A bunch of us were sitting around chatting a while ago, and I noticed a curious trend. We were talking about some hard things. They were potentially personal things, too, but apparently they didn’t have to be. This one guy would often make a comment about a biblical or theological point, not in a highfalutin or overly scholarly kind of way, but just sort of making the kind of point that you might make in church or in a Bible study, and it took the conversation into a more abstract, conceptual space instead of a personal one.

This happened over and over again, though, and I began to realize that he was doing it every time something personal or potentially uncomfortable came up. It was an instinctive reaction, a means of taking this potentially uncomfortable matter and removing it from the uncomfortable domain. It’s like something in his gut said, “Personal things are bad. I will turn the conversation to other things. Then it won’t be bad,” like clockwork.

Paul talked about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. “In all circumstances, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” (ESV) Faith, in Greek, is the same word for belief and also for trust. When something happens that causes us to doubt or fear, Paul says to grab hold of our faith, our trust in God, and use it like a shield to defend against those darts that may wound us.

But Proverbs also notes, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” (Prov. 27:6, ESV) Sometimes potential wounds might not be from the evil one. They might be from a friend. They might be from our own hearts or from the Holy Spirit, the revealer of truth (e.g., John 16:13), potentially truths that aren’t what we want to hear. The surgeon cuts us open, literally creates wounds, in order to heal. Not everything wounding is from evil.

But we can still use that shield of faith to block darts of all kinds, fiendish and friendly. We turn back to the concrete truths about the faith. But are we using those truths to avoid other truths? We state the reality of who God is. But are we stating that to avoid facing the fact that part of us doesn’t believe it? We study the Bible and theology to understand God and his intentions for creation. But are we neglecting our hearts, which are also part of creation?

Sometimes, we can use the shield of faith to deflect arrows that actually need to go in. We block the surgeon because we fear going under the knife. And surgery is frightening. That’s natural. But sometimes we need it anyway. Sometimes we’re using our shield to block things that are intended for our good.

How much do I use Truth to avoid other truths? How much do you?