evaluation of the solution needs to be done in order to trace the success or otherwise of the solutions attempted.

The Model of Problem Solving
The best hero of problem solving in the Holy Bible is Nehemiah, the leader and reformer. He put in practice all the strategies and steps required for practical solutions. In fact, those steps are deduced and derived from his pattern of behavior. He first identified the problem (Nehemiah 1:1,3), and came to the conclusion that sin, spiritual ailments with the resultant despair, hopelessness and helplessness, lack of leadership, lack of resources and local opposition led his people, the Israelites, into the seventy years of captivity. Not sparing his tears, he wept and prayed fervently before the Lord in order to know His Divine will. Then, he came up with a proactive time framed action plan in which he divided the people into groups (Nehemiah 6:15). Motivating them, he participated in the work with them. The steps that Nehemiah took subjected the king to Nehemiah's will, liberated his people, built the walls of Jerusalem and restored everything in the city.

Our definition of problem solving needs to be revised to conform to God's will and to bring about success. This revision needs to include knowing and becoming well grounded and well versed in the Word of God which will fill us with heavenly wisdom and discernment. Proverbs 21:5, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty" tells about how the plans of the diligent lead to success whereas hasty people will be impoverished. Problems arise from egoism that has become the centre of our life and monitors relations. Putting away selfish ambition and succumbing to brotherly love will usher in good judgment that will enable people to live peacefully and harmoniously. Planning solutions and setting time frames for implementing them need to be followed by evaluation in order to ensure success and continuity.

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern US

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