Many of us Christians have heard the words “read your Bible”. Without knowing the Bible, we are more likely to allow ourselves to follow unbiblical teachings because we will lack discernment necessary to distinguish truth from lie. And if that’s not enough, we won’t be able to respond to criticism against our faith on a daily basis.
Reading our Bible allows us to have one-on-one time with God, refresh our spirit, and gives us new purpose. While we do this, we allow ourselves to be open to Christ’s teachings, and to steer ourselves in the right direction. A lot of what makes us strong as Christians is our knowledge of God’s word.
I think, on some level, we know this. We go to church, mostly to hear the week’s message. We are fed a Bible-based sermon. Singing Bible-based hymns and worship songs, we are also encouraged to read the Bible every day. You know that you will starve if you only eat one meal a week. So why do we expect one sermon to keep us spiritually fed throughout the week?
Often, I feel like we hear why we should read our Bible. But I don’t often hear why exactly Bible-reading is hard, let alone how to combat these problems.
Three years ago less a month, I started reading my Bible daily. Before then, I had read specific passages, and even tried to read the whole thing (from the beginning, no less), but could never push myself to the finish line. I grew up in a Christian home and felt like I already knew the Bible. But yet, I didn’t really know the Bible. I loved to read, yet when it came to the Bible, I struggled, and I felt really guilty about it. My guilt even delayed the age of my adult baptism. When most of my Christian friends were getting baptized as young kids or preteens, I didn’t get baptized until I was about to enter university. I felt like baptism was a contract for my soul, and I had been taught to always read the fine print.
Just recently, years later, I finally finished reading my Bible in its entirety. And in that time, I was finally able to figure out why it’s so difficult, other than that it’s a “big” book. Let’s go through some reasons, shall we?
Problem 1: You’re thinking of the Bible as a contract you need to agree with immediately.
Before I got baptized, I saw the Bible as the contract that I needed to read before signing the dotted line. And while I think that it’s useful to read the Bible before your baptism, I realize now that reading every single word before being dunked underwater isn’t really necessary.
The point of a baptism, I’ve realized, is not to sign your life away. It’s a way to publicly declare that spark of your belief, but also to start the dialogue between you and God in a safe space. You open yourself to a stronger bond with Jesus.
A pastor I know gave me this example. Let’s say you’ve never eaten Swiss Chalet fries. You can ask your friends what they taste like, you can smell the fries, you can see the fries, and you can even touch the fries. But, you won’t know the deliciousness of the fries until you have eaten them yourself. There are things about the fries that you wouldn’t have been able to know before eating them.
The same goes for a relationship with Jesus. Parts of the Bible will not be properly revealed to you unless you’re in a relationship with Jesus. God will use His time with you to change your heart, even if you don’t agree with what you first read. So don’t let reading the whole Bible stop you from being baptized; start the conversation.
Problem 2. You might struggle with non-fiction reading.
Some people can read non-fiction ’til they’re blue in the face. But then there are people like me who prefer reading fiction books, with complicated plots that have a clear beginning, middle, and end without much drag in between.
The Bible, as we know, is non-fiction. It took me three years to get through it, and it’s somewhat because it’s not a fantasy story. I know, I know; that’s pretty terrible.
To help with this problem though, I had a solid morning schedule for about a year and a half. I’d wake up, open the Word, and read until my brain could not process any more information. The other year and a half, however, had slower progress because my schedule had to change due to school.
So if you make a plan, either make sure it’s an attainable one or make it adaptable. Remember that it’s okay to stop in the middle of a sentence if you need to. You can always pick up where you left off.
The Bible is supposed to change you as you read it. Try to find at least one thing to reflect on after putting it down.
Problem 3: You don’t know where to start because you worry you’ll be reading the Bible wrong.
When I first tried to read God’s word, I started where most people would start a normal book, i.e. the beginning. Genesis itself isn’t a terrible place to start, actually a great place to start, especially if you’ve never opened a Bible before. But you can start in other places, too. Try Galatians. 1 Corinthians. Matthew, even. Or pick a book from the Old Testament.
The point is, don’t be afraid to jump around in your readings. Reading the Bible can be a daunting task, so why not change things up once in a while? I read the Psalms in three chunks. I’d read a third, and then move to a book in the new testament, then come back and read some more of the Psalms.
There are no rules here. I’ve found that by switching up the order, there were more books than I realized that related to each other. If anything, changing the order reinforces the idea that the Bible is all one cohesive text.
Problem 4: Your life doesn’t have alone time for Bible reading.
With our busy lives, it’s easy to rationalize not reading a book that requires our attention (and frankly, our muscle). While it may not be practical to open a giant book in the middle of our work desk or on the subway, you can easily read your Bible from the palm of your hand. Anywhere, anytime.
I think a common misconception of reading God’s word is thinking that you need to be alone in a room. But this isn’t the case. Just as you pray anywhere, you can read your Bible anywhere. On the train, on your break, even (I haven’t gone this far yet) on the toilet.
Another great thing about using your phone: you can usually bookmark verses for later, especially if you’re a person who’s nervous about using a highlighter on your hard copy.
If you’re struggling, I hope the above tips help move you forward or inspire you to get started reading. And remember, if you’re struggling because you’re bored, that’s totally normal. There’s a lot to take in. The point is that you’re trying. Don’t give up.