Dear Friend Who Has Often Given Up On Bible Reading Because You Don’t Really Get Anything Out Of It or Actually Enjoy It,
I get you. It’s a real thing- this reading your bible and feeling like there must be something wrong with you as a Christian because other people talk about their quiet times as being so impactful or emotional and yours feels dry and distracted and boring. Plus you aren’t sure you understand what you read anyway and you did not get any emotional boost from it the way a good sermon or podcast can make you feel. (I mean, Leviticus. Come on.)
I really get it.
I spent a good chunk of my adult life sporadically reading my bible but not really enjoying it. I would set goals and start off strong, only to lose interest or feel discouraged by the lack of connection. I was consistently more moved by times in church singing or listening to a sermon than by my own bible study, which felt almost childish to me- as though a mature and intelligent Christian’s experience reading the Bible would be comparable to a worship gathering. It was frustrating and at times felt shameful- surely there was something wrong with my brain and heart if I could not connect and enjoy reading my bible consistently?
Through some very helpful teaching by my pastors and a few other authors, I now see my bible study dysfunction was rooted in a misplaced goal. The goal in my bible study time was to feel– encouraged, instructed, helped, comforted, connected. I wanted to sit down and read, then gain a positive emotional response to help me enjoy my day or solve a problem. But the Bible isn’t primarily written to help me feel anything. It’s primary purpose is expressing who God is- for me to know Him more and by digesting a steady diet of His word I will become more and more spiritually healthy and strong.
Let’s say you approached physical health the same way I approached my bible reading- by only doing healthy things for short periods, stopping when they were no longer enjoyable, then reverting back to lazy or unhealthy behaviors. Or every time you got sick, you reached for vitamins or drank more water or ate some grilled chicken. But as soon as the virus passed you stopped those healthy choices and went back to yummier foods and easier behaviors like binge watching Netflix and munching on Reese’s cups? Would you expect to be a healthy person? Of course not! While it certainly would do your body good whenever you chose something healthy, it would not change your overall health if you only made those choices short term.
Spiritual health is very similar. Reading my Bible is a discipline I use because it is the very best way to know God- meditating on his word. (Psalm 1) But it is not always the most enjoyable experience. In fact it often feels more like eating grilled chicken when what I want is nachos. And Reese’s cups. (Currently on a sugar fast and craving those little devils- but I digress….) My goal in reading my Bible is to have a steady diet in my mind and heart of truth to develop my spirit. There are times when I do enjoy God’s word. Just like there are times when eating healthy food is enjoyable, I have a sense of well being knowing I am taking God’s word in. And sometimes I come away encouraged or comforted. But in truth, there are many times when I read my bible in faith, having little to no feelings, trusting that God is using his word to reshape my mind and heart slowly. I trust that I am becoming that tree is Psalm 1 that will not wither and will prosper because of digging my roots deep into this Word.
So this year, think through your goals and expectations about bible reading. We keep eating healthy food or exercising when there are very few immediate positive results because we expect it to take time for our bodies to get stronger or healthier. We know if we keep making proactive choices they will eventually pay off- though a Reese’s cup will always beat our grilled chicken for taste. Don’t look for your quiet times to be post-worthy- real acts of daily discipline rarely are. Instead keep reading, expecting God’s word to be doing the slow and steady work of transformation.