Speaking from a protestant perspective, the Holy Bible is the final authority for faith and practice. Moreover, it is God’s ultimate communication to us. However, there are a number of Christians who struggle with reading the Bible. In fact, you might be one of them and find it difficult to engage with on an in-depth and consistent level. Now, I confess, I have always enjoyed reading the Bible . But even in my zeal, I have found dry times. As I contemplate various reasons for the ennui based on observations of others and many conversations as well as my own life experiences, I think that one or more of these reasons could account for it.
1. Lack of Understanding: for some, reading the Bible is like the reading comprehension portions on standardized tests, the kind that includes a bunch of technical terms, themes and conclusions that are hard to decipher. Who wants to read something they don’t understand? I think the contributing factor to this difficulty is not understanding what the Bible is, how it was put together, the different genres, the progression of God’s revelation, the major themes and the correlation of how all the books fit together. When people are told to just read the Bible and don’t have an understanding of what they are reading, its like picking up a puzzle piece and trying to make sense of the whole picture. This is an essential component of the discipleship process yet, I fear that might be missing in a great many churches. Good Bible study methods are needed for understanding.
Now I am of the opinion that the Bible is meant to be understood and can be understood by all (although not all will accept the message). The Bible is a divine book, in that it is inspired by God, but it is also written by human authors who were using normal means of communication. Therefore, reading each book according to its literary genre and particular place in God’s overall program is important.
Remedy: If this describes you, get a hold of some instructive material that will aid understanding how the Bible is put together. Some basic resources that I have found useful for this task is,
- How to Study the Bible for Yourself, by Tim Lahaye
- Living by the Book, by Howard Hendricks
- What the Bible is All About, by Henrietta Mears
2. Lack of Relevance: if the reason we find the Bible boring is that it just doesn’t seem to applicable to our lives, we will get bored. Especially, when reading Numbers! This will happen if we are approaching the Bible to find solutions to our problems and will only be interested if what can solve the problems we face. However, while the Bible was written for us, it was not written to us. The Bible is God’s revelation and provides a description of his plan for history. Understanding his plan should give a great deal of meaning to understand his heart and how we fit into that plan.
Remedy: if this is you, start approaching the Bible to learn about God and his overall program for history. Always ask with each reading how what you are reading is relevant to his program rather than our personal program.
3. Too Impatient: We live in a micro-wave culture. We want understanding and we want it now. While I do contend that understanding what the Bible is communicating is possible, studying takes time. Understanding how each part fits together takes time. It involves a consistent and diligent effort. The use of study tools, like commentaries, can seem like it slows the process down but are valuable for the understanding process. In the end, it is about understanding and I am of the opinion that the more we understand, the greater our interest will be to learn more.
Remedy: if this is you, resolve in your mind that learning involves discipline and diligence. It doesn’t happen overnight.
4. Too Conditioned for Excitement: As long as we are looking for something new, a fresh word from God, the next move of God or wanting to go to the next level we might be conditioned for excitement. But if our Christian walk is conditioned upon needing excitement, reading the Bible can feel like watching paint dry at times. Now, I contend that there is excitement in learning what God is communicating through his word, but as mentioned in #3, that will take time. The end product of understanding can cause exhilaration although the process can not seem that way at times. God has not changed what he has communicated but our understanding does and will increase with each reading.
Remedy: resolve in your mind that learning will not always be exciting. But learning about God on his terms should be and provide the motivation to continually seek what he is communicating.
5. Incompatibility with Personal Agendas: similar to #2, if you are looking for the Bible to resolve a self-interested agenda and it does not, then reading what is not relevant to personal agendas can get old real fast.
Remedy: if this is you, ask yourself the question of whom do you serve – self or God. It is a hard thing at times to loosen the grip of self-serving motives but surrendering to the lordship of Jesus Christ does require us to do just that.
6. Lack of Spiritual Motivation: I have been here plenty of times, just not interested in spiritual things even though maintaining a commitment to Christ. Paul indicates in Galatians 5:16-17, that the flesh and spirit oppose each other. The flesh is that principle within our humanity inherited from the fall that does not want to subject itself to God’s ways. (Romans 8:7). When its winning, we lose interest.
But consider that God breathed out his word through the pens of 40 authors in order to reveal himself. Consider the Bible as a love letter where God expresses his heart to us. When we are apathetic, his word has a way of wooing us but won’t if don’t engage with it.
Remedy: if this is you, read anyway and with intentionality for the word to speak to you. Now that doesn’t mean ignoring contexts or reasonable rules of reading, but open up to what is being communicated. This does require discipline that says, even though I don’t feel like it, I’m going to read anyway.
7. Discouragement or Anger with God: this is worse than spiritual motivation. Whereas #6 refers to apathy, this is where we are just down right disgruntled with God. When you are like this, who cares what God is communicating. You may even feel like he opposes you and has no interest in you.
But here is where I’d say reading the Bible becomes the most crucial. Jeremiah says that the heart is desperately wicked, who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:17). Relying on a troubled heart will only pull us down and must combated with the immutable, timeless truths of scripture. Otherwise, the troubled heart will continue to pull you further and further away from God’s truth, which may even result in you rejecting it all together.
Remedy: honestly, this is the toughest one. The only thing I can think of is to cry out to God, reach for Christ and keep reading his word even though there may be buckets of tears with each reading. Finding a loving, leaderful and wise shoulder or two to cry is important too. Consult your pastor or even get some sound Biblical counseling. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain, even though it may not feel that way.
Overall, the encouragement here with each one of these categories is to think about what makes the Bible boring for you and how to possibly work past it to absorb the wonderful truths of who God is, his plan for history and the greatest gift of eternal life for those who would place their trust in the work and person of Jesus Christ.