Studying the Bible can often feel tedious. It can become frustrating to the point that we throw our hands up in the air. Don’t get me wrong, there can be moments of clarity where everything seems to just piece together, but more often than not, it may seem like God handed us a book of riddles to figure out for ourselves.
With the Bible holding so much weight in our Christian walks, we may feel the pressure to just “get it right” and understand. Until the Lord returns, this is our chance and opportunity to become as close as we can to the living God, to hearing his voice. No wonder we may become frustrated when we don’t understand.
But what if we took the time to just enjoy what’s revealed in our Bibles rather than treating the word as a textbook? See, whenever we look at the Bible as a text to be conquered, rather than a text given to us by a holy God to lead us, entice us, change us from the inside out, we are robbing ourselves of a joy that was meant to sustain us.
Think of a complicated text that perplexes you. Now read it. Read it again. Read it once more. How did you try to figure it out? Did you rationalize? Did you think of other texts that remind you of it?
Did you take the time to ask God and ponder His ways?
Too often, prayer is left out when we come before God and examine His word. No, I am not saying that reading the Bible in a critical manner is wrong. It is not wrong to want to understand. It is the experience of reading that is the underlying matter. How are you wrestling with the text? Are you wrestling with yourself or are you pleading to see more of the Author? Here are some of the things that I have done to better understand difficult Bible verses:
1. Talked to other believers who know more than I do.
It’s a humbling experience to be a teacher of the Word. God has granted me an opportunity to share it in front of teenagers and to teach alongside my best friend in an entry level class. Guess what? Tough questions get asked. It’s imperative to have a deep theological understanding of rough texts. This means I need to be taught. I will never understand every single Scripture the way John Piper or John Calvin do. But, God has given me a community of believers to teach and lead me as I teach and lead. And for this, I am thankful.
By going to people further along in their walk who have more knowledge, experience, and wisdom than I do, I am given a chance to learn and grow with them. Learning about God isn’t about knowing more than someone else. To find people that understand that is imperative. It is easy to get a big head because it’s filled with wells of doctrine and theology. Steer clear of these people. Seek out people who are willing to pour into you and are able to grow from the experience.
Prayer works, folks. Prayer is a means to get closer to God. Prayer isn’t just something to do before dinner and before we fall asleep. Prayer is a serious component of our relationship with God. It’s our conversation with him and we are commanded to do everything in prayer. Being connected to Him is more than asking for things we want – health, possessions, finances. He is our Guide. He is our Comforter. He is also where we gain our knowledge in wisdom. Who better to explain Himself to us than Him? Take some time and talk it out with Him. Ask Him to help you understand his word.
3. Read different texts.
Seriously, diving into other books of the Bible when I get stuck on hard texts is a way that I’ve learned to deal with the hard texts. These Scriptures challenge me to think in new ways that I can apply to the text I was trying to figure out in the first place. By switching gears, it forces me to analyze in different ways. Try it sometimes. Stuck in Galatians? Read a Psalm and see the way David talks to God. Since Galatians talks about our freedom and liberty in Christ, reread through some Scriptures of God’s deliverance. Go through some things Jesus said in the Gospels. If you’re stuck thinking in one way, don’t expect to get anywhere with the same mindset.
Also, I do believe that it is okay to read commentaries and other reference books. But do not depend on them. They are helpful and may give us insight. In fact, they will stretch our minds and give us others’ point of view. These men are scholars who have studied the Word their whole lives. They normally have a really good grasp on the word and know what they’re talking about. But again, I stress, this is time for you to get to know and discover God and who God is. Take the time, rather than taking the easy route.
4. Walk away.
Because it is tempting to get angry or frustrated, sometimes it’s best to just give it a rest. I know this may be an unpopular view on how to do things, but seriously, sometimes we just have to give our minds a break. Go for a walk. Go to the gym. Enjoy doing something else you like and come back to it at a different time. It is not a race. Reading the Bible is not a challenge meant to bring us down. Reading the Bible is about seeing the living God and allowing it to work in our hearts. Walk away and reflect on what you did understand. Eventually, these things will unravel and we will get it. It may not be five minutes later, but it will come.
Also, it is imperative for me to mention that sometimes, we may never get it. Some things may not be meant for us to get. Some of us may not be ready for meat. Some of us may still be drinking milk and truly trying to digest Gospel truths. And these Gospel truths are things that we need to be feeding on for the rest of our lives. Don’t get upset that you may only understand the “basics”. These basics will sustain you. Enjoy meeting with God and reading His Word. It is given to us for us to see Him – not become angry with Him.
Seriously enjoy the time you get to spend with God. This text will lead you for the rest of your life. Don’t rush the process of getting to know God. You wouldn’t spend the first month of a relationship getting to know every single thing. It takes time to build. Treasure it.