I was talking to a friend about reading the Bible the other day, and she turned to me and said, “It’s so hard for me to read the Bible when I don’t feel like I’m getting anything from it. It doesn’t bring me the joy or revelations that I hear people talking about all the time. So I just don’t read it much.”
She’s not the only person who has ever said that to me. In fact, I have often said that to myself. And I’m sure it’s safe to assume that you or someone you know has felt that same way.
Sadly, this means that there are a whole lot of people not reading their Bibles simply because they don’t really know how.
When it comes to being un-inspired by the Word of God, the issue is not the Bible, but rather how we are approaching it.
So here are 3 tips that helped me on my journey to studying the Bible apart from those hyped up feelings of “revelation” and “uncontrollable happiness” that don’t always come when we want them to:
#1: Get rid of any and all expectations you have before picking up your Bible
This is SO important when trying to read the Bible for what it truly is: God’s Holy Word. The reality is that the Bible was not written as an inspirational or self-help book. It’s ultimate purpose is not to make you feel good.
The ultimate purpose of the Bible is to spread the truth of Jesus throughout the world while teaching followers how to live and love as He did.
Now, this often does come with a feeling of joy and goodness. When we learn how to better love others, how to commune with God, and how to change our lives around, we often experience a feeling of happiness and revelation, because it is in our God-given nature to want such things. But not every chapter in the Bible teaches us to love or offers us life-changing news.
The Bible is a history book. It point us to the beginning and warns us of the end, and it tells us of many things in between.
And our end goal, any time we pick up the Bible, should be to learn more about the history of God and the world. And sometimes this history points back to a lesson that we can apply to our own lives, but sometimes it just doesn’t. And we have to be okay with that.
If we come to the Word of God without expectations, we are more likely to find joy and understanding in the texts we read. When we take the focus off of ourselves – what we can learn and feel – then we are able to put the spotlight on Him, allowing our hearts to be molded in a new way.
The Bible was never meant to be about us. It is about Him. We need to start treating it that way.
#2: Take notes and make connections throughout your readings
This is something I wish I had done sooner (but isn’t that how we always feel when we discover something that just really works?). I began doing this after watching a Soul Session by Jordan Lee on her website and reading her short book, Brighten Your Bible Study.
When I began connecting other passages, chapters, books, characters, parables, etc. in the Bible with the passage I was currently reading, it opened up a new door of curiosity, awe, and wonder that I had not fully grasped before.
Making connections within the Bible is like uncovering a root system that spans way farther and wider than the tree that is visible above ground.
My suggestion: start in the Gospels. I began my connection-hunting journey in the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the New Testament: Matthew.
The first chapter will take you through the genealogy of Jesus. DO NOT LET THIS SCARE YOU. I know genealogies often bore readers because of their length and repetition, and most people don’t associate genealogies with, once again, that “feeling,” but they offer so much insight into who Jesus is. I almost skipped over it when I began reading in Matthew, but I am beyond glad that I didn’t.
I encourage you to read through those first few verses and really dissect them. Flip to Genesis, Ruth, 1 Chronicles, and many other books in the Bible to find the stories behind each person who falls in the family line of Jesus. Learn their stories and discover who they are. Take notes in the margins or in a notebook and be blown away by how fast your blank space fills up as you uncover the insane lives of these Biblical figures.
And people aren’t the only things you can connect to other passages. As you see patterns within a specific text, highlight them. When you feel like you’ve read a similar story or learned a similar lesson from a passage elsewhere in the Bible, search for it until you find it and draw that connection in the text. You can simply type whatever you’re looking for into Google, and voilá, connections are at your fingertips. DON’T BE SCARED TO MARK UP YOUR BIBLE!
#3: Stick to a reading plan
This doesn’t mean you have to have some year plan figured out, it simply means have a set goal in mind before you pick up your Bible.
Although you could just go from random chapter to random chapter whenever you like, I have found it much more fruitful to choose a plan. That could mean going through the Gospels in four months, or reading Psalm and Proverbs in two months, or simply going through the first five books of the Bible at your own pace, reading a little bit each day. You may even need to start small and commit yourself to reading Ephesians and Philippians within the next two weeks.
But any sort of plan is good to have because it keeps you motivated, accountable, and helps you connect books together in the same relative period of time instead of hopping around.
And please, please, don’t fall into the “flip to a random page and just start reading” trap. Sure, it may work for a few people here and there, but that sort of reading strategy sets us up for disappointment, and ultimately relies on that “feeling” that we don’t want to expect when we pick up the Bible.
So, I hope these tips helped you a little bit, and I pray that you start applying them to your study of the Bible. Reading the Bible can be exciting and wisdom-giving and full of connections, even when we don’t get that “feeling” that is so hyped up in the Christian community these days.
When we pick up a Bible, we should be asking God to fill us with knowledge and wisdom, rather than fleeting inspiration.
Focus on Him, rather than you, and watch your daily reading of the Bible flourish into a page-turning adventure!