What do we do when we want to connect Scripture to the struggles of daily life but our problem does not show up in a concordance? How do we get guidance from Scripture for struggles that are not obviously identified there? This is a critical matter for biblical counselors.
There are a few different ways to answer this question. I will just mention one.
Ask a few more questions
When you don’t have a clue about how to bring Scripture to someone, get to know that person a little better. Ask a few more questions.
For example, cutting is a common problem but it is not given much treatment in Scripture. The prophets of Baal cut themselves as a way to move their god into action (1 Kings 18:28), which may give us some leads, but not enough. If that is all Scripture says, then we do not have enough direction to be helpful. So we ask a few more questions.
“When do you cut yourself?”
“Cutting usually has its reasons. What are you really trying to do when you cut?”
“What is the benefit?”
Look for the normal in the abnormal
Done well, these questions draw out struggles that are common to us all. In other words, we first notice cutting, which can seem foreign and bizarre to someone who has never dealt with it. But, the better we know the person, the more we discover that the real struggles are common to us all and commonplace in Scripture.
Find the ordinary in the unusual—the normal in the abnormal—this is one of the more useful methods within biblical counseling.
The woman who cuts herself likely feels guilty. Why else would shed blood seem so important?
Shame will come into view. Cutting is done in secret, and it is often an attempt to release old shameful secrets.
Cutting is a strategy for dealing with pain. We all have our strategies for pain. The question is this: Will we turn to Jesus in our pain, or will we try to manage our pain apart from him?
Guilt, shame and pain are problems we are all familiar with.
The benefits of seeing the normal
A wise method should have good fruit, and this one does.
Scripture Comes Alive. As we see the normal human contours within unusual behaviors, those behaviors are quickly assimilated into well-known biblical themes, and Scripture comes alive. For the example above, we have many passages in the New Testament which clearly target guilt and legalistic attempts to be okay before God. We also have many on shame, because it is arguably the human experience that is central to God’s redemptive story. Humanity’s cry is, “How can my shame be covered?” And we have an entire book of psalms that teaches us to turn to the Lord in our pain rather than exclude him.
By asking more questions, we now have many ways Scripture can help this woman who is cutting.
Patience. Here is a second benefit. The better you know someone, the more patient you are. As a general rule, we are impatient with people we do not understand, and patient with those we do. A person who has never been tempted by a second drink or illegal drugs might want to scream, “stop it” to an addict. But when we take time to get to know someone, and we become familiar with the challenges the person faces, we can be very patient, sympathetic and understanding.
Scripture is about more than sin
Scripture is crammed with the words of God that know and guide us. The dilemma is this. If we poll Bible readers about the great themes in Scripture, the first answer most would give is that we are sinners who find forgiveness of sins in Jesus. This, certainly, is the grand theme, but if this is our only way to access Scripture, our care of others will consist of waiting to politely identify sin. Instead, we want to handle Scripture in such a way that it reaches farther and deeper than any mere human form of help.