“God, I don’t understand your book!” I cried.
I had recommitted my life to Christ in my mid-twenties and was hungry to know God. I knew from attending church, the primary way God speaks is through His word. The problem was, whenever I sat down to read the Bible, I was confused and frustrated.
I have since grown a deep love for the Word of God. I read and study it daily. But this didn’t happen overnight.
During my years of serving in ministry, I’ve discovered that many Christians struggle with reading the Bible the way I once did years ago. I’ve also learned the reasons are more complex than I once thought.
A survey conducted by LifeWay in 2012 indicated that 80 percent of Christians don’t read their Bibles daily. Another survey done by The Barna Group in 2013 indicated the following: Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis—averaging four times a week. Fifty-seven percent only read their Bible four times a year or less.
And yet the survey by The Barna Group also found that 88 percent of Americans said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles.
If Americans still place such a high value on the Bible (80 percent think it’s sacred), then where is the disconnect?
Of course, there are the typical excuses such as, I don’t have time. I go to church and hear the Bible. It’s not relevant to today’s issues.
But perhaps there are deeper reasons why we avoid the Bible.
Reason 1: Our Image of God is Flawed
How do you picture God when you pray? This may seem like a silly exercise, but take a moment to consider it. Is He an old bearded man on a throne? Perhaps you see one of the many popular portraits of Jesus in your mind’s eye. Is God angry at the world’s sin—at your sin—ready to impart His wrath? Or does He have better things to do than worry with our wimpy little prayers?
What we imagine when we picture God is akin to whether or not we think of Him as worth knowing.
Of course what we picture is dependent upon many factors: how one was raised and personal experience to name a few.
How we view God is also a type of reflection of how we see ourselves.
In other words, what we believe about God says more about ourselves than God.
You see, how we view God will determine a key aspect—reading God’s Word.
Think about it. If we see God as rule maker who is never satisfied, always looking for reasons to punish us—then it’s no wonder His followers don’t rush to His words as a source of comfort, direction, and identity.
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”A.W. Tozer
The irony of not reading the Bible is: it perpetuates our flawed view of God. The Bible is God’s story. There’s no better way to know Him than through His word.
Reason 2: We Don’t Know How
Most of us don’t like to admit when we don’t know how to do something that should be simple. And shouldn’t reading the Bible be simple for a Christian? Or even if you don’t consider yourself a Christian, shouldn’t reading be simple?
For years, I would flip open the Bible and hope to find something of use. If it landed in the Psalms or Proverbs, I had a little nugget to take away. If it landed elsewhere in the Old Testament, I was sunk.
Perhaps you’ve done the same thing. Or maybe you’ve tried to start at the beginning, in Genesis and by the time you got to the third book, Leviticus, you gave up.
I have a confession to make. My love for the Bible began by reading a children’s Bible to my kids before bed. Somehow seeing the pictures and hearing the stories written for a child’s understanding drew me to open my adult Bible and compare.
I began to see the Bible was not just a rule book and one didn’t need a Master of Theology in order to decode hidden meanings.
Finally, I saw the Bible as a story about God and the people He created. When I read the stories about David, Daniel, Esther, Paul, Mary, and Martha, I realize they were just human—like me. In fact, they are my ancestors. They are yours too.
You and I are part of the story as God’s people. And we have a role to play in this amazing story that has not yet reached its conclusion.
Reason 3: It Makes Us Uncomfortable
Oh, how human beings love to be comfortable. Interestingly, the Bible aims to comfort us. If this is the case, then why are we avoiding the Bible? It’s simple really. The Bible makes us uncomfortable before it comforts us. It pinpoints those hidden thoughts, selfish motives, and crooked actions. It’s sharp and cutting.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12
Are you ever angry with someone? Are there strained relationships because you are frustrated with people? Are you ever tempted sexually or do you ever feel sorry for yourself? The Bible exposes our true thoughts and feelings.
The Bible is the great equalizer—showing us we are ALL sinful and in need of a savior.
By His love, grace, and mercy, God has provided the remedy for our sinful selves. Jesus.
And that is a real comfort.
Let’s be honest: If you’re not reading your Bible regularly, it’s because you’ve chosen not to.
Don’t know where to begin? Join me here next week, and we’ll uncover some practical Bible reading suggestions in BIBLE READING 101: Understanding
Until then, if you are serious about reading the Bible consistently, I have a three-part challenge that may help. Please don’t be overwhelmed. The main thing is to be actively working towards regular Bible reading.
Supplies needed: notebook or paper and pen to write down your answers and observations.
Carve out at least fifteen minutes of alone and uninterrupted time (not while driving or even doing another task).
Close your eyes and imagine how you view God. Once you’ve pictured it, write it down.
Close your eyes again and imagine how you believe God views you. Write it down.
How do these affect whether or not you read the Bible?
Ask yourself if one of the reasons you’re not reading the Bible consistently is because you don’t know how. Or maybe you just don’t know where to begin.
If the answer is yes, make a commitment to learning how to read the Bible. Schedule a certain amount of time for this. Write it down and/or put it on your calendar.
Tell someone close to you that you’ve made this commitment and ask them to check in with you.
Reading next week’s article, “BIBLE READING 101: Part I, Understanding”, here on Spotlight, can help.
What makes you uncomfortable about the Bible? (remember to write down your answers)
Now that you’ve written this information down, we have a starting point. It’s time to seek God and His word for the answers. Are you ready?
Join me here for the next few weeks and we’ll unpack some helpful information about God, His word, the way He views people as well as some doable Bible reading plans.
If you are taking the challenge, will you tell me in the comments below so that I can be praying for you? You can also contact me via email. firstname.lastname@example.org
Loved your devotion, you added lots of truth. I do hope that one day those statistic would grow and be 100% of people would read their bible
Desiray, Yes, I agree with you! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Blessings to you and yours!
Your more then welcome
Thank you for this post! It has helped me become more self aware of my excuses in not reading on a daily basis. I would just like to suggest also, that watching animations like that of Joseph the Dreamer, The Prince of Egypt, Superbook, and The Flying House. Psalty’s musicals for children and Hillsong for Kids are also good viewing and listening materials as they simplify seemingly overwhelming biblical truths and principles. Even as teens and adults, these materials are helpful in picturing our Christian walk as God designed.
Micahriezl, Thank you for the great suggestions of movies that help draw us closer to God and help us understand His Word.
Reblogged this on snasocialwear and commented:
This is an excellent read to aspire to!
Excellent! You really hit some very good points of reference in the read, Beckie! An excellent write, advice and encouragement to aspire to! I will highlight this on the Christian Poets and Writers Website. Thanks for sharing.
Shira, Thank you for your kind words and giving this post a broader audience by featuring it on Christian Poets and Writers.
You’re most welcome.
These are right on target!
I am a firm believer in getting into a study with someone who knows the Bible and its structure so one can gain understanding when they do read daily. The Bible isn’t in chronological order and (if one reads from the KJV) the language may be difficult to understand.
I’m looking forward to your next post!
Elihu, I’m glad you mentioned that the Bible isn’t in chronological order. I’m amazed how many Christians don’t know this. I’m thinking you have covered this subject on your blog. Can you suggest a particular post that I can pull info from to include in my next post? Of course, I’ll post a link to your amazing blog.
You know, as I was digging through my articles, I couldn’t find anything quite definitive on this subject. Silly me. I’ve written about various aspects of this in articles, but I suppose I need to write an article about the Bible’s unique composition. At the beginning of this year I wrote this article: https://elihuscorner.com/2015/12/31/4-ways-to-study-your-bible-in-2016/
It discusses different ways to approach reading the Word. 😀
What a wonderful project to begin with your readers! For years, I struggled with reading all of the Bible. Just this past Advent, our pastor challenged us to read the entire book using the 52 Week Bible Reading Plan (you can find this on line). I began the first Sunday in Advent, and am still going strong! It also has helped me to read the daily scripture using The Message – so much easier to understand.
As you coach everyone along, know I’m already in the Bible-readers corner.
Martha, Hooray that you have taken the challenge from your pastor! And more importantly, you are still going strong. I agree with you about using different translations. This is something I’ll be suggesting in the upcoming posts.
I’m so pleased to have you along in the Bible-reading corner! Please make any comments or suggestions that you feel may help another (including me!).
Blessings to you too!
One of my favorite authors is A. W. Tozer:
“I have always felt that when we read and study the Word of God we should have great expectations. We should ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the Person, the glory and the eternal ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps our problem is in our approach. Perhaps we have simply read our Bibles as we might read a piece of literature or a textbook. ~ A.W. Tozer (Jesus, Our Man in Glory, 17)
You see why I love this guy? 🙂 The biggest problem I had when I first started reading the Bible was a lack of understanding that the Bible isn’t a book, it’s alive and should read as if God Himself was speaking it to me. Thanks for this great post!
<3 Shelly McGraw
Shelly, Thanks for another great quote by A.W. Towzer! You are so right that the Bible is ALIVE and should be read as God speaking to us. This is such a wonderful revelation that transforms simple reading into a relationship and conversation.
Great post. I think the biggest hurdle is the amount of easy entertainment we are surrounded by. So easy to click on the TV, or scan social media on a mobile device, or just go to sleep (as a professional and father of 5, I just need sleep and fall asleep whenever still). We are just too dang busy to cozy up with an ancient tome. Which leads to a prioritization problem you reference–we make time for what we are motivated to do. And why are we not motivated for Jesus, when He is the Creator of all things? ‘It’s easier to pass through the eye of a needle . . . .’
James, Oh, how I appreciate your candor.
You are so correct about the many opportunities we have in our culture to be entertained. Easy entertainment can quickly become a vortex that keeps us from doing other things that “should” be our priority. I’ve often thought of it as a drug of sorts, that numbs us into a comatose state because we are so overstimulated and stressed. Entertainment offers escape—escape from the pressures of this busy life and escape from our own thoughts. If we are alone with our own thoughts long enough, we may not like what’s actually there! And yet in reality what we really need is the authentic rest and security that can only be found in spending alone time with the Father. He helps us to “renew.” Romans 12:1-3
I completely agree with you. Do you think that in addition to all that you have said that also, the lost reading culture contributes to this? young people do not like reading these days
What a great point about young people. Any suggestions?
Thanks for reading and commenting.
well, i think it is part of it but not all of it. I think majorly like you said, people don’t think it is relevant and I think part of the reason is because they don’t understand it.
Agreed. I’m going to be addressing these and a few others in subsequent articles. Thanks again!
Love your challenge! I think you raise some good points. Our idea or image of God is one we need to be aware of–false beliefs about God can lie at the heart of a lot of our issues.
Leigh, Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I know from experience how a skewed view of God can dramatically keep one distant from the Lord. Though some great mentorship/council, Bible reading, and of course prayer, my image of God and myself are so much better. The major battle we face is in our own minds!
This is helpful. I was really blessed by it. God bless! 🙂
Amen-Amein Sister in Christ Jesus ( Yeshua ) Beckie!! God Bless You and Your Family and Friends!!
God Bless All my Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus ( Yeshua ) and Your Families and Friends!!
Love Always and Shalom ( Peace ), YSIC \o/
Kristi Ann, Thanks for taking the time to read this (and others) article. I’m so pleased that God spoke to you through them. All honor goes to our Lord! I’m receiving the blessings and peace you prayed for myself and family. Thank you, thank you, dear sister.
May God bless you and yours as well.
No kidding, sitting down to read is getting tougher and tougher. I try to remind myself that Satan will try to give me distractions galore about what are more important things to do, rather than to sit and read God’s Word. Great post!
Thanks for stopping by Spotlight. I hope it encouraged you to keep pressing on in your relationship to Christ.