“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” – Proverbs 20:5

“But I’m no one important! Why do you want to spend time with me?” 

As he stood across from me, I remember the man’s puzzled face and his confused response like it was yesterday. My invitation to get to know each other better had stumped him. My reasoning wasn’t as profound or noble as he might have guessed. As a young new pastor in a small town, I had tasked myself to spend some time with every person in my congregation to hear their life story. Why him? Why then? I had made it through the directory to “C”, which happened to be his last name.

We set a time to meet at his home and after a bit of chit chat, I started to ask some questions about his background. After a couple of hours of enjoyable conversation, I left grateful that God had brought him to the church and amazed at God’s work in and through his life. 

“What Did You Do to My Dad?!”

“I’m sorry. What?” 

What did you say to him?” 

The man’s daughter, also a member of our church, had come to me the week after I had spoken to her dad asking for an explanation of our conversation. A bit wary that I had done something wrong, I wasn’t sure what to say.

“My dad said that you came and spent a couple hours talking to him the other night and that he kept talking and talking.” 

“Yes, I had a great time getting to know him.” 

“You don’t understand!” she said. “My dad is super introverted and doesn’t do a lot of talking. He said that you kept asking him questions and he almost felt COMPELLED to share with you, and things just kept coming out! He told you some of his Vietnam stories! I don’t even know those!! How on earth did you get him to open up like that?”

I thought about it for a moment and was struck by her hand gesture when she said the word “compelled.” She had quickly reached low down by her stomach, clenched her fist, drew up her hand to her mouth, and then released it out with an open hand. I hadn’t really analyzed my conversation with her dad since he seemed fairly forthcoming and our conversation seemed natural for both. 

“Well, has anyone bothered to ask him?” 

You could see her thinking back through her dad’s 60 plus years of life. The answer was, “No. Probably not.” Not many had ever really taken the time to ask him about his life or gone far below the surface to some of his deeper memories, cares, hurts, fears, joys, etc.

Taking the Time to Dig Deep 

In a quick soundbite culture of less than 300 characters, we want our information fast and easy. We look to God’s Word and think getting a verse in our email will do the job. Maybe we’ll make do with a quick devotional before starting the day and then moving on. We want our relationship with God to be like we want our breakfast – fast, cheap, easy…while unrealistically expecting all the nutrients we need for a healthy day. 

Getting to know God doesn’t work like that.  

Christians who really desire a close walk with God through His Word understand that it takes effort and years of study to draw out from the text God’s intended meaning in the proper context (also known as exegesis). Many utilize journals for taking notes, highlighters, study helps, and put significant portions of Scripture to memory. Believers spend time in prayer, asking God to illumine our hearts to Him. Christians listen to sermons, podcasts, read commentaries, study the original languages, go to Bible studies, meditate on passages, etc. all with the intended goal of drawing out God’s purposes and the meaning of the text (also known as exposition) so they can apply it to their lives. The waters of God’s Word are so rich that one seminary professor I know of plumbed so deep that he did his entire doctoral dissertation on the use of the word “the” in Scripture. 

The Well of the Gospel

While we study the Bible to listen and hear from God, think for a moment how deeply He has known us? Not simply because He is all knowing, but because you, believer, are His child. He enjoys knowing all about you. Nowhere like Psalm 139 does Scripture powerfully teach us His intimate knowledge of us. Even while we were still in the womb, He knew us. Believers can rest assured that He even chose us before the foundation of the world! There is nothing that can separate us from His tender care and intimate knowledge of all our ways!

Expositing People 

Through Christ, He has also made it possible for us to know Him in return. Through His work, He placed us into a family of believers to grow in fellowship as a reflection of our relationship with Him. All of us are a part of a community of brothers and sisters in Christ and are tasked with showing care for each other.

How does this work?

While the discipline of studying Scripture is vital to the believer’s relationship with God, how would we think developing relationships with people who are created in His image would require little to no effort?  

Read this Proverb again: 

“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” – Proverbs 20:5

Think of the picture that is being drawn here: a deep well where the water table is far below the surface. If you want water from this well it will take more than a simple ladle. It will take a lot of time, effort, and patience to first dig out the well and then plumb your bucket deep, deep down to draw out water from its depths. We understand that it takes time to plumb the depths of Scripture, but how often have we stopped to purposefully exposit the depths of the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ?  

It is easy to be content with a brief ‘hello’ or “good to see you” to the people around us after a service at church. We can all even stomach chit-chatting about the weather or other uncontroversial subjects for 5-10 minutes, no problem. Yet when was the last time we took the time to ask someone their story, and then actually sat listening, asking follow up questions? Who have we invested in over the years in order to care for them as a real friend? Who has felt “compelled” to share with you the details of their heart simply because they know you care?

Scripture expresses over fifty commands that detail how believers are to interact with one another. These commands range from loving one another, to bearing one another’s burdens, to forgiving one another, and confessing our sins to one another. None of these instructions can be fully carried out in the course of a Sunday morning church service.

Like the disciplined work of expositing the depths of Scripture, it will take time, energy, and resources to get to know other people. There are no shortcuts to drawing out the hearts of others, no matter how social media might seek to influence us to think otherwise. This is true in friendship, work, marriage, and the fellowship of family in the local church. Deep and enduring friendships may take many years of time, intentionality, energy, and patience to develop!

The Importance of Time in Counseling

The principle of accurately expositing people is important in counseling as well! Some who come for counseling mistakenly believe that they will receive quick answers to their inquiries and are surprised at the amount of information that counselors ask of them. Some information they are asked may not even seem relevant to the reason they came for counseling. The reason for the length of time and the depth of questions is that a wise biblical counselor will take the time needed to get to the bottom of the well to draw out those heart issues. They are not going to give you quick pre-selected Bible verses in order to give cheap advice. They want to know YOU as a person created in the image of God. You are a soul and a body that has depth, personality, culture, family, gender, history, loves, hurts, fears, affections, and are engaged in a spiritual war under the direction of the providence of God. It takes time to reach down to draw out the purposes of the heart. 

We know we must exposit our Bibles. We must also do the work to build expository relationships with one another as well!

For Further Study:

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making – by Paul Tripp

Making Friends – by Dee Brestin

Speaking Truth in Love – by David Powlison

Love or Die – by Alexander Strauch