October 8, 2009
Fits Any Niche
by Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Senior Editor
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.
2 Timothy 3:16
As the editor responsible for all devotional content here at Crosswalk, one of the questions I'm asked most frequently by our beloved users goes something like this:
"Your devotional offerings are great, but could you please include one for cousins of divorcees with sleeping disorders who have befriended agnostic vegetarians? Because that would be really great."
Okay, that's an exaggeration (but only barely). And it's not like we dislike filling niches. We have devotionals for women, the workplace, weight loss and the list goes on. We're continually adding to the selection and have plans for a men's devotional, a children's devotional, a singles devotional, and more. To an extent, we're at the mercy of what's well-written, theologically sound, recognizable, and most of all, available.
But when I'm asked a question like, "My fiance and I are interested in a devotional for yet-to-be-married couples living in the mid-Atlantic from different church backgrounds who are both post-millenialists. What do you recommend for us?" my answer is always the same:
Just study the Word, man.
Whether you find it here or somewhere else, locate a ministry, author, preacher, or regular old Joe/JoAnn whom God has gifted with insight into his holy scriptures, and read their take regularly. Follow that up with your own deeper individual study. Take that into praying with a spouse, accountability partner, disciple, or mentor. Join a group Bible Study. And take notes during sermons.
It's not much more complicated than that. We sometimes make it so. We pigeonhole ourselves or our current life situation or level of belief, and so risk hindering the effective wholeness of the Word.
Besides, if there's one thing I've noticed through almost a biblical generation of life, it's that our specific situations are many times made more complex by our non-stop obsession with them, and are often made more simple by backing off and getting at them indirectly through solid study that may not at first seem related to what we are going through.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to hear which verses were blessings to folks who have gone through heartbreaks or challenges similar to what you are now experiencing. What I'm suggesting is that the Word of the Lord never returns void. And that there have been several topics I've tried to understand (and been disappointed in the lack of direct guidance the Bible appears to give on the subject), or several life situations I've wanted to study (and not known where to start or how to find others who have biblical wisdom to offer in the form of a devotional) that have been solved when I stepped away and just studied sound teaching with prayer.
One example is when, as a young man, I wanted to find everything the Bible said about the "big sins" our youth ministers were so concerned with keeping us from -- sex and drinking. I shortly exhausted all the verses that dealt directly with these topics. But it wasn't until I backed away from a focus on these issues and began more comprehensive studies of what God had to say about all things that the picture grew bigger and the reasons for abstinence, purity, sobriety, and not causing others to stumble became clear in the light of grace, righteousness, sacrifice, and ministry.
Another example is the time I was battling a crippling depression. I found few answers and little comfort in attacking the problem directly - even if there didn't seem to be a lack of correlative verses or devos, which only would have reminded me double of the state I was in. What did help was reading other topics from the Bible, and books from established Christian authors and preachers about the Bible itself, about faith, about truth. Eventually the clouds lifted, and I was stronger for having gone through the darkness and for the overarching principles that brought me home.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Let me encourage you today not to wall yourself off from the full richness of the Word, but to seek out sound doctrine and study on general principles regularly that I promise will apply to your specifics, whether directly or indirectly, immediately or eventually.