Every Problem is an Opportunity – Lessons from Dan Miller, the Book of Numbers and the Gospel of John

Every problem is an opportunity is not a new concept. I was reminded of it through a little story shared by Dan Miller in his newsletter and 2 passages in the Bible.

In her university course, Professor Tina Seelig present her students with lots of open-ended problems to solve so that they used to solving problems and experience the positive outcomes from them. I believe that experience make concepts relevant. This was brought to the fore today by a story Dan Miller of 48Days.com shared.

Dan Miller’s Sidewalk

It was about a sidewalk that he had on his farm which buckled because of tree roots underneath it. It is a problem because it created a dangerous lip that people may trip over. Also, it wasn’t pretty to have a crooked path.

We can approach “problems” by:

  1. Ignoring it. Live around the problem and whine about it
  2. Removing it so we don’t have to deal with it anymore
  3. Making small adjustments.
  4. Brainstorming creative solutions.

Dan’s approach is to be creative.

every problem is an opportunity

His solution was a little bridge that added artistic beauty to the surroundings, allow the roots to grow, and is safe to use. The outcome was a win for everyone, including the trees.

If the roots have not buckled the sidewalk, the sidewalk would have remained ordinary because Dan would not have seen the need to change it. The problem provided the opportunity to make something better.

One of the premises to creative problem-solving though is the knowledge that we have options. We are not trapped with no way to make changes.

I reflected on my experiences. There are times when I whine at my problems and circumstances. I did think that I cannot make any changes or that I have options. Yes, it is also easier to whine than to change.

Taking a step back to take stock and assess the situation and my options are a must. This reminds me of a story in the Bible in Numbers 14.

The Bread in the Book of Numbers Chapter 14

10 out of the 12 spies that Moses sent out to survey the Promised land returned whining about how strong the people in the land were (“the problem”). Joshua and Caleb saw the problem as bread.

Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were of those who spied out the land, tore their clothes. They spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If Yahweh delights in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us: a land which flows with milk and honey. Only don’t rebel against Yahweh, neither fear the people of the land; for they are bread for us. Their defense is removed from over them, and Yahweh is with us. Don’t fear them.”

Numbers 14:6-9 WEB

Both groups saw the same thing but their conclusions were different. The first group focused on the problem while Joshua and Caleb took a step back to include the outcome and the solution. The land is exceedingly good, full of supply. Nobody would give that up without a fight. The solution is the promise of God that He will bring them in. Even if the people are giants, they have God on their side.

Joshua and Caleb said that the people of the land are bread. Why bread? Bread is a food. It is soft and good to eat. It also gives sustenance.

Could it be that problems are food that feed and nourish me? I like to think so. Next time I come across a problem, I am going to visualize it as a food item I like to eat and gobble it up.

Every problem is an opportunity to EAT!

The Bread of Life in the Book of John Chapter 6

Talking about eating bread, Jesus said He is the bread of life.

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will not be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 

John 6:35 WEB

When I read this verse, I used to imagine Jesus giving me bread. Like the way He did when feeding the 5 thousands. But it is not an accurate picture when verse 51, 53-57 are included.

51 I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Yes, the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

John 6:51 WEB

The accurate picture is seeing Jesus as bread and me eating Him. It sounds and looks weird. The Jews had the same response. But Jesus was insistent.

53 Jesus therefore said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you don’t have life in yourselves. 54 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who feeds on me, he will also live because of me.

John 6:53-57 WEB

Could it be that problems are opportunities and reminders for me to feed on Jesus? The benefit is life, eternal life.

We have come to the end of this post. I pray you have found it useful. Do let me know by liking or sharing it or leaving a comment about what you found useful.

Be greatly blessed!

every problem is an opportunity

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