I sat over my cold pizza and fried chicken and looked across at one of the top five most respected men of God in my life. Our food was getting cold because every time we get together I pick his theological brain like a monkey pickin’ plums. (I don’t know, I just heard that once.) The way our conversations go we always end up eating our food below health code safe temperatures. So far, no ill effects. I was especially enthralled with our discussion because I made a confession–one I wouldn’t have shared with a lot of people before this meeting. It went something like this. . .
“I just can’t sit and READ the bible anymore,” I said. “It’s like a chore, like something I don’t want to do but must so that I can feel good about myself. Like if I haven’t finished the Bible Apps annual reading plan, I can’t look at anyone in the eye. I hate when the ‘things of God’ make me feel that way. What’s up with this, man? Why do I feel this way?”
I expected a kind but firm rebuke and advice to muscle on until I received a breakthrough. I wouldn’t blame him, after all, because that’s what I would have said to some teenager who had come in to my office a few years earlier when I was a youth Pastor. I can hear it now:
“Well, we call this a dry spell,” I would say in my best Reverend K Michael Prince voice. “We all experience these now and then. When you find yourself in a ‘desert place’ such as this (I can be good at christianese) it’s important to remember that God hasn’t moved away…you have.”
Oh, I cringe when I think of some of the things I said to teenagers back then. Really? “He hasn’t moved? You have?” Ouch. Then my advice would consist of a schedule of reading and a plan to adopt the “do it ’till you feel it” approach. What a waste of time!
No, my confidant didn’t rebuke me or tell me to dig deeper. He told me I was maturing. I didn’t expect to hear that, but I was so glad. He went on to explain that a desire to hold the Words of God at something higher than a notification on my phone or something to check off of my to do list was a sign that I was growing. A sign that I held scripture as something to be applied to my life and meditated on. He encouraged me to find people smarter than me and read what they had to say about scripture, to read the bible in small bits, and take a few hours, days, or weeks to re-read or meditate on those things until I felt like I could move on. I was reassured that I could dig into other writings or teachings that explored the context and times during which the Bible was written. He took my discouragement and feelings of guilt and helped them become inspiration to dig ever deeper.
My wife, Melinda, and I had been talking the night before about the very topic, which is one of the reasons I brought it up in the first place. We both felt like we were getting more out of a bunch of audio teachings by a speaker named Shane Willard than we had ever gotten from reading the Word ourselves. It was like reading the Bible just to read it became less of a practice of passion for God and more of an obligation to our chosen religion. I had explained to her that I felt like I wasn’t qualified to get any more out of the Bible than I had gotten in the past 31 years. I do trust the Holy Spirit to lead me as I explore the scriptures, but I also know there is so much there that needs to be looked at through the lens of the context and culture it was written in and would take me years and years to fully grasp.
Of course we left that discussion frustrated that we didn’t have answers. We had grown up singing “Read your Bible, Pray every day, and you’ll grow grow grow” and playing Sword Drills or Popcorn (basically racing to see who can look up a scripture the fastest). Reading The Word was foundational for us, so this new place was something that was making us feel unnerved. You can imagine the relief when someone we both trust so highly encouraged us to keep on the path we are on. Better understanding the Word of God, no matter by what means, is going to lead to more growth.
You be encouraged too. If taking in scripture such huge portions isn’t getting it done, try something else. Try small chunks and digest them slowly over time. Check out Shane Willard or other authors and speakers who can help you get information you’re not educated enough or experienced enough to come across yourself. Dig up scripture you have memorized and repeat it to yourself looking for more meaning. Look into some of the context of scripture. Who were the people Jesus was teaching during the sermon on the mount and what would His words have meant to them?
So no, I don’t read the Bible anymore. I don’t have a daily devotion or reading schedule. Instead His word is hidden in my heart and those He has given insight to are speaking over my life through their recorded messages, podcasts, and literature. Yes, I open my Bible and consume what is written. I just do it for a different reason now. I don’t do it so that it has been done, I do it so that I can know God better. I find I know Him better and better when I never let Him or His word leave my side or my mind.
What has impacted how you study The Word?
Have you ever felt that studying was a chore?
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever gotten or given about Bible study?
What’s the best?
Let’s chat in the comment section.
Author: Michael Prince
Michael Prince co-authored “What’s in Your Pocket? A parent’s guide to protecting your children online.” with his wife Melinda. They have four kids and live in an RV anywhere in the USA they see the need for an internet safety expert. Michael is leading the conversation in the American Church about family online security. He and Melinda founded BecauseFamily, a ministry that exists to inspire and equip parents to be the first influence in the lives of their children, in 2013. Michael is also a geek and loves Star Wars, Doctor Who, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and strategy board games.