Cutting the Gordian knot

In Greek mythology, Gordius tied his oxen to their yoke using a particularly intricate fastening that came to be known as the Gordian knot. According to legend, an oracle revealed that the knot would be undone only by the future master of Asia.

Many tried, and failed, to loosen the knot until Alexander the Great found a way to undo it: he cut it with his sword.Today, the term "Gordian knot" means any perplexing problem. Arriving at a quick, bold solution is known as "cutting the Gordian knot."

Life is filled with knotty problems. We encounter them in practically every arena of our lives, and we search for ways to remedy them without alienating others, or without creating new difficulties.

Sometimes, a knowledge of how problems are created helps us figure out how to resolve them. Suppose we are given the task of undoing a stevedore or a trefoil knot. If we know how the knot was tied, we can reverse the process and undo it more easily. If, however, we have no knowledge of how the knot was formed, we run the risk of making it tighter.

Likewise, if we understand what circumstances, words or even thoughts have caused a particular problem to develop in our lives, we might have an easier time resolving it. If we don't have that understanding, we might make our problem worse.

Sometimes we have a tendency to not let well enough alone in our efforts to solve problems. In loosening one knot, we might create another. Or we might drag our problems around with us like so much excess baggage after we, supposedly, have put them down. And how many of us seem to be solving the same problem over and over?

While some problems allow us the luxury of taking our time to find the perfect solution, others demand quick, bold action. For example, figuring out how to motivate a child to keep his room tidy does not demand the same swift action as discovering how to protect that same youngster from the influence of friends who are trying to entice him to experiment with drugs.

In many cases, solutions are rather simple, but the adversary would have us believe they are complex, particularly when our souls are concerned. We don't have to go through life being "tied up in knots," although some think they are stuck with their problems. When resolving problems brought about by transgression, we need the decisive action and swift thrust of the sword of repentance, so to speak, to free ourselves of the bindings that hold us.

We can solve some problems by using logic or common sense, or we can seek advice from friends or counsel from experts. Inspired Church leaders, able psychologists and qualified therapists can do much to help us cut the Gordian knots in our lives. But we should not rely solely on our own resources or the expertise of others. We are counseled to take our cares and concerns to the Lord.

While He does not provide one single solution to all problems, He has given us one sure pattern for working out a resolution. He said: "But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

"But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; . . . " (D&C 9:8-9.)

The Lord will help us solve our problems, but He will not help too much. He will not do our work for us. A great example is found in the story of the brother of Jared as he faced the problem of how to light the barges for the Jaredites' journey to the promised land. Rather than provide the solution, the Lord asked the brother of Jared to propose how the barges should be lighted. (Ether 2:22-25.)

We should seek the desires of the Lord when we are faced with problems. We are promised that He will lead and sustain us, but we must put our trust in Him.

Alma counseled Shiblon: "I would that ye should remember that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day." (Alma 38:5.)

How fortunate we are to have the counsel of the scriptures and the Lord's servants as we attempt to loosen the Gordian knots of our lives.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed