Difference between problems, predicaments
I lead a Sunday school class at my church. I say “lead” because all I really have to do is present the Bible passage and then my class has a hearty discussion about how it relates to our life of faith. I am blessed with smart, thinking, lovely people in my class, and each week my life is expanded simply by sharing that hour with them.
A few weeks ago, we studied a passage in 2 Samuel about a wise woman of Abel. Because of this story, a discussion ensued about the difference between a problem and a predicament. Some of the thoughts in this article I have to credit to Judson Edwards, an author, speaker and former pastor. In our lesson he explains the difference between a problem and predicament as explained by Richard Farson in his book, Management of the Absurd.
“One of the most valuable lessons...I learned from philosopher Abraham Kaplan, is to distinguish between a problem and a predicament. Problems can be solved; predicaments can only be coped with. Most of the affairs of life, particularly the most intimate and important ones, such as marriage and child rearing, are complicated, inescapable dilemmas-predicaments where no options look good or better than any other." (p.42)
At some time or another, we all have to endure baffling predicaments: the loss of a child, the parent with Alzheimer’s, the awkward child struggling through middle school, disease and disability. These situations demand much wisdom and faith. Knowing the difference between a problem and a predicament is crucial. Some situations can be fixed and some cannot. If a situation is fixable, we will do all we can to fix it. If it cannot be fixed, we need to summon all our wisdom and faith (and maybe even the wisdom and faith of others) for the long haul.
Just because we find ourselves in situations that cannot be completely fixed, does not mean that we have to give in to a life of misery. We all, at one time or another, will be stuck in a situation that offers no good alternatives, but we still have choices to make. We can choose to love and to serve God. We can choose to love and serve people. We can choose to live a life of meaning and purpose in what otherwise could be a hopeless and maybe even depressing circumstance. We do not have to merely survive a predicament, we can learn to thrive in spite of it and maybe even because of it.
Richard Farson goes on to say,
“Predicaments require interpretive thinking. Dealing with a predicament demands the ability to put a larger frame around a situation, to understand it in its many contexts, to appreciate the deeper and often paradoxical causes and consequences. Alas, predicaments cannot be handled smoothly.”
Faced with predicaments, we have a choice. We can find strength, be content and give thanks. This is not always easy, but with God’s help certainly possible.
Printed in the October 4th edition.