Every church has at least one.
That person who after service, has “a word” to share with somone. Hearing something to which they see a correlation in scripture, they jump at the opportunity to share “what God said” about their situation.
It isn’t a bad thing necessarily. It could be a word of encouragement in a time of despair, or comfort in a time of suffering. It’s someone who loves the Word of God, and wants to share that which seems appropriate in that moment. They may pull you aside and speak the word, or hand it to you scribbled on a copy of the church bulletin.
But there are times when the intent of the message can be lost in translation. Like the time in High School when I was at McDonalds with my girlfriend (I know…spare no expense), and she ordered a Coke. The girl behind the counter smiled and said, “We have Diet”. As I remember, that didn’t go over very well. The fact McDonalds was just promoting the carbonated beverage was of little consolation. I could be wrong, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that offering a woman “diet” anything isn’t a very good marketing strategy.
I know this person well, because it used to be me. Hearing someone speak of a challenge they were facing, whether it be physical, spiritually, or emotional, I was on it! Out of my way, I’ve got a word from God! I’m not sure how many “Diet Cokes” I served up, but it was always with a smile and good intentions.
But one day, I learned you don’t always get “a word”.
In a moments time, my life was shattered. My heart was broken, my spirit crushed, and my life in a million pieces. Darkness dominated my thoughts, and I was without hope. Overwhelmed by emotions, my mind was held captive by fear and uncertainty.
I needed a word form God!
So I got up and headed outside. Standing on my driveway, I prayed, “Lord, my life is a mess! I’m in pain, and the darkness is overwhelming. I don’t know what to do, or how I can go on. I need a word from you!”
I bowed my head, waiting for an answer.
Determined to get a word, I waited.
And then, in a still small voice, the Holy Spirit began lovingly speaking to my heart.
“Son…you don’t need a word…you need a hug.”
I began to cry
Not the “shed a tear” cry, the “rivers of living waters” cry. Like a flood, the toxic emotions I’d been holding back the last few days began to pour out. The more I cried, the more the crushing weight of oppression began to lift. It was the beginning of a long process of healing, wholeness, and restoration.
It’s amazing what a hug can do.
God didn’t give me what I wanted, he gave me what I needed. When ministering to others, we need this type of discernment. Before running to another with “a word” from God, we should prayerfully seek Him regarding the matter. We may have the right intentions, but can be sincerely wrong.
The first three words every Christians should learn are the words, “I don’t know”. We don’t have to have an answer for everything. We can’t, because we don’t have an answer for everything. And when we don’t, we tend to make one up. You know, something really “spiritual”, that ultimately sounds a lot like “Diet Coke”.
You will face incredibly difficult questions, some of which may never be answered. “Why did my mother get cancer?” , “ Why did my child have to die?” , “Why were they healed, and I’m still in pain and suffering?”
I don’t know.
Please, please do not try and provide others with answers to questions which only God knows the answer. You may be sincere, but your words can leave others deeply wounded and disillusioned.
Instead, be honest, and commit to come alongside. “I don’t know. But this I do know. No matter what you go through, no matter what you face, I will be here. No matter how powerful the storm, and no matter how great the darkness. I’ll walk through it with you.”
Never underestimate the power of your presence.
To be clear. I love “The Word” of God. It contains all things pertaining to life and godliness. With it, we encourage, exhort, and grow in faith. It brings healing, wholeness, deliverance, and restoration. It’s alive, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It’s the light that drives out darkness, and the truth that sets captives free.
But we can become so fixated on “scripture and verse”, that our walk with God becomes less relational and more institutional. You may think I am “splitting hairs” here, but I can assure you I’m not. It can be the difference between living a life of wonderful life giving grace, and one of stifling, lifeless legalism.
Do you know that God wants to speak directly to you? God wants a relationship with you, and doesn’t need a middle-man. After coming to Christ, one of the most naive and wonderful prayers I ever prayed was, “God, I want you to teach me. I want my Pastor and Teachers to guide me, but I want you to teach me.”
As a Pastor, what excited me the most was not hearing, “Dan, that was a great message”, although lets be honest, I liked that a little. What brought me the greatest joy was hearing, “Dan, while you were speaking, here’s what God showed me.” That’s it! That’s what it’s all about! When you’re in church, God wants to speak to you! He may do it when the greeter shakes your hand, during worship, or when you’re falling asleep during the message. (Just keepin’ it real)
It doesn’t matter where you are, who you’re with, or what you’re doing. It may be through a sunrise, a sunset, or a tumbleweed blowing across the road. It happens on days other than Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Christmas, or Easter. You don’t have to go anywhere to hear the voice of God. He is right here, right now, in this very moment waiting, willing, and wanting to speak with you.
But there are times in life, when your heart is broken and your spirit crushed, that it may not be “a word” you need at all.
Sometimes, what you really need…is a hug.