What To Do When You Don’t Want To Read The Bible
I thought the Bible was supposed to answer questions, not raise more of them.
Jesus was at the home of Peter, where Peter’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. Jesus touched her hand, and the fever left her. Later that day, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He drove out every evil spirit and healed all of the sick.
Not surprisingly, a crowd began to form. A disciple who was present made a commitment to follow Christ—who wouldn’t have been moved by Jesus’ actions that day?—but asked: “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
When I read this, I thought, Wow, this guy just wants to bury his father. Is that too much to ask? Isn’t Jesus being harsh? At a minimum, insensitive?
I thought the Bible was supposed to answer questions, not raise more of them.
Scripture can be puzzling at times, and what we don’t understand we tend to lay down. And not pick back up.
In fact, we have myriad reasons for not reading the Bible, don’t we?
- It’s hard to understand.
- I can’t stay focused; my mind drifts.
- I don’t like to read.
- I don’t have time.
- It’s irrelevant to my life.
- It’s outdated.
- I’m afraid of being convicted; I might have to change.
If you want to know God, if you want to honor him, serve him and live in fullness, you need to know his Word. And, I have some tips that will make it a great experience for you.
Tip #5 — Put It On Your Calendar
We make time for the things that are important to us. Add daily Bible reading to your calendar—you can start with 5 or 10 minutes a day—and then jealously protect that time.
If you don’t like to read, get an audio version of the Scriptures. You can get a great free app for your phone that will read the Bible to you while you’re in the car driving to and from work. You can even select a reading (or listening) plan.
Whatever you decide, commit to it. Treat it like a doctor appointment. The Great Physician has agreed to see you. All you need to do is show up.
Tip #4 — Go Deep
Understanding the context of Scripture will clear up confusion and bring deeper understanding. What were the customs of the day? What is the meaning of certain words in the original Greek or Hebrew text? Go deep into Scripture. Study it.
I find it better to read one passage and really chew on it, than to read 10 passages and digest little of it.
I purchased a study bible that contains history, customs and other context for every book of the Bible. As I read the Scriptures, I also read the accompanying study notes. I also like to search Google for commentary and compare various thoughts and interpretations.
For example, here is what I learned about the man who wanted to follow Jesus but also bury his father:
- Levitical law precluded family members of the recently deceased from appearing in public. This tells us the disciple’s father, although probably gravely ill, was likely still alive.
- When a family member died, the expected period of mourning was 30 days. Jesus understood that while the disciple may have been committed at the present moment, in another month that could change. (How many times have we said, “I’m going to follow Jesus!” only to slip back into our familiar ways?)
- Moreover, there was the issue of the disciple’s inheritance. When a man died, his property was divided amongst his sons. For the disciple to follow Jesus, he would have had to walk away from his earthly inheritance.
- This is why Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Jesus was saying that the spiritually dead—their inheritance is in this world, not in the Kingdom—can stay behind to bury the physically dead.
- So, what at first sounds like a harsh rejoinder from the Messiah is actually a kind wake up call to those who are too invested in a fallen world.
These are the truths that await us. Isn’t it amazing what God will show us when we go deeper into Scripture?
Tip #3 — Trust God to Reveal Himself
Reading the Bible should be a joy, not an arduous task. Don’t think that you need to do all of the heavy lifting. God has promised to reveal himself when we do our part.
When the Israelites had been taken captive and exiled to Babylon, God gave them this assurance through the prophet Jeremiah (chapter 29, NIV):
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”
God desires to set us free, so that we can walk in his truth. Why then, would he hide or make himself hard to find? He wouldn’t.
If you feel as though you’re not connecting with God, pause as you begin to read the Bible and say this short prayer:
God, I am here, right now, with your Word in my hands because I want to know you. I seek you with an expectant heart. Please reveal yourself to me as you have promised you will.
Tip #2 — Let The Word Do Its Work
We have taught ourselves to expect things immediately in every area of life: immediate food from a drive-through, immediate energy from a gas station drink, immediate answers from Google, immediate delivery once we click and pay.
Let’s not diminish God’s Word by reading it with a vending machine mindset. When I finish eating my leafy, green vegetables, I don’t immediately try to measure my reduced risk of cancer; I trust the nutrition to do its job.
Read your Bible with the confidence that just as good nutrition feeds your body, the Word will feed your soul.
How can you trust that this will happen? Because God promised it through the prophet Isaiah (chapter 55, MSG):
“Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.”
God wants to transform us through his Word, and if we are willing it will happen. There will be times when a verse or passage jumps off the page at you with profound impact. There will be many more times when it doesn’t. Rest assured that in either case, the impact of God’s Word will be evident in your spiritual health.
And, don’t be surprised when God drops a Bible verse on your heart at just the right time, to help you with a situation or equip you to give wise counsel to a friend. When it happens you will be amazed!
Tip #1 — Ask God To Change Your Heart
For many years, I read the Bible out of obligation; that’s what every good Christian should do, right? I showed up for my appointment with the Great Physician, because, well, I was supposed to.
God doesn’t want us to read the Bible because it’s what we’re supposed to do; he wants us to know him.
Imagine that your spouse (or significant other) or your child writes you a love letter. Would you read it? Of course! You would read it right away, and probably not just once, but several times over. The Bible is God’s love letter to us.
Let’s revisit the Israelites and their captivity in Babylon. But first, let’s recall what God had previously done for them: he had delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, given them amazing military victories on their journey, then provided the land flowing with milk and honey that would be their new home. He had done all of that and yet here they were, mired in sinful habits and practices.
They had lost their desire—lost their heart—for the ways of God for the umpteenth time!
They had been driven out of their homeland as God’s judgment for their idolatry and rebellion. And yet, God promised to restore them. Through the prophet Ezekiel (chapter 36, ESV), he told the Israelites:
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
God is not going to give up on you. If you don’t feel like reading the Bible, if you question whether it’s still relevant, if you’re being held captive by the lures of the world, just be honest with God. Confess what you’re feeling and ask him to change your heart.
God, I confess that I do not desire to understand your Word. I confess that reading it feels like a chore. Please help me desire you above everything else. Change my heart.
Read God’s love letter, talk to him about it and be real with him about your feelings. Ask him to remake you in Christ’s image. If you do this, I am confident that you will see God move in a mighty way in your life!