What to do When You’re Out of Options
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2010 Mar 23
We can find our backs against the wall in any number of ways. Sometimes we can get into such a jam it seems as if we have no options. Sometimes we're tempted to think because we have a special connection to God that we're immune from such circumstances. But such is not the case. For example, in 2 Kgs. 4:1, there was a woman married to one of God's prophets. He died and she found herself in overwhelming debt. It was so bad the creditor was coming to take her two sons as slaves to pay off the debt. There's a very real sense in which she was out of options. Maybe you're in a similar situation. What do you do?
First, when you're out of options, go to the source of truth. Sometimes we find ourselves in trouble and we go to people who can't really help us. Ladies, when your marriage is in trouble it's no time to go to your gossiping girlfriends who just want to run men down. That's not helpful or God-honoring. Men, if you're having problems at home it's no time to confide in that woman at work who seems to understand you better than your wife. These kinds of options are traps and lies Satan lays before us. Neither is it time to go to some counselor who will take your money and let you go where your feelings take you. This is no time to follow your feelings; this is a time to get a word from God. It doesn't matter if your problem is marital, financial, grief-oriented, or anything else, you need to get God's perspective. That's what the widow in 2 Kings did; she went to Elisha, God's man, to get God's take on her situation.
Second, when you're out of options, submit to God's directives by faith. The Bible is filled with counsel from the Lord for circumstances just like yours. God tells us how to deal with a husband who is not saved (1 Pet. 3:1f); how to find peace in the midst of hardship (Phil. 4:4f); how to keep our spouses from sexual temptation (1 Cor. 7:2f); how to minimize teenage rebellion (Deut. 6:4f); how to do your job (Eph. 6:6); and so much more. When you're in debt up to your eyeballs, there are certain things God would have you do or things that look good He would have you avoid. The point is that we need Him to help us. We can't trust our feelings or so-called experts who give us unbiblical advice. What God asks you to do may not make sense. The widow had one jar of oil left and God told her through Elisha to gather as many oil jars as she could and fill them from the oil she had (2-6). Obviously God was going to do something. Now, the widow had to trust God and she also had to act. She didn't sit around and engage in wishful thinking. She did what God told her. When we get God's directive, we must do what He tells us and rest in the knowledge that we have the best advice in the world.
Third, when you're out of options, trust God's perfect provision and timing. The widow was able to sell the oil, pay her debt, and live on money she had left over (7). We probably won't get the same kind of miracle she did, but that doesn't mean that God isn't doing something in our lives. This woman is given as an example not of God's ability or willingness to do a miracle but as an example of quiet faith and obedience. God is in charge of the results. But think about her situation as well. She was able to pay her debt, but she still had lost her husband. That tragedy in her life was far worse than debt or even the prospect of her sons being conscripted to pay off the debt. The law allowed them in that situation only temporarily; they would have been released the next Jubilee. The point is that she was still in a terrible storm. Yet, God had met her, was working, and let her know in a sense that He would not leave her or forsake her. He does the same with us. There are times when God wants you to accept His providence even though it seems harsh. There are times when He is doing something in your life you can't see yet and you have to trust that He is not being harsh but kind in a way you don't understand. The Bible says that God will not keep any good thing from you (Ps. 84:11). If you don't have it, it's not good for you. That's where faith comes in.
Fourth when you're out of options, remember God paid what we couldn't. The story of the widow and Elisha actually happened. At the same time, it's given to point us to Christ (Lk. 24:27). Just as God paid the woman's physical debt, Jesus paid a sin-debt we could never repay (Rom. 6:23). Just as the widow's boys were delivered from slavery, so Jesus has delivered us from slavery to sin, Satan, and death (Col. 1:13-14). And just as God in one sense overcame the terrible circumstances of the husband's death, ultimately death is overcome in Christ; if we trust Him we'll be raised physically on the last day (Jn. 6:40).
Pilots have a saying, "don't run out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas at the same time." That's bad. The good news is that when we do so in a manner of speaking, that's when God works. We just have to go to the right place to get the help we need. When we're out of options, God isn't.
Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about yourself, God, and others . . . and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Receive a FREE commentary and learn more at www.trueworldview.com.