“I know, I know… I am supposed to exercise, but…”
I used to run, although it was never easy. As time has gone by, a great amount of things have conspired to make it hard. First. it was only my feelings… I just didn’t feel like it. Then, as I got older and responsibilities increased, finding the time made it hard. Most recently, injuries have made it more difficult to run without pain. Of course, when more than one of those things is happening at the same time, it’s a real fight.
Sometimes I have had a similar experience when trying to read the Bible. A host of things seemed to join forces and make it very difficult. Do you ever feel like that?
This fall, we spent the first several weeks of the study group looking at external, objective questions people have about the Bible. In our journey this past week, we moved from sciences to humanities. The challenges are just as real, but more internal and subjective than external and objective.
Why can it be hard?
Here are some questions to help you identify some causes…
- Is it just the Bible or same problem with other books? Is it all print books? Is it reading anything at all that you find difficult? Is it easier to read on a screen? Sometimes an e-book reader or computer screen is more natural.
- Has ‘required’ reading made you tired of reading? In my last 6 months of grad school I had 20 books to read. It made it difficult to want to read anything after that. Sometimes it is not the Bible, but perhaps if you are in school and are required to do a lot of reading, and it has become exhausting.
- Did you grow up with the Bible? Perhaps it feels like “I already know this.” But, as you probably know after you have gotten immersed in a new culture: sometimes a feeling that “it’s all the same” reveals a lack of experience rather than a lot of experience.
- Do you have a lot of screen time? Published opinions in various places indicate a lot of screen time can make it hard to concentrate and read normal things (things without loud colors, big headings, and a multimedia experience).
- Have you ever been tested for reading disabilities? Don’t feel ashamed or think that it could never happen to you. If you suspect a disability that affects your ability to read, why not get tested so you can move forward with strategies to work around it?
- What are some of the thoughts and feelings you have as you think about sitting down on your own to read scripture? For example, one that I had for a while is “I should be reading more.” These semi-conscious feelings can be an indicator of our lens (remember our Worldview discussion in the beginning).
But we would make a big (and typically Western hemisphere) mistake to assume that the only causes for difficulty with Bible reading are material or measurable.
Some more questions to help you consider why Bible reading may be hard for you…
- Is it possible there could be spiritual warfare surrounding your attempts to read scripture? (2 Co 3:15, 4:4)
- Do you try to rely on your own desire or ability when you come to scripture? (Ps 119:18)
- Is the culture around you spiritually neutral? Or does it in active and other not-so-obvious ways oppose a relationship with God? (1 Jn 2:15-16)
The role of immaterial causes is even bigger than we realize. We’ll talk more about it this Sunday.
What are some solutions?
If there are very real immaterial causes, prayer is an essential step.
If reading seems exhausting, try listening. There are several great Bible listening apps:
If you need external motivation, read with others: with your roommate, spouse, children, neighbors, extended family, co-workers, etc.
If a biblical character or or a topic seems shallow, it could be because we have never studied it. More on Bible study methods in weeks to come.
- If you need a new perspective, try shifting from your normal translation or language to another.
If all you can do is listen to a sermon, here are some great sermon apps:\
- Tim Keller (http://www.redeemer.com/app/)
- Ravi Zacharias (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.rzim.rssreader&hl=en or https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rzim/id385168332)
- Many others (http://www.sermonaudio.com/mobile.asp)
If it seems boring, then ask questions. Pick a set of questions and ask them of every passage you read. Here is a good set to start with, and then you can come up with your own:
- How does this passage teach about or point to Christ?
- Is there a command to obey?
- Is there a promise to trust?
- Is there a sin to avoid?
- Is there a new truth to carry with me?