Fixes And Solutions
Magical thinking believes that there are quick fixes to problems. Often however what we need is not a solution but just attending to one another with care and patience.
Let us think about it: why do we feel such an urge to talk about our problems even when we know that others have no solutions to them? The reason for this is that what we need most is not fixes but to be listened to. This is the basic lesson I have learnt about spiritual counselling or volunteering for phone helplines: I do not know the answer to people’s problems. Of even if I might have an answer, it would work for me but not necessarily for someone else. People’ greatest need is to share the burden of their concerns, anxieties, doubts, distress.
Our inclination to come up with quick fixes often betrays our impatience with people, our lack of true compassion, our unwillingness to spend our time listening to people. A Swedish proverb says that A shared joy is a joy redoubled. A shared sorrow is a halved sorrow. This also is Scripture’s greatest lesson when we hear the Psalmist crying “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” (Psalm 121.1) Faith does not spare us such questions. And God wants us to voice them to him, to share them with him. The Bible does not portray a God who comes up with quick fixes. The way he helps us is by joining us in our journey, remaining near us: “My help comes from the Lord. … He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber” (3) When a friend is ill I am not expected to heal her. But I can watch over her, be with her, keep her from harm – just like the Lord: “The Lord watches over you. … The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life” (5,7). We often complain that God does not listen to our prayers because he does not solve our problems straight away. We might be looking for the wrong thing. Just as with any other of our true friends, coaches, or spiritual guides, God knows that real solutions are not acts of magic, but works of patience. Fixes are a parody of solutions and time quickly calls their bluff. Solutions do not come from heaven but well up from within and reward only those who know how to wait for them to come at the right time. Supporting each other while we wait: this in the end is what real love looks like.