I’ve got to be honest: most days, I don’t feel like reading the Bible.
And in case you think this is some article where I give you my top five reasons why I read it anyway, it’s not.
For the past number of weeks especially, my typical day has looked something like this: Get up about 3:00 AM. Get dressed, throw together breakfast and lunch, and hustle out the door. Deliver milk and other organic/natural products for 11-14 hours. Come home and try to relax for a few hours before going to bed around 8-9 PM and starting the cycle all over again.
Yes, I know it’s crazy. We have a shortage of drivers right now, after several people quit without warning. It shouldn’t be permanent. Nonetheless, life works this way. Sometimes, you have to really grind.
I believe that reading the Bible can be a joyful experience. A time when we connect with Jesus on an intimate level and really understand what He wants to tell us. I have definitely experienced those sorts of times, on numerous occasions.
And yet, I’ve also experienced many times where I sit down and read the Bible, and, quite frankly, I find it dry and boring. I’ve been reading the Bible since I was five years old. My parents read it to me before that. So when I read a chapter of the Bible again, and don’t see anything new or inspiring, and don’t feel God speaking from the page to my heart, it’s more of the same old same old.
Then, on top of that, I hear yet another sermon or article or talk where someone is telling me the importance of “being in the Word”. And it’s enough to make me want to gag. And please don’t talk to me about getting up early so that I can read the Bible first thing. It’s hard enough to pry myself out of bed at 3 AM, and sometimes even earlier.
Stop Shaming People into Reading the Bible
I am an avid reader. My family well knows that the printed page is like a magnet for me. Words can suck me in and hold me far longer than I intend. And I’ve been this way for many years.
But if you want to kill my interest in a book, assign it to me to read. This happened to me different times in school. As soon as I HAD to read a book, it became much more difficult to enjoy.
From what I’ve heard, I’m not the only one this way. In fact, it’s the basis behind reverse psychology: as soon as you tell someone to do something, they want to do the opposite.
So why do some people use this tactic when it comes to the Bible?
Why do they pressure people to read the Bible and act as though it’s the magic cure-all for spiritual ailments? What Bible verses do they actually have to support such a theory?
And what in the world would they say to the millions of Christians in persecuted countries who have no Bibles and couldn’t read it every day, no matter how much they wanted to?
I know most of these people mean well. But unfortunately, the message that comes through is: “If you want to be a good Christian, you have to read your Bible every day—the longer the better. If you’re not reading the Bible every day, you’re not a very good Christian.”
The Complications of Spiritual Abuse
The other day, I started reading from Proverbs. I almost instantly recoiled.
You see, I spent years reading from Proverbs, trying to gain wisdom. And for years, I felt it telling me how foolish I was; how rebellious I was against my father; how I was a failure. That if I would just listen to my dad better, I would become a better person.
Now, believe me, Proverbs has some great stuff in it. I’m not against the book of Proverbs. I’m talking about my internal reaction.
Did you ever get sick after eating a certain food, and thereafter find yourself nauseated if you ate that food? Even though that food had nothing to do with you getting sick?
And to those who have been abused with the Bible, the connection is similar. It’s not the Bible’s fault. But just as Satan tempted Jesus by quoting Bible verses, the Bible can be used in horribly abusive ways.
That abuse does not go away by just believing something different. It’s one thing to believe something with your head. It’s another thing for your heart and emotions to catch up. Just like the food you ate before you got sick, you know that there’s no connection, but you still react anyway.
It Has to Start with Love
I do believe this: if someone is in a healthy relationship with Jesus, they will desire to hear from Him. And one place they will hear from Him is in the Bible.
If someone isn’t reading their Bible because they don’t care about God or their relationship with Him, they have a far bigger problem than a lack of Bible reading. And most likely, cramming Scripture into them won’t fix the problem.
On the other hand, some of us actually do want to hear from Jesus, regardless of how we may feel about Bible reading. But when “hearing from Jesus” and “reading the Bible” are perceived as the same thing, and the Bible is triggering and nauseating to the victim, he or she will feel they can never come close to God.
And so we have to rebuild the relationship, and I think the issues with reading the Bible will eventually take care of themselves one way or another.
God Speaks Outside the Bible
Despite my lack of Bible reading, God has still been speaking to me. Those Scriptures I read so many times were not in vain. I still remember them, and God speaks to me through them.
But also, God speaks outside the Bible. We have done a great disservice to ourselves by defining “God’s Word” as the Bible. Let’s be clear: the Bible is God’s words. I believe it is God-inspired from one end to the other. But when Romans 10:17 says that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”, it’s not talking about the Bible. It’s talking about direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (Go read the context!)
I don’t believe that personal revelation can ever replace the Bible. But at the same time, the Bible cannot replace personal revelation. Because it is in those times when God speaks directly to us that we develop a personal relationship with Him. It is in those times that we find out what He wants me to do.
The church survived for centuries without everyone being able to read their own copy of the Bible on a daily basis. Why do we suddenly think that Bible reading is the only way to hear God?
I do still read the Bible some. Not as much, perhaps, as I would like to do. And many times when I do read the Bible, I find passages that bring healing and/or revelation.
I want to close with a word to those who identify with my situation: let’s hang in there. Let’s be gracious to ourselves. Healing takes time.
Let’s remember, too, that whatever we may think based on what we’ve read, God is not abusive. God is patient and kind. Not once, when He walked the face of the earth as a man, did He condemn hurting, broken people who came to Him. Instead, He became famous for healing them.
So I suggest that we put in our own request.
Let’s ask God to heal us.