When the Problem Isn’t the Problem

Brothers and Sisters,

For the past several years, I’ve ended most days with upper back/neck pain and a gnarly headache. It was especially bad on days when I’d done a lot of reading. I always blamed my posture. I’d do my best to sit up straight, I’d pop a few Aleve tablets, and soldier on.

Of course, none of that worked. What did? A pair of new glasses.

After I misplaced my old pair earlier this year, I dropped by the local vision center. During my exam, I learned that I have double vision, which means something in my head works extra hard to pull images together. Apparently, that causes upper back/neck pain and headaches.

One new prescription later, most of my days end with much less pain than they used to.

We often move through life thinking we know what our problems are. Then—thanks to the insight of a wise friend, a doctor, a counselor, etc.—we learn that the problem we thought we had wasn’t the problem at all. What we needed was the wisdom of an outsider to look in and tell us what was really going wrong before we could finally find a solution.

This reminds me of the rich young man in Mark 10. He came to Jesus with a question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” That sounds like a good thing to ask, but really it was a comment in the form of a question. He wanted Jesus to give him the opportunity to rehearse just how good a little boy he’d been. But Jesus saw right through his conceit. Sure, you’ve obeyed all the rules, but one thing you lack: get rid of everything and come follow me.

We know how the story goes: the young man walked away sorrowful. He thought he knew what he needed. But Jesus, in His wisdom, discerned the real problem and confronted him with an opportunity to grab hold of its only solution: repentance and faith in Him.

The Lord has placed us in one another’s lives for a reason. He’s given us a Bible in our hands and the Spirit in our hearts, and He’s called us to grow in the knowledge of Him—not so that we can get fat heads but so we can teach and admonish one another in all wisdom (Col 3:16).

We need one another. I need you to be the wise counselor who looks into my dysfunction and gently points out where I’m off base. You need others (sometimes me, usually not) to look into your life and help you figure out what’s really going on.

So, this is my encouragement. Whatever pain you might be in right now, call up a brother or sister you trust. Bear your soul and bear with them as they probe and ask questions. They just might point you in a direction you’d never considered.

And, if you’re the one who gets the call, answer it! We all need to be open and available when God gives us the opportunity to be the counselor rather than the counselee.

Who knows? You may be the one God uses to deliver the insight that changes a life.

Your Brother in Christ,