Over the years I have recognized that people deal with difficulty in generally one of two ways.
One person deals with difficulty by looking out. When difficulty and conflict are present, the tendency is to want to look away and escape. Escaping can take many forms, like binge watching TV, gorging on food, or spending above your means.
Another person deals with difficulty by looking in. When difficulty and conflict are present, the tendency is to want to look in and fix. Fixing can take many forms, like outbursts of anger, deep depression, or steamrolling people to “get the job done.”
From a biblical standpoint, both ways of dealing with conflict and difficulty are insufficient. So, what is the right way to deal with the conflict and difficulty in your life?
The biblical way to deal with the difficulty and conflict is to not solely to look in or to look out but to look up.
Psalm 40 is a case study in how to handle difficulty and how to look up. In the Psalm, David reveals he is in deep difficulty (v. 12). Yet, as with so many other Psalms, David knows that he should not look out or look in but look up. He states very simply: “How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust” (v. 4). In difficulty, we must look up, putting our hope and trust in God.
Having said this, looking out or running away from the difficulty, can be helpful at times. Constant difficulty can weigh you down and lead to physical or mental break-down. Putting your energies somewhere else is not necessarily wrong if those energies do not turn into permanently neglecting the conflict and difficulty. It is not going to go away even though your head is buried in the sand!
Likewise, looking in or trying to fix the difficulty, can be helpful at times. I have stated before that a man who is embracing biblical manhood, runs toward the problem not away from the problem. But this does not mean running toward the problem to fix it at all costs. The ends do not justify the means. Fixing can sometimes come at the expense of a relationship or at the expense of sin.
Both responses of looking out and looking in can be helpful but are insufficient by themselves. You must look up to God in difficulty.
Which solution do you tend toward: looking out or looking in? Do you tend to want to escape or do you tend to get depressed? How can you help a spouse, child, friend, or church member in their difficulty who tends to the opposite way of handling difficulty? How can you both work together to help each other look up?
For more on dealing with difficulty, see the message here.