Yesterday, I dared say it - it's not encouraging to hear someone quote Scripture at you. It's just not. But there is a way to use the Word well. Consider this:
When we quote Scripture at each other, we're making a lot of assumptions. We're making boxes and trying to make things fit neatly together when they really don't. Things...are really sometimes just a mess. (More often than you might think.) The trouble, really, is this: we think we're supposed to have the answers for one another.
But that's not what I (the universal I, as a person) need from you. I haven't asked you to speak into my problem. I haven't asked you to work toward a possible solution. Most of the time, when I share my heart with you - when anyone shares their heart - it is not for you to confront the problem; it is for you to comfort the trouble. You do that by responding as a fellow human being.
You do that by grieving when I grieve. By questioning when I question. By hoping when I hope. You do that by bringing your heart, and not your head, to the conversation. You do that by being present with me and by not feeling obligated to be anything more. Because truth? There's not a man in this world that can solve another man's problems. He might, occasionally, lessen another man's circumstances, but he cannot solve a man's problems. Man's trouble is, at its essence, a trouble of the heart and sorry, but man just can't fix that.
What man can do is acknowledge that. What man can do is make it okay for one another to feel the way we feel. What man can do is offer himself as a measure of presence. Now, there are two bodies in the dark. That's all we're really asking from each other.
And yet, it is also true that if you only ever join people where they are, neither one of you will ever go anywhere different. It's not helpful for both of you to sit in the dark if neither of you is looking for the light. And it's not fair of me to ask you to join me in the pit if indeed it's just a trap. There must be some kind of hope. There must be some kind of something better. Or else, all the best friends in the world will fail us.
That's where the Word comes in, or more broadly, God. That's what I'm really looking for. In any trouble, I am really looking for God again. I'm looking for a new measure of Him or a new way to see Him or a new hope in Him. Something. I'm seeking after God. But that still doesn't mean I find Him when you tell Him to me. I don't need a head knowledge. I already have that much, or I wouldn't be seeking Him at all. What I need now is a heart knowledge, and all the best Scripture in the world coming out of your mouth toward me is not going to give me that.
So what do we do? We stop speaking Scripture at each other and start giving the gift of His Word to each other. Semantics? Sure. But most good things are.
Let's put skin on this. Say I'm going through a troubled time and I share my heart with you. You respond, like any good Christian, with Psalm 23. I already explained yesterday why that doesn't work for me - because I do want and because those green pastures are full of fertilizer. Not only that, but now I feel like I have to respond not the the Word but to what the Word means to you. You've just complicated my situation by adding an additional human element whereby now, I'm not thinking just about me, but I have what feels like an expectation from you. It's you speaking into me, and not actually the Word you've tried to give.
Now, suppose that instead, you tell me, "Gosh. That sucks. I'm really sorry" and you grieve when I grieve, hope when I hope, question when I question. And then suppose the next time I see you, you drop a little card into my hand. Or one shows up in the mail. Nothing extravagant. Maybe it just says, "Psalm 23." This does two things.
First, it reminds me of your human presence. It reminds me of another body in the dark. You're still thinking about me. You remember what I'm going through. This is a tremendous comfort and an incredible gift. Second, you are pointing me back to God but in a way that allows Him to speak. I may look up Psalm 23 and read it; I may not. But if I do, it will be His voice that speaks to me. I'll get out of it what He needs me to get out of it. I feel no obligation any more to meeting your expectations; the gift of Scripture given freely allows God to speak to me.
This...is an awesome moment. In the same breath, I am reminded of a friend and a Father. I am given presence and Promise. I am gifted with comfort and confidence. You have introduced God, but in a meaningful way that allows me to actually hear Him. To actually connect with Him. All the while connecting with you on a real level, too.
Scripture is powerful. There are incredibly beautiful words in there. There is hope. There is healing. There is power. There is promise. There is presence. There is everything the human heart could ever desire and so much more. And I get why it's easy to start throwing Scripture at each other. I get why it's easy to quote and think we're helping - because that word means so much to us. To both of us. But it only means what it does because God speaks it, not because we do. That's why we have to be so careful. We have to remember the Word of God is a gift...and give it to each other in such a way that it can be truly received. Give it to each other in a way that God speaks, not man.
So can we stop quoting Scripture at one another already?