I called this post “When Your Bible Study is on Life Support” but honestly there have been times (more than I’d like to admit) when my Bible study was just plain non-existent. It didn’t come in for oxygen and a IV drip – it flat out coded on the table. Untouched except for Sunday mornings when I remembered to grab it for church, only to scramble a week later trying to find it again. It was usually back on the nightstand, or even worse left in the car. Unnoticed. Unused. Without thought.
This is not how fruitful and impassioned followers of God live. This is how haggard and floundering wanderers live. This is how we burn out and wonder why the heck we are living defeated lives.
The Bible is our lifeline. It’s the support we need to keep us afloat, to keep us tethered to God’s heart. It’s the oxygen we covet, but we keep gulping down the world’s salty water- getting parched over and over again, dehydrated from the lack of mature spiritual milk that we need to sustain us.
Delight or Duty?
I have an embarrassing large Bible collection. It isn’t because I’m super spiritual and have read the Bible through more times than I can count. Actually, the large stack of Bibles in my closet speaks to my spiritual lack of maturity. Whenever Bible study became stale, my remedy was to go out and purchase a new Bible. I did this quite often, since the new Bible would spark passion in me, only to fade again. It was in my early twenties that I stopped that routine and finally kept a Bible until it started falling apart.
Maybe you’ve been there, too. You get a new Bible, excited to dive in. You open it and it sparks interest for a little while and then you get to a particular paragraph and nothing makes sense.
You want to love reading the Bible, but you just don’t know how.
I was that person not six months ago. I envied others who seemed to have it figured out. They understood it and they loved it. I’ve had moments of this in my life, but nothing that seemed to last much longer than a twelve week women’s Bible study. I wanted to have a passion for God’s word. I wanted to experience a closeness that these other women seemed to have when they read their Bibles. But I’d open a page to read a story I’ve read seemingly a thousand times and nothing supernatural or extraordinary would happen.
That is, until last November.
Last November, I fell in love with the Bible again. Head over heels, in love. And friend, I never want to get over it.
If your Bible study routine has gotten stale and needs some life-support or perhaps you are new to reading the Bible and nothing is making sense at all – here are some things I’ve learned to help revitalize your Bible reading and help you fall more in love with God’s word (and God!)
Pray for It
If you treat Bible study like a drudgery or do it solely because it’s your duty as a “good Christian,” you are already setting yourself up for failure. You are shutting away your heart and closing your mind. The Bible is a supernatural book. It is not easy to understand, especially correctly. This is why prayer is so important. Begin in prayer.
It’s the Holy Spirit who opens our minds to understand. Without his guidance, God’s holy proclamations are just words on a page. The Holy Spirit is what allows us to comprehend what we read.
If reading his word seems like drudgery and you don’t love it like you want to, pray for it. Pray to love it more.
If you are reading his word out of duty and the idea of it being a delight seems crazy to you, pray for it. Pray for it to delight your soul.
If nothing is making sense or perhaps you are even downright disturbed by some of the stuff you read, pray for God to open the eyes of your faith.
Prayer is the most powerful tool when it comes to changing our habits. If our habits are to skim through a passage and check it off but we have not engaged our hearts, then we aren’t any closer to discovering the deep parts of God’s heart. We’ve checked it off our list to satisfy our productivity, but our souls still ache, still crave for more.
But maybe your soul doesn’t. Maybe you don’t care. Trust me, I’ve been there too. I’ve been so wrapped up in my apathy that it didn’t even bother me anymore. And truly, that is a scary place to be. If you don’t crave his word, pray for a passion for it in the depth of your soul marrow.
Pray for him to break the walls of confusion. Pray for him to break the walls of apathy.
Prepare for It
Settle your soul for praise by listening to worship music. One of the most powerful songs I’ve heard recently is Spirit Break Out by Kim Walker-Smith.
Spirit break out,
Break our walls down,
Spirit break out,
Heaven come down
So King Jesus
You’re the name we’re lifting high
Shaking up the earth and sky
We wanna see Your Kingdom here
Take a moment to listen without doing anything. Focus on the words. Pray the words with all your heart. Let nothing distract you.
Then, open your Bible.
Press on for It
You won’t always feel like reading your Bible. One day you may feel like God opened your eyes to see the unseen heavens and he just blesses your socks off and blows your mind. Other days, you might not experience any supernatural understanding. Keep reading anyway. Keep pressing in. Are we worshiping a supernatural feeling or are we worshiping him?
There are also times we find ourselves in our watchtower, with ear strained, but we are met with silence. I call these the wilderness seasons. We open our Bibles and it just doesn’t make sense or it isn’t connecting with our souls like it once used to. I think of the over 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testaments. The people waited and waited. Moreover, I think of how God waited. Perhaps the angels were leaning on the outskirts of heaven, full of anticipation and excitement for the very moment the silence would break. After such long silence, I find it incredibly powerful when God decides to speak again. After 400 plus years, it didn’t occur in a church. It didn’t occur at some large conference of believers. It came to a single man in the solitary wilderness. In the known place of desolation, God bent down from heaven and spoke – breaking the silence. Take heart, friend, the word of God is not lost in our wilderness seasons.
Keep fighting for your faith. Fight through the passages that don’t make sense. Fight through times of silence. It may seem like he is not coming through, but he will come through, friend. If you truly desire him and seek him, he will show up.
Tools that Helped Me Fall Back in Love with the Bible
Once the Holy Spirit ignited a flame in me for his word, he led me to different sources to help kindle the flame and further my comprehension and love.
Utilize Cross References
If I had to tell you one thing that truly transformed my Bible study – it’s cross references. If you don’t know what those are – they are the little subscript text usually in the margin with other verses listed.
The Bible interprets itself. When I started actually paying attention to cross references and hunting them down, I started to see all the similarities and cohesiveness of the Bible as a whole. Each story truly points to the one big story. It’s points to Jesus.
For instance, I was reading John 3 the other day. Jesus says in verse 14-15: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, so that everyone believing in him may have everlasting life.”
I looked at the references on the side and found one for Numbers 21:9. I turned there in my Bible and Jesus’ words now made sense. Because of the Israelites’ sins they were bitten by fiery snakes and many died. But God offers a way of hope, he tells Moses to put a copper serpent on a stick and whoever looked at it would live.
He uses this story to point to his own “lifting up,” his death on a cross. We were once dying from our sins, slow and painful eternal deaths. But God sends hope. He sends salvation. And just like the Israelites who looked on the copper serpent, for all who look upon and believe that Jesus took our punishment and was lifted up on the cross and then rose from the dead – will be healed. They will live. They will be saved.
I wouldn’t have clearly understood what Christ was alluding to if I hadn’t utilized the cross references to see what it is he was talking about.
Engage – Mark it Up
Do not be afraid to write in your Bible. Get some different colored pens or highlighters (you can see some of my favorites here). Start tracking themes and personal notes that you discover along the way. Write prayers in the margins. If you don’t understand something put a question mark. The Bible is God’s way of communicating with you, allow yourself to engage and communicate back what you are learning.
Pick a color, I use orange, and start tracking prophesies foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament. I recently started doing this and am continuously in awe of the cohesiveness of the Bible in its entirety. Think about it. There are 66 books written by over 40 different people and in different languages yet they all tell the same story. It all points clearly to Christ.
Study Historical Context and Significance
Taking the time to do a little outside research can also greatly impact your understanding of the Bible. We are modern readers who attempt to read the Bible though a modern lens, but that is not the way it was written. Stuff doesn’t make sense when we read it though our context.
For instance, I read Genesis 35 and noticed that Jacob buried the people’s idols under a tree near Shechem. While this would normally not catch my interest, I decided to do a little research on the city of Shechem. Cross references lead me to Joshua 24 where more puzzle pieces came together. I then looked up what Bible Archeology had to say about it – and that just about blew my mind. Shechem is an Old Testament city that was near the same place where Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well.
Why does this have such incredible significance? As Jesus converses with the woman, he speaks of the history of the land. The well itself was called Jacob’s well. Jesus gently points out the woman’s own struggle with idolatry. She had five previous husbands and was currently with a man who wasn’t her husband. Like Jacob who buried the idols, Jesus is telling her near the exact same place to bury her own idols.
This amazed me so much, I actually wrote an entire in-depth post about it. If you’d like to read it, click here.
If you’d like learn more about how to read the Bible through the proper lens, I encourage you to read Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin.
Learn the Original Languages
No, I don’t mean take Hebrew and Greek language lessons (although that would be so cool to me). What I do mean is dive into the original languages of the text.
My most favorite Bible study app is Blue Letter Bible. It has features that give the definitions of Hebrew and Greek words, translation comparisons, cross-references, as well as text commentaries.
The best resource I’ve found that walks you through step by step on how to use Blue Letter Bible is the book Mercy Like Morning by Jane Johnson. It is my go-to book with other in-depth Bible study methods.
Don’t Expect to Get All the Answers
This may sound counterintuitive. I mean doesn’t the Bible say in multiple places that “The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me?”
Yes, God wants us to understand. That’s why he gave us the Bible. However, there will never be a day where we breathe in these mortal bodies when we suddenly have no more questions. Where things won’t confuse us. He opens our eyes, but our dependence will always be on him to understand. Who can know the mind of God? He allows us glimpses of part of it, but there will always be more of him to discover. No matter how long you’ve been in church, no matter how long you’ve known Christ, there will always be more of him to know.
If we feel overfamiliar and bored with his word, then we need some personal revival because there’s so much more he wants us to know. And even when we think we’ve dug as deep as he allows, there’s even more understanding, more revelation available and waiting for us. Keep pressing on, friend. Press on. Press on.
The Bible can be incredibly overwhelming, even to someone who has been raised in church. But we won’t ever begin to love it or understand it if we never open it. Bible study is a discipline. It doesn’t always come easy. It’s something that we have to work at – but as you open his word, as you pray, as you start utilizing the cross references and other study techniques – it can turn into something you love. You can fall back in love with it. And as you do, Jesus is all the more sweeter, all the more kinder, all the more powerful.
I’ve fallen back in love with the Bible and with Jesus and I want that so bad for you too. He wants that so bad for you too.
He changes everything, friend, and that includes taking a drudgery or duty and turning it into the very delight of our lives.