Meditating through the book of Daniel has become a very wonderful experience. The slow reading, pondering and journaling has made for a fascinating look at the work of God, the Faith of Daniel and his three amigos, worship, encounters with God, and godly leadership.
The story of the handwriting on the wall in Daniel 5 gave me a lot to ponder today. Namely, does a spiritual issue require something more than the spiritual to find resolution?
Here’s the scene. A new king shows up in Daniel 5. Belshazzar has replaced Nebuchadnasser. He throws a party using the gold and silver cups taken from the Temple when Babylon invaded Israel during the party. It was a sign of power over the “god” of Israel, a mockery of temple worship and the people of God.
During the party, the party-goers see what is described as a human hand writing on a plaster wall in the king’s palace, near the lampstand. It freaked out the king, as well as everyone else at the party. He brought in his wisest people, none of whom could figure out what the “hand’ had written.
Now the queen mother remembered Daniel and told Belshazzar about him. So they call for Daniel. When he shows up, the king says to Daniel, “I have heard that you have the spirit of the gods within you and that you are filled with insight, understanding, and wisdom (v. 14, NLT).”
When I was journaling about this, I noted: “spiritual issues are only resolved by spiritual people listening to the Spirit.” This was an encounter with the Holy God, and the only way to discern what was being written on this plastered wall was to have someone filled with the Holy Spirit to understand and interpret it. And in this specific case, that’s true. The king and his court could have pondered this for a lifetime and never understood what was being revealed by God.
But, then I realized that this was too much of a generalization. Yet it is one I’ve heard before. I may have even used it in days gone by.
The thought generally goes like this. All brokenness is sin, and thus all brokenness is only resolved by going to the scriptures and listening to your pastor and doing what the Bible says and what your pastor, who has been placed over you, says to do. Outside groups, psychologists, and other professionals are not needed, nor should they be used. This is a sin issue, a spiritual issue only resolved by a spiritual obedience to scripture and/or the pastor.
But is it as simple as this?
Spiritual issues are not just spiritual issues. They become relational issues. They become physical issues. They become emotional issues.
Take, for instance, a parent. We parents are broken because we’re human, and human people on this side of eternity are broken people. That brokenness is a result of sin. Sin that we committed and sin committed upon us. That gets manifested in various ways: anxiety, fear, addiction, abuse, overspending, overeating. There are a million ways our brokenness gets expressed.
So this broken parent who is tired and worn out from working two jobs gets upset at their child, who said something innocuous that triggered the parent. The child gets a tongue lashing that breaks their confidence, self-esteem, and self-motivation while creating a fear within the child. This doesn’t just happen once. It happens multiple times.
It’s ultimately a spiritual issue. But it’s more than just a spiritual issue. It creates within the child a fear of the parent, not knowing if the next time they say something they will get berated by the parent. The spiritual issue has now developed into a relational issue. That child will cope in some way. Maybe they cope through food. Maybe they act out in school, which hurts their education and social development. Maybe they overeat. Maybe they become a bully at school.
The parent’s brokenness has now become a relational, social, educational, and physical issue. Sure, all of this does stem from sin. But unpacking that brokenness is difficult. And it requires, dare I say it, a community.
Healing that brokenness may require a psychologist to help unpack behavior and the source of the problem. It may require a psychiatrist to help treat anxiety or depression with medication. It may require a nutritionist to relearn how to eat. It may require a trainer to help the person become healthy. It may require a tutor to help the child catch up academically.
A pastor will not be able to help with all those areas. And scripture was not written as a textbook on each of those subjects, though it touches on each of those.
While an encounter with God can bring healing in one moment for a specific individual, it is not a generalized process. Most people need help.
When a person simply says that if you would just trust God more or be obedient to scripture or do what the pastor told you to do, all they are doing is hyper-simplifying a very complex set of systems, processes and events that go into defining reality for each of us. And our uniqueness. And the uniqueness of our experiences.
Don’t listen to them. Find people to help you find wholeness.