I got a great chance to spend my February vacation in Jamaica with two of my closest friends. This trip was postponed last year but we really think this trip was 25 years in the making. We met in high school and have been together ever since. While we were there we went on a beautiful excursion to the Black River and the YS falls. Our bus driver was a man we fondly called Papa for the day, as he drove us around the island. On the drive, he said something that really stuck with me. He told us, “Here in Jamaica we don’t have problems, only situations.” That came in handy at the end of our trip when our flight got delayed 18 hours.
We often get stuck in our own problems and see them as the end all, be all. We look at problems as long term. As any person who knows how to use Google, I looked up the definitions of problem and situation. By definition a problem is a “matter regarded as unwelcome or harmful.” It puts us in a position of stress or unease. When we find ourselves in the middle of a problem, all we can focus on is how to get out of the problem. We miss what is going on around us. We miss the people helping us to move through. We miss the beauty in the mess that we are experiencing. Most importantly, we miss God, by our side, guiding us through it.
By definition a situation is a set of circumstances in which one finds oneself. It’s just a set of circumstances. Circumstances can change quickly. Circumstances are not permanent. Circumstances do not have to be just negative. Changing our mindsets, living as if problems are merely situations, can change our outlook in so many ways!
In a way, Jesus already prepared us for this. In the Gospel of John He says, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (Jn 16:33). This is like the original “We have no problems, only situations.” Jesus reminds us that while we may have problems or tribulations here on Earth, in His timeline, they are merely situations.
Sometimes after reading Scripture, I will look at The Message Bible which is a paraphrase version and it gives me another way to look at it. So in the Gospel of Matthew, we read, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Mt 6:33 Message Bible). When we focus on God, it can help us to turn our problems into situations. It allows us to see the stress as temporary. So we need to look at life through the lens of my favorite prayer, the Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things that I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
As we continue our Lenten journey, let us learn from the wisdom of Jamaica. There are no problems, only situations!
Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.