Tag Archives: problem-solving

What’s Better than Improvising?


Sometimes you get in a bind and you have to figure something out. You’ve been there—maybe you are there right now! There’s some problem or uncomfortable situation that must be addressed.

If you’re behaving cowardly, you hide and make excuses.
If  you’re procrastinating, you find a way to push it off for later.
If you’re easily distracted, you find something else—anything else—to deal with to make the real issue fade into the distance.

If you’re thoughtful, you make a plan.
If you’re resourceful, you find a book or person to help you.
If you’re creative, you improvise. You take what you have and make up a solution.

Usually improvising is a good thing. It leads to all sorts of inventions and is generally a good and useful way to approach problems. However, there is something better than improvising.

After all improvising tends to be short-sighted. You scratch together a fix that works for now but can create problems for later. You patch together a solution that really may not address the underlying causes which can make the underlying cause grow stronger whilst you pretend that the cool, new “fix” you concocted has laid that problem issue to rest.

What if there was a way to resolve in a more permanent way an issue? What if there was a way to truly address the symptoms and the cause? Before I give you my two cents of a solution. I want to point you to a story in Scripture that got me thinking in this vein.

Check out 1 Samuel 26 and 27. The main character is David. He is on the run from Saul, emotionally stretched thin (his first wife has been given to another man, he now has two wives in her place), surrounded by people that he loves who don’t understand his heart (they keep telling him to kill Saul; he keeps telling them that Saul is God’s anointed). In this perfect storm of emotions, David sighs in exhaustion and frustration the words of 1 Samuel 27:1: “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.”

The Philistines are sworn enemies of Israel. In fact, just a few chapters ago (1 Sam. 21:10-15), David had the bright idea to go to the Philistine king Achish with the sword of the fallen Philistine hero Goliath in tow. He was lucky to escape that bad decision with his life! Once the servants of Achish saw who it was, they said, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” Realizing the folly of his decision, David went into an improv as a deranged man who was ultimately thrown out of Achish’s presence.

So, this time around, David thinks things will be different. He is repugnant to the Israelite king, Saul. He is on the run with a band of 600 thugs. His fighting force is feared and formidable. On this backdrop Achish decides that it wouldn’t be so bad to have David as a servant rather than an enemy so he allows David and his men to stay in the capital city with him as an elite mercenary force that will help the Philistines get revenge against Israel. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. David’s loyalties to the God and people of Israel are as strong as ever. Each day away from the tangible reminders of God’s presence—the temple, the altar, the sacrifices, the Hebrew people—is a day filled with sorrow for David.

But Achish’s opportunism gets the better hand over his judgment and he gives David a town to live in, Ziklag. While in Ziklag, David and his men perform numerous raids on clans that were not an immediate threat to Israel. At the end of each raid, he lies to Achish about the adventures of the day and has to kill every man, woman and child in the preyed upon city to make sure the survivors don’t rat him out. It’s a bloody, fearful, secretive life for 16 months until one day everything comes to a head.

The Philistines see their chance to go up to war against Israel and Achish wants David and the boys to fight on their side. David, obliged to the Philistine king, agrees. Imagine the scene on the battlefield—Israel’s greatest champion shedding the blood of the men he once led and defended. What a travesty! Thankfully, God’s sovereignty stops this train wreck of a plan. The Philistine kings, distrustful of David, forbid him to go out to war with them even though David and his men have marched to the edge of the battlefield. David’s 600 return home to find that their city has been raided by the Amalekites.

Could this have been avoided? Maybe! Imagine if David, instead of throwing his hands up in desperation had sought the Lord on whether or not to go to Achish for shelter. I think that David improvised when he was in a tight spot and I can relate. How many times, in trouble or trial, have I made a snap decision rather than trusting God?

Here’s the whole point—what’s better than improvising? Getting direction from God! It may take longer than you’d like and the answer will probably be different than you’d choose, but ultimately, it is what’s best.