Gravity Problems

By Rev. Tim Yee

June 11, 2017

But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

Acts 15:5


A pendulum balanced on point by gravity.In yesterday’s devotion we were challenged by an assertion in Dave Evans’ and Bill Burnett’s book, Designing Your Life to not waste time on the wrong problems but rather to focus on the right ones. They follow this advice by warning us to especially avoid what they call “gravity problems”.

Even after Paul and Barnabas explained to the Jewish leadership how God powerfully was moving to welcome in the Gentiles, certain believers couldn’t accept this reality. They were wrongly focused on making these new believers adhere to rules that God was no longer requiring. They were focused not only on the wrong problems, but actually fighting God Himself. Now that’s a gravity problem!

My dream of being the starting point guard of the Los Angeles Lakers with no physical or athletic assets to merit even a try-out was not very likely a problem I was going to solve. It is what Evans and Burnett call a “gravity problem”. Gravity problems are, in their words, “…not real problems. Why? Because in life design, if it’s not actionable, it’s not a problem… It’s a situation, a circumstance, a fact of life. It may be a drag (so to speak), but, like gravity, it’s not a problem that can be solved.”[i] They go on to differentiate between in-actionable problems (me making the NBA, certain Jewish leaders fighting God’s generous inclusion, etc.) and actionable but challenging ones (me finding the right career). They aren’t arguing for being lazy or unimaginative, but have observed a lot of people getting stuck in gravity problems that hinder their efforts to work on problems that are more actionable, measurable and sustainable.

Why is it so important to identify if we are stuck in a gravity problem? Because unlike my NBA example, most of us are susceptible to less obvious gravity problems:

Hoping for a promotion from a supervisor that consistently overlooks your abilities.

Waiting for someone to apologize to you before you can move forward emotionally.

Depending on a venture capitalist to save your start-up when your industry is flooded with competitors.

Please don’t misunderstand me: Evans and Burnett themselves have the goal to not hinder you from your dreams but to help you move forward in actually pursuing them. They argue that, “If you become open-minded enough to accept reality, you’ll be freed to reframe an actionable problem and design a way to participate in the world on things that matter to you and might even work.”

Gravity problems tend to paralyze us from taking action and are the most time-consuming of the wrong kinds of problems we put energy into. Unfortunately, there is biblical evidence that some Pharisaic believers never realized their demands on the Gentiles was a gravity problem that they needed to get over or be removed from leadership. A foundational task for leaders is identifying these kinds of gravity problems that distract us from healthy actions that can help us pursue achievable goals.


Evans and Burnett go on to say: “The only response to a gravity problem is acceptance.” In your work, what are some potential gravity problems? When have you found acceptance of certain problems actually helpful for you to move forward? Do you find this kind of approach to seem too fatalistic in nature?

What are some realities that you as a leader can address to help others get unstuck? Are there identifiable actions toward achievable goals that are currently being hindered by a gravity problem?


Forgive me for the ways that I fight against your will. May I not be blinded by Pharisaical thinking, demanding others adhere to human wisdom including my own. Help me espouse godly wisdom that encourages others to see their reality and leads them to invest time and energy into healthy pursuits. I want to be in line with your ways so that your love is what draws others to you. Amen.


[1] Burnett, Bill; Evans, Dave (2016-09-20). Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life (Kindle Locations 465-467). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


P.S. Dave Evans, co-author of Designing Your Life, is a friend of and advisor to the De Pree Center. His book is excellent and we highly recommend it. []


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryLeadership and Decision Making in the Christian Community (Acts 15)

Rev. Tim Yee

Contributor Emeritus & Pastor

Rev. Tim Yee is Pastor of Union Church of Los Angeles, a 100-year-old church in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo District where he serves a diverse church of professionals, internment camp survivors, artists and homeless. He serves on the Board of Union Rescue Mission where he leads the P...

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