A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.Charles H. Spurgeon
That’s a hefty quote. But honestly, your Bible doesn’t need to be literally falling apart. Especially nowadays, as many of us have devices that allow us to read the Bible without turning the page. I personally still find older, “used up” Bibles inspiring, but I realize that there’s more to it than meets the eye.
We are visual creatures. We like to see, imagine, envision, and daydream. It helps us learn and grow. But regarding the Bible, it’s not about what it looks like, but how much of it you apply. Mark Twain once said, “I am not troubled by the things in the Bible which I do not understand, but I am troubled by those things which I do understand and which I find very difficult to measure up to.” This is helpful because it humanizes our approach to the Bible, reminding us we’re not alone in our struggle to live up to it.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed reading the Bible?
Do you sometimes struggle to get through 1 book, chapter, or even section in the Bible?
Are there days when the Bible seems boring and uninspiring?
It’s true, the Bible can be hard to read. There’s an overwhelming amount of material in it that can often be confusing. It’s history, culture, and context is a deep well. But we can agree that it’s still an important piece to understanding our faith in God. Despite our difficulty in fully understanding the entire Bible all at once, it’s important to realize that we don’t have to.
This doesn’t mean we stop reading it altogether, but like Mr. Twain, focus on the parts that you do understand. Look into those places a little deeper and actualize them in your life. Because at some point, your understanding will expand and the Holy Spirit will give you wisdom. Even though it might be difficult, persist in God’s Word because it will lead to God’s will.
If you are ignorant of God’s Word, you will always be ignorant of God’s will.Billy Graham
In a few minutes, I’m going to reveal seven tried-and-true ways of overcoming the struggle to read your Bible. When you feel overwhelmed, stuck, and uninspired, it’s important to change things up in your routine (whether that’s in Bible-reading or other areas of life). I realize that some of these are unconventional, but that’s exactly what we need when we lose creativity.
Before we jump into those, I want to share a few reasons why it’s important to persist in the Word, even when it seems the most difficult.
The first reason, is that you learn about God. Who He is, what He does, where He comes from and lives, and when, why, etc. Second, you learn about yourself. Who you are, your purpose and God’s will for your life, the things you need to work on i.e. self-improvement and personal development; and your approach to all aspects of life (relationships, wealth, health, etc.). And last, you learn about others. There are different people in the world. Languages, nations, cultures, perspectives, understandings, learning styles, work drive, etc. And yet, the Bible says we all somehow reflect God.
The beauty about this is we don’t always get revelations, conclusions, or understanding while we read, but rather when we go about our daily life. What we read from the Bible becomes alive in us, helping us understand God, ourselves, and others more. This helps us grow and develop as individuals and ultimately live a life driven with purpose. This is an ongoing process.
NOTE: There is no specific way to read the Bible, so please understand that these ideas are entirely within your discretion. You may like some, none, or all, and use some, none, or all. It’s completely up to you! My goal is to give you suggestions to study the Bible when the struggle is real; ways that will make you want to keep reading your Bible.
1. Same Passage, Different Translations.
If you keep doing things like you’ve always done them, what you’ll get is what you’ve already got.Unknown
What’s your favorite book or chapter in the Bible? It’s most likely your favorite because you can easily comprehend and digest the information. Maybe there’s sentimentality or a deeper revelation that you get from it. But even if you don’t have a favorite, you can still do this. Read the same passage but change the translations per each reading time.
For me, it’s Proverbs. I love to read 1 chapter from Proverbs daily. It has 31 chapters which makes it easy to track, and if I skip a day, I just move on to the next chapter to keep up with the days. But after reading through one translation, I choose a different translation for the next month.
Reading the same passage in different versions will challenge your knowledge of the Bible and the truth in it. You’ll find revelations and connections you haven’t seen before and also see which is your favorite or least favorite.
Here are some ideas about how to do this:
- Read one book every month of the year (like Proverbs, the gospels or epistles) and change only the translation month to month.
- Read one chapter or set of verses in several translations at a time: let’s say you use the NASB translation. Pull up the YouVersion app or physical Bibles if you have multiple, and compare the NASB passage to NKJV, ESV, and NLT or other versions of your choice.
- Study one book with your most favorite and least favorite version of the Bible.
2. Ignore Titles and Subtitles.
One who walks in another’s tracks leaves no footprints.Proverb
It’s great that every chapter has a title or subtitle within it. It helps us find certain places in the Bible quicker and also to understand what the upcoming section is about. However, this can also set you up to think a certain way and prevent you from a revelation only you can get.
Just like the quote above says there are no footprints in another’s tracks, often the same goes for reading the title or subtitle given by another person. You’re following along the path someone else paved.
Here are some fun practices to help you make your own footprints:
- Without looking at the title, what would you name this section?
- Grab a post-it note and cut out a small rectangle on the sticky part and cover the titles and subtitles in one chapter. Fill it in with your headline or leave it blank.
- Read through an entire chapter or book consecutively and skip the titles. Assess your understanding of what you read.
3. Highlight one word or theme/topic in one book.
It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.Herman Melville
I’d recommend doing this with the Book of Proverbs or the gospel of Matthew or John as a start. There are so many consistent themes, that when you highlight one word or theme, you’ll know where to find it when you need it. Not only does it help you learn a topic/theme better, but it also makes for a fast read.
In the book of Proverbs, I highlighted the theme of laziness. This helped me understand how to become a better steward of various things in life and find motivation to work hard to achieve certain goals.
Here are words and themes you can use to highlight for yourself:
- Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God (in the gospels)
- Righteous/Righteousness (Proverbs)
- Integrity (Proverbs)
- Father, Son, and/or Holy Spirit (Gospels or Epistles
- Pray/Prayer/Praying (any book)
4. Read randomly.
All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.Adlai Stevenson
Sometimes I don’t know where to start or don’t want to continue in a certain part of the Bible. In those times, having the freedom to read randomly has opened my mind and heart to hear God more clearly. This can be as random as opening to a random page and studying through passages or sitting still for a moment and waiting for God to direct you somehow. It will seem random to you, but more often than not, it’s God speaking to you and your situation.
Be careful to not go solely by your mind or emotions. Instead of looking for what you want to hear, ask God what you need to hear. This is an unusual way to study the Bible because not everyone does it. It’s unconventional, unpopular, and sometimes not recommended. But the beauty in randomness is that it may lead you to more revelation and into a deeper relationship with your heavenly Father.
Assess yourself before reading randomly and allow God to speak. Here are practical tips when practicing hearing God’s voice and reading randomly:
- Pray before you start.
- Think of a number 1-66 and open to that “number” book in the Bible and study it (ex. #37 = Haggai).
- Look at how many pages are in your Bible and pick a number between the first and last page. Whatever page you land on, study the first chapter you see.
- Think of a color, animal, or object and search it on the YouVersion app. This may require looking through several translations. Once you find something, study the chapter or book (if it’s small enough).
- Sit quietly and listen for God to speak. Try not to think about anything and wait for a book or number to come to your mind. Follow through and study that passage.
- If you get frustrated, move on. Rest and trust that God delights in you no matter what.
5. Study the Culture of the Context.
The most damaging phrase in the language is: “It’s always been done that way.”Grace Hopper
Often, we leave this part up to theologians, pastors, Bible teachers, and other big-name with-a-title people. This is surprisingly not that hard, though. It deepened my Bible study more than any way I’ve studied before. It is insightful in every aspect, especially if you love history!
Studying the culture of the context is all about understanding the why behind what is being said and when. For example, when Jesus talks about your eye being good (Matthew 6:22), the Jews understood this to mean having a pure heart and a good attitude.
Another instance is when Jesus says He is the bread of life. In their day, Jews knew the Old Testament like the back of their hand. So, hearing Jesus say this correlated to the time manna fell from heaven for the Israelites. Jesus, the bread, came from heaven and became the bread of life, or sustenance, to all. Which is why many Pharisees and Sadducees became upset with Him, they knew what He meant by saying that.
Here are more culture-context topics to study:
- Disciples and Rabbis in the Jewish culture (Jesus wasn’t the only Rabbi).
- Samaritans vs. Jews (why were they so against each other? What are the social injustices? How do their cultures differentiate? How did Jesus treat them?)
- Philistines and Israelites from the Old Testament (what’s the culture? Why did they behave the way they did? What’s up with the sacrifices?)
- The I Am statements of Jesus (if Jesus grew up in the Jewish culture, He also memorized the Bible. How do His I AM statements stem from the Old Testament?)
- Paul and the churches (what are the cultures of every church Paul wrote to? Why did they struggle in the ways they did? Why did he communicate to them the way he did?)
Again, these are within your discretion. Do the research and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
6. Ignore punctuation & verse numbers.
If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.George S. Patton
We know the Bible as the “book of the most’s.” Most stolen, most read, most burned, most translated, etc. As the most translated book in the world, you can ignore all the punctuation and verse numbers. They’re there to help us read the Bible more easily in our language and to find places quicker. But when we read through it without them, we might get more out of it and see a bigger picture.
The best place to start is in Paul’s letters, especially the shorter ones. Instead of pausing between each section or studying verse by verse, try reading a chunk from start to finish as if it’s a letter to you.
Other books you can do this with, as a start:
- Any of the letters (Galatians, Ephesians, 1-2 Peter, etc.)
- The Gospels
- Psalms or Proverbs
- The minor prophet books (Micah, Haggai, Malachi, etc.)
7. Read only the Red.
The fastest way to succeed is to look as if you’re playing by other people’s rules, while quietly playing by your own.Michael Korda
One of the best things we can do is study the words of Jesus. There’s a great resource called The Greatest Words Ever Spoken by Steven Scott (no affiliate links, just a recommendation). This book contains ONLY Jesus’ words and is less distracting to read when you’re studying His words
You can use your Bible for this, the book is just helpful to focus in on this last point of unusual ways to study the Bible. When we know what Jesus says in the Bible, we’re a lot more confident in our relationship with Him. It will look like you know the entire Bible, when in reality, you just looked at Jesus the entire time 🙂
Which of these points stood out to you?
Have you studied the Bible in any of these ways, or will you? If so, which ones?
Do you think these will help you overcome your struggle to read the Bible?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below ❤