Back in 1958, in the still early days of Rock ‘N Roll, Don and Phil Everly, the Everly Brothers, released a song entitled “Problems.” True to its title, the song started off, “Problems, problems, problems all day long.” The entire song, all three simple stanzas of it, was under two minutes long and as with most of the Everly Brothers’ hit songs it was all about teenaged love problems.
For some reason, the tune and that first line stuck in my memory banks. Throughout most of my life whenever some kind of problem either big or small popped up I would find myself mentally singing “Problems, problems, problems all day long.” (Here is a link to the song if you’re not familiar with it.) Psychologists might call this a coping mechanism. I’m not sure it is but, ok, why not?
I do know that this line from the song reminds me that no matter what kind of problems come my way there are probably hundreds of millions of people in the world who are dealing with problems that are much bigger than mine. The old saying “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” is not true. Everyone has problems. They are all around us.
Problems, Problems, Problems
Just looking out my study window as I write this, for instance, I see a young lady who lives in my subdivision taking a walk. Her right arm hangs at an odd angle and she walks with a pronounced limp. She reminds me of my youngest son’s best friend through grade school and high school who had a stroke when he was two years old. He should have died, but he didn’t. He too limps and has lost the use of his right arm.
Often I see a young man who also lives in our sub, out for his daily walk. He is blind, but he walks surprisingly fast with his cane in hand, tapping as he goes, checking for obstacles. When he walks by I always think about one of my relatives who was many years ago a promising artist and the editor of the Rotogravure section of the Chicago Tribune newspaper, until he lost his sight.
Problems All Around
Then I think of my cousin’s son who was born both blind and deaf, along with numerous other problems. The doctors said should be institutionalized because he wouldn’t live past two years of age. My cousin and her husband didn’t take their advice. Instead, they loved him and under their constant care, he lived to 12 years of age before his fragile body finally gave out. His short life had been lived in silence and darkness. He had known nothing of the world he was born into – except for constant care and love.
And even right across the street from my house is a house that now stands vacant. It’s tied up in probate. The now deceased owners of the house built it about 25 years ago and they and their daughters have been the house’s only occupants. A few years ago the wife died suddenly in her sleep. She was in her late 40’s. The widowed husband couldn’t deal with the loss of his wife and became an alcoholic. Then an on-the-job injury was compounded by diabetes and other health issues brought on by the alcohol and a poor diet. He passed away earlier this year.
Everyone Has Problems
Problems are part of living. We all have them. If you are dealing with some kind of problem right now, you are not alone. There isn’t a person or a family that I know of that has not had to deal with at least one big problem. And most often people have to deal with many problems throughout their lives.
Sometimes the problems are temporary, like a job loss and then having to deal with everything in between losing the job and finally finding a new one. But sometimes the problems are more long-term, like health problems, or a loved one’s mental illness. And sometimes individuals bring on problems all by themselves because of bad choices they’ve made – like choosing to quit school, which almost always results in a life spent in poverty, or someone letting him or herself be talked into trying drugs.
But even on a daily basis we’re faced with myriad minor problems that are aggravating to no end – lost car keys, a flat tire or the car breaking down, the dog chewing the corner or the sofa or getting out of the yard and running around the neighborhood, Billy getting into a fight at school, Suzy coming home in tears because she was being teased, or even just looking forward to having a nice cold glass of milk only to find out that it has turned sour. Fortunately, these minor problems are usually short-lived and have a way of sorting themselves out. Often we even laugh about them later.
Problems Lead to Worrying
Sometimes when the problem I’m faced with is a big one the first line of the second stanza of that Everly Brothers’ song comes to mind – “Worries, worries pile up on my head.” Worrying is pretty much what people do when faced with a problem that does not appear to have an easy, immediate solution. The bigger the problem and the longer it drags on the more worrying we do and the more stressed out we can get. And stress can bring on health problems.
One way to minimize stress, and maybe solve a problem, is to talk to others about the problem. Some people have a tendency to keep problems bottled up inside, afraid that by sharing their problems others (especially loved ones) will think less of them. But by not talking to others about their problems they lose an opportunity to tap into the knowledge that others may have. Chances are that someone else has had the same or similar problems and found ways to successfully deal with them.
Three Steps to Problem Solving
I’m not sure how atheists deal with their problems but when I’m faced with one of the bigger kinds of problems life throws at us, before I even try to sort out my options I always remember what Jesus said we should do: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), and the first thing I do is ask for His help.
For the smaller-sized big problems, my initial prayer is usually a short one that starts out with the prayer many may already be familiar with, “Lord Jesus, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen to me today that You and I together can’t handle.” Other times, when the problem is a larger-sized problem, my prayer will be longer and more specific with the kind of help I’m asking for.
But whether the prayer is short or long, the result is always the same – an immediate inner peace and sense of calm that comes from knowing God is going to help me with whatever it is I’m faced with. I have no doubt I’ll get the help I need because Jesus assured me I would: “For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it shall be opened” (Luke 11:10). All you need is faith.
The toughest part of dealing with some problems, though, even after you’ve knocked, is being patient. God will answer, but He will answer on His timetable. And He will always give us the kind of help we need, which may not necessarily be the kind of help we want. So along with faith we also have to trust in the Lord.
I mentioned my youngest son’s friend who had a stroke when he was two. His parents prayed that he would survive, had faith, and put their trust in the Lord. Their son grew up to be a devout Christian and recently got his PhD in Psychology. The subject of his doctoral thesis was the role faith can play in psychological counseling.
So that’s my real coping mechanism – asking for help through prayer, believing that my prayer will be answered, and trusting in God that the help He gives me will be the help I need. I do still like that Everly Brothers song though.