What do we do when we face an impossible situation? Maybe it is mounting bills in a time when pay raises don't keep up with inflation. Maybe it is a diagnosis of stage four cancer and limited funds and little hope given. Maybe it is dealing with a child who was born with a defective heart that will require many surgeries and life-threatening bumps in the road ahead. Maybe it is being trapped in a marriage in which domestic violence occurs, wanting to honor God and be safe at the same time. Maybe it is the realization that one's marriage is dead and needs to be resurrected, but the patterns of relating are so set in stone that they seem impossible to change. Maybe it is relational difficulties with extended family members who don't take responsibility for the part they play in creating havoc when the family comes together. Maybe it is the struggle with an addiction to pornography, alcohol, drugs, or food where the spirit is willing but the flesh is so weak. Maybe it is waking up with persistent depression that runs deep and just getting out of bed feels too hard. Maybe it is the loss of home due to flood or fire. Maybe it is the loss of one's country being ravaged by war. Maybe it is the need to escape an enemy, but having no place to go and no means to get there. Maybe it is standing at the side of the grave and wondering how one can survive the pain of the loss. Maybe it is the longing for a child with a body that is infertile. Maybe it is the sharing of the gospel with one whose heart is stone cold. It doesn't matter whether the impossible is physical, emotional, or spiritual, it creates fear as well as feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness.
How we respond to impossible situations we face often has its roots in our past. If we were lucky enough to grow up in a healthy family, we may have gained some coping skills and navigate the impossible quite well. However, if there is a history of childhood trauma and family dysfunction it is not likely that we will respond well to situations we view as impossible. Early childhood trauma can even leave us with a limbic system that is hair-triggered, leaving us in a panic, wanting to respond by fleeing, fighting, or freezing. When we feel overwhelmed we are more likely to panic and that fear will make it hard for us to remember God and what He has done in the past, what He may be doing presently, and what He is fully capable of doing in the future. We can learn a lot from Israel's story in Exodus 13:17-14:31, which tells the story of the Jews when they were caught in an impossible situation. They had the Red Sea in front of them with Pharaoh and his army was quickly coming from behind. Israel responded to their situation with panic just like we do!
So, how can we overcome the panic in the face of impossible situations? For me, it begins with acknowledging that what is going on inside of me is a physiological response, designed by God who wants me to be able to take care of myself. My response is flawed because of past trauma, and it is helpful to understand that the feeling of panic is just a feeling that will subside if I don’t fuel it. It feels extremely uncomfortable, but it really isn’t unbearable and it doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.
Second, I can overcome panic by acknowledging God's sovereignty, resting in the fact that His sovereignty is ruled by every aspect of His godly character. It is ruled by His goodness, His love, His mercy and grace, and His justice. In addition, He is ever present. Even though my emotions might tell me I’m alone, the truth is He is with me and He is all powerful, having infinite understanding of every situation I face--even the ones I believe to be impossible. Though they seem impossible to me, they do not surprise God, nor do they render Him powerless. There are times the panic I feel is so strong that the only way I can get my focus back on God is to take a walk and listen to praise music--the walking releases the physical energy of the panic and the music reminds me of who my God is.
Third, I remind myself who I am in relationship to God--His child, bought with Christ's own blood. I can trust that God doesn't want me to be in bondage to sin or to fear, nor does He want to do me harm. In the impossible, I can remind myself that Satan wants me to believe the impossible proves God doesn't love me or have my best interest at heart. I can rebuke his lies and cling to the truth found in God's Word. I can step out in obedience and faith just as Israel stepped onto dry land with mountains of water heaped beside them. I can trust my ways are not His ways. His are infinitely better.
Fourth, I can remind myself that God is a God of order even in what feels like chaos. Everything we face is either designed by Him or allowed by Him and has purpose. As we face the impossible in faith, God can use it to strip us of false securities. This enables us to view our lives through an eternal lens, grasping that this is not our home and we are Christ's ambassadors temporarily living here.
God can also use the impossible to strip us of pride so that we quit living independently of Him and begin to fully recognize it is in our weakness that His strength is made known. He may put us in situations that cause us to have to exercise faith and trust in His promises in order to make our faith more than matter of head knowledge.
God can use the impossible to strip us of the idols we have in our lives. Remember, when Israel wanted to leave Egypt, God used a series of plagues to get the attention of Pharaoh. Each of the plagues was designed to show Egypt's false gods were powerless, but the living God was not. When Israel was facing the sea Pharaoh, who was viewed as a god, and his armies were approaching and God used the impossible situation to expose the last false god by proving that Pharaoh was just a man. We may have idols that we use for security, for peace, for hope, and for love and God will lovingly strip them away so that He has our whole heart.
Fifth, I try to remember that God may use the impossible to reveal Himself experientially to me. The Word says He is all powerful and I can't experience His power unless I am rendered powerless. The Word says He is a Healer and I can't experience His healing without illness--physical or emotional. His word says He is our protector and I can't experience His protection without experiencing what feels unsafe. His Word says He is our comforter and I can't experience His comfort without pain and loss. Because we are all so human, it just may be that we would not fully experience His presence without being stopped in our tracks with no resources of our own that we can realize all we ever needed was just Him.
In the aftermath of the impossible, we want to praise God through worship and through thanksgiving, building monuments of remembrance so that we don't grow complacent or forget God and what He has done. If we are living God's will, we will face more of the impossible and monuments of remembrance made of stone, or prayer journals, or praise reports spoken aloud will help us remember God is the God of the impossible.