My Bible reading journey goes something like this: I used to read the Bible the way I watch a movie, and now I read the Bible the way I eat a piece of cake.
I began to follow Jesus when I was in the third grade, and I remember being completely captivated by His Word, wanting to gobble it up, wanting to know more. But somewhere along the way, Bible reading became a holy chore—something I needed to do to earn my allowance each day. I watched the words go by, dutifully, and though part of me longed to take hold of the words in a more meaningful way, I wasn’t sure how.
Tools to Taste the Goodness of God’s Word
In my early months of motherhood, though, I stumbled upon a few Bible-reading postures and tools that had somehow evaded me:
- investigating the context of a book and thinking what it meant to the original audience,
- considering first what the text said about God rather than zeroing in on what it said about me and my behavior,
- looking up words I only vaguely understood,
- waiting to apply the text to my life until l’d truly wrestled with its meaning,
- getting a study Bible and paying attention to cross-references, etc..
(Most of this initial equipping came from Jen Wilkin’s book Women of the Word, for which I am eternally grateful and wholeheartedly recommend!)
These things formed a spiritual “fork,” helping me take hold of what I was reading and chew on it, helping me discover that it was truly “sweeter than honey” as the Psalmist said.
(I always assumed Psalm 119 was just overly poetic rather than a beautiful description of actual scripture interactions. Who knew we could actually delight in God’s commands?)
I began to print out text on computer paper and annotate it until the pages were heavy with ink, and I’d step back from my notes as if it was a plate of polished-off pancakes: “Yum.”
To wrangle all the treasured pages, I began to organize my notes in a giant binder, and I now look at that monstrosity with great affection and proof that I have “tasted and seen that the Lord is good.”
Digesting at My Own Pace
Some people can simply read the Bible and digest it, but generally, I’m not one of those people. I have to use literacy tools like a shovel and dig in with intention; I have to approach the Bible like AP English class rather than Netflix.
Discovering this about myself was a game-changer, and it has changed my regular time in the Word. While I used to conquer giant reading plans, I now generally go slower, choosing a full book of the Bible based on interest, an upcoming sermon series at my church, a book that a friend shares has impacted her, etc., always making sure I have a book “on deck” so I don’t stall out when I wrap my current study.
I go as slowly and as deeply into the book as I need to and as the ever-changing circumstances of my life allow, and I seek out additional commentaries or Bible studies on the book if the book proves to be particularly tricky.
(I once tried to deep-dive Isaiah on my own, and I spent an entire summer totally confused. Next time I’ll invite a smarter friend or a resource to come alongside me. This practice of humility always adds to my toolbox, and I’m better equipped for future study!)
A Treasure of Surpassing Worth
What a joy it is for me to understand now that regularly pursing knowledge of God through His Word is not like allowance—but it is a treasure of surpassing worth (Philippians 3:8)! When Bible reading transformed from duty to delight, my life changed forever.
If you are hungry to discover the sweet treasure of God’s Word, if you are eager to feast on it, I suspect you also can fashion a few Bible-reading tools into a fork. And every time you take hold of that fork or open that toolbox or whatever is your metaphor of choice, come to the Lord and pray:
“Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).
Caroline Saunders is a writer, pastor’s wife, and mother of three who believes in taking Jesus seriously and not much else. She loves serving women through writing and local ministry at her church and through an area-wide women’s ministry called Story & Soul, which she started with two friends (StoryandSoulWeekend.com). Her LifeWay Girls study Better Than Life: How to Study the Bible and Like It releases Fall 2020.