Finding Enjoyment in Reading the Bible
According to a recent report released by the American Bible Society and Barna Group, almost one in four Americans are reading their Bibles more frequently than they had been a year ago. That’s good news. The bad news is that two-thirds of Americans are still reading their Bibles less than twice per year, if at all.
What makes people open their Bibles on their own time, outside of a church service? What challenges keep others from breaching the covers of their Bibles? The full report breaks these questions down further across the U.S. population. But the question we are addressing in this article is, how are you doing with your personal Bible reading habits, and how can we help your journey?
Understanding the Problem
For some of us, the Bible is a big, overwhelming, and at times confusing book. Perhaps we don’t know where to begin, or we stall when we try to trudge through genealogies full of unfamiliar names. For others, we might struggle to find (or make) the time to read scripture. We pack so much activity into our hectic schedules that we barely have time to read emails or social media posts, much less reading something as time-intensive as scripture.
But sometimes, we struggle to read the Bible simply because it doesn’t excite us. We have a hard time relating to David when he says “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103). And if you are among the 11 percent of Americans who say struggle to find excitement in reading the Bible, take heart. With prayer and new strategies, you can find joy when you engage with scripture, and form new habits that will make the Bible less intimidating and more of a priority.
The New Testament writers often used food terms to describe God’s word. For example, Paul writes “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it” (1 Cor. 3:2) to describe how he taught Corinthians, and even Jesus responds to temptation by saying, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
And just like our food intake, our daily intake of scripture must be measured in order to be effective and keep us returning for the next meal. If we gorge ourselves on God’s word, trying to read through larger chunks of text than we can digest, we are likely to get slowed, and ultimately discouraged, by discomfort. In these situations, perhaps we are biting off too much and will read more effectively if we focus on just a chapter or two, or meditate on a single passage of text.
We encounter a similar situation if we take in too little scripture. If we’re relying on a page-a-day calendar or social media newsfeed to supply us a single verse here and there, these bites are hardly enough to encourage our appetite for more. Perhaps it is time to commit to a whole chapter, as we change our diets from milk to solid food.
First, we must make prayer a part of our engagement with scripture. This may seem awkward, but it isn’t difficult. Ask God to give you a hunger for His word, especially if it has been a while since you last opened your Bible. And as you get ready to open your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom as you read, so that you may find meaning in His word and experience God’s goodness as scripture reveals Him to you.
In our modern age, we are blessed with a wealth of resources designed to make our Bible reading easier and more beneficial. A Bible reading plan can help you organize scripture into daily readings that are the right size for you. Devotionals are a great way to draw meaning and application from the text, and can also help us form consistent reading habits.
In addition to reading plans and devotionals, there are a wealth of commentaries, podcasts, sermons, and articles to be found online and on various mobile apps, suitable for all levels of spiritual maturity and learning styles. As you form new habits, and grow in your knowledge and understanding you will find that enjoyment comes easier and that the Bible, when engaged faithfully and properly, is sweeter than honey.