Identify the Problem
The first step in the Bible teaching about resolving issues is to identify the problem. Nehemiah inquired into the condition of the Jerusalem and the Jews there. He discovered that, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gate are burned with fire” (Jeremiah 1:2, 3).
When you and I approach a situation, we can ask questions such as, “What is wrong? What are the symptoms/conditions? What should the situation be like? Who is affected? We should get as many facts as possible, then weigh them carefully. The clearer we define the problem, the better our solution.
The task we need to tackle might be low grades in school, a business down turn, marital strife, career change – the list goes on.
Prayer is Needed
Nehemiah wrote that he, “sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). Surely, in faith we must approach God for wisdom, direction, and strength (cf. James 1:5-6).
In our humility, we need to capture God’s perspective on matters.
Identify the Causes
The Bible teaching about making good decisions reveals that Nehemiah identified several causes of Jerusalem’s plight. They were spiritual (1:6-9), discouraged, leaderless people, lack of resources, and local opposition (1:3; 2:7-10).
You and I can seek answers to questions like, what are the causes of the problem? Are other interest groups involved? What are the barriers to solutions? When did the problem happen? Where did it happen? How did it occur? Who was involved? What result came from what activity? Continually ask who, what, where, why, when, and how questions.
Sometimes there may be several interconnected causes; sometimes there might be one key cause. It is to your advantage to honestly look at as many possible causes as you can. Sometimes it is hard to look at causes.
For example, perhaps the reason a families’ finances are in shambles is because one spouse spends too much money. It will be a big hassle to confront the spouse; consequently, the real cause is avoided.
Identify Several Possible Solutions
In the Bible teaching about problem solving, Nehemiah had several options. He could have done nothing, appointed a group to go try to get the local Jews moving, or make a deal with Sanballat and Tobiah the local leaders who opposed the Jews.
However, he carefully considered before God what to do.
In these first steps of problem solving, brainstorming is critical. You must keep your mind open to any and all the information and ideas you can gather. Consider all the interest groups involved and their legitimate interests, think of ways to make it a win-win situation for all the players, be creative, and come up with as many solutions as you can.
Pick the Best Solution
Sooner or later, you must choose what you think is the best solution. First, evaluate each proposed problem solving solution. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each position. Combine the best features of several solutions to perhaps come up with new approaches to this problem solving process.
As you evaluate each solution, be sure to apply this last question, “If I choose this solution, what is it I am going to get that I don’t want, and can I live with it?”
Nehemiah chose to approach the king and secure the resources and permission to fix the problem in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:4, 5). He took action, and made a decision.
Devise and Implement a Plan
The Bible teaching about problem solving indicates the need for a careful plan. In this step you must determine a definite goal and identify the specific steps to reach the goal. Answer the questions such as, “What are the actions to take, and when, how and where will the action take place. Who will be involved? How can the chosen solution best be translated into action? How can I get the resources? What is the time schedule?”
From Nehemiah 2:6 and onward, you can study the story of how Nehemiah carefully put together a plan, overcome challenges, made modifications, and achieved his goal. We must plan our work, and work our plan – just like he did.
The writer of Proverbs said, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5).
The Bible teaching about problem solving teaches that evaluation is necessary.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? How will we ever know if the problem is solved if we do not investigate?
Regular, periodic inspections or checkpoints need to be placed into your problem solving plan.
Timely feedback is needed. That way you can make any required corrections in the plan as it unfolds.
However, there needs to be a final evaluation to determine what worked, and what can be improved the next time around.
We can detect Nehemiah’s careful eye to detail in his problem solving and evaluation, “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days” (Nehemiah 6:15).
As we have seen, the Bible teaching about problem solving can be extremely helpful as you and I navigate the challenges of life – which are many and constant.
All the best to you, and may God richly bless you in your study.