Do you ever feel like you can’t read the Bible? Should we just abandon the practice of reading because we feel we can’t understand it?
I'll be honest, I’ve felt that way before. I would start reading and by the end of the chapter I didn’t have a clue about what I read. I would look at it again - and nothing.
Reading the Bible is challenging but it can be read and understood.
It just takes some thinking.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do in my day is think. I hope I’m not the only one who feels that way.
I’m not talking about letting things come to my mind, and I just go with the flow of my thoughts. I’m talking about true, focused concentration.
The type of focus where I’m actually trying to pull meaning from what I’m reading can honestly take a lot of energy.
Especially in times of pandemic and times of civil injustice.
For this reason, I have protect:
…and most of all my connection with God…
There are so many tools and methods that help with Bible study.
Before we start with the tools, we have to look at something else.
It really does matter.
No matter what, if we’re going to read the Bible, our minds have to be in the right place.
For that reason, how we approach the Bible, stillness, self-discipline, worship and rereading are important when it comes to reading the Bible.
Practice #1: How we approach the Bible
How we approach reading of the Bible matters.
For example, there were times when I would read the Bible to find out what blessings God had for me.
When I didn’t see the blessings manifesting in my life, I didn’t realize the reason was because I was making the Bible about me.
That is definitely not the point of the Bible!
When I think about how I approach the Bible, my relationship with the text changes. There are two ways that I’ve learned about how we read the Bible.
They are defined like this:
Exegesis - Reading the Bible for my interpretation.
This was my practice for some time. I approached the Bible before by looking for what I wanted. I didn’t experience the Bible’s power in my life because I was reading for what I wanted to know.
Eisegesis - Reading the Bible for its intended purpose.
When I started reading the Bible for its purpose - God’s instruction - the Bible began to open up for me. I began to experience God speaking to me through His word.
Once I know how to approach the Bible, I still have to think about actually reading it. That’s where Practice #2 comes in.
Practice #2: Self-Control
Using self-control is so important when it comes to reading the Bible.
Especially, if I’m going with the mindset of learning.
Self-control, which is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24), is what helps us to put the effort in trying to read the Bible.
So, when I say I can’t read the Bible, maybe I need to check our self-control first.
I need to ask myself:
Am I present with in the moment?
Am I allowing my mind to travel away from God?
Am I thinking about my to do lists?
Self-control is something that I have to practice to get better at reading the Bible.
The thing about it is that I can’t blame my lack of discipline anyone else.
This is the one thing about me in this process. It’s about me taking control of my thoughts and focusing my mind on God.
I have to live by what I believe. Will reading the Bible help me in my Christian walk?
Yes it will!
That means, I have to do what I need to and read the Bible.
If I can’t understand, I have to find ways to get an understanding. If it means reading one verse over and over and over, then that’s what needs to be done.
If I have to look for the meaning of words, dictionary.com is so helpful for that.
Commentaries (books that help explain what the Bible is saying) are also places I go for help with understanding.
With self-control, I have to make the choice to dig deep and seek understanding.
For that reason, I believe that the Bible is important to my spiritual journey, and I will do my very best to understand what God has waiting for me in His word.
Practice #3: Stillness
“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) - This is a verse that can be hard to cooperate with sometimes.
I struggled for so long with the “be still” part.
When life is going crazy the hardest thing to do is be still. I want to fix things myself.
I want the bad stuff to go away. I want peace RIGHT NOW!
But God tells us to “be still”.
It took the pandemic to really teach me what that verse meant.
I was dealing with panic attacks and depression. I just felt like I was sinking…in water…sand…whatever you can imagine.
When I did take time to think, I watched the movie “War Room”, and I realized I hadn’t had a war room in some time.
I went into the spare bedroom. Put some pillows on the floor and just sat still.
When that didn’t work, I laid out on the floor and let worship music play.
As I listened to the music and tears began to flow, I allowed all of what was bothering me to flow too.
I didn’t try to tell God what was going on.
I just let everything flow from my heart to Him.
The longer I laid there, the more I felt my soul releasing stuff that was dragging me down.
I never said a word.
I think I laid there for about 10 - 15 minutes and my soul felt lighter.
The Bible says the Holy Spirit will intercede for us when we can’t pray.
After I was able to get rid of the stuff that had attached to my soul, I was able to sit and read the Bible. I was able to read what God wanted to say to me.
Many times, I would read something that would be just what I needed.
It didn’t happen all the time, but when it did, it made all the difference for my Bible study time.
In the times that it didn’t “feel” like God was speaking to my current situation, I took notes in my journal, on instructions that God would want me to follow.
Practice #4: Worship
God is worth every amount of our worship I can give and more.
I’ve learned that when I spend time letting music play:
I begin to focus on God (I practice self-control to remain focused)
I don’t have to think about words to say
I’m reminded of the greatness of God
There are so many songs that speak the words of my heart.
I've learned to work on focusing on those words and let them and the Holy Spirit speak to God for me.
I do this especially when I don’t know what to say.
I feel my connection with God grow the more I practice.
Sometimes I will sing along. (I’m glad God can handle my voice.)
Practice #5: Rereading
It’s a part of the routine.
I have read so many times and by the end of the sentence I’m scratching my head thinking “What did I just read?!”
As I went back and reread, sometimes a little slower, I would find myself getting something.
So, I would reread again and as I thought about the words and let them absorb in my brain, I began to get understanding.
It can take some time, sometimes. But I work at it.
Working to connect with God through the Bible is worth the time. It’s worth the effort.
When I started taking time to read for myself I was able to:
get an understanding of so many stories I heard in church.
get a better understanding of what was being preached.
enjoy my personal time with God.
Now, that I read the Bible for myself, I have a love for it and I want to read it more.
When I make sure:
my focus is in the right place
I have self-control
I spend time in worship
I have a better connection with God and my Bible study time is so much better.
I hope this will help you as you prepare to start a Bible study or as you renew your love for Bible study.
Please let me know if there is a practice that you may not have thought about or just one that will help you in your study time.
I look forward to hearing from you!
God loves you family and so do I!