For years and years, reading the Bible was just another thing on my to-do list. My spiritual to-do list, sure, but after a while, it all blends together, doesn’t it? Drive the kids to school. Mow the lawn. Read the Bible. Get gas. Make dinner.
That, or it was a task so huge that I wouldn’t do it at all. And then I experienced guilt. “I get through the entire Bible in a year,” a guy in a cowboy hat told me at church once, puffing up his chest and staring me down, making sure I felt bad about my own scripture consumption compared to his. “Every. Year.” Good news, guy. You made me feel like a bad believer.
I love scripture. Whenever I interact with it in a meaningful way, I leave feeling closer to Jesus. I’m less likely to worry, lash out in anger, or act in my own self-interest that day. I’m more of a non-anxious presence in people’s lives, and I make much better decisions in my relationships, work, and family life. And if I immerse myself in the Bible every day? Hey, that makes for an excellent week – for me and the people around me.
But for so long, I wasn’t able to interact with scripture on a regular basis. It was either too rote or too daunting. I realized I needed to try something different.
So I did. And eventually, I was able to find a simple, shame-free, daily way for me to read the Bible.
First, Release the Pressure
Before I tell you what it is, here is the most important step I had to take to make daily scripture-engagement work for me: I released any and all expectations and pressures around Bible reading.
I decided I wouldn’t put any demands on myself to read a certain amount in any specific amount of time. And I made the conscious decision not to compare myself with others in this area. I can’t tell you how incredibly helpful this first step has been to me. I would highly suggest doing the same.
I devote some time to sit quietly by myself.
Most of the time this is in the morning, for 15 to 30 minutes. I have my Bible, a journal, and a pen with me. I decide on a book of the Bible to work my way through. Books have run the gamut from Gospels, Epistles, and the Psalms. For folks trying this technique for the first time, I usually suggest starting with Mark or Luke, because they are easy to read, narrative-based, and filled with the life and teachings of Jesus himself. After a minute or two of quieting myself, I start to read.
I read until something sticks out to me, and when it does, I stop.
A word, a phrase, or a sentence. I don’t have to know why it sticks out to me, not yet. If I sense that it may be something God wants me to pay attention to, I trust him and I stop. And that’s all the reading I do that day.
I write the word, phrase, or sentence down in my journal and ask Jesus what it is he wants me to see, hear, or apply to my life that day.
- After I listen a bit, I write down some of my thoughts in my journal, continuously opening my heart to anything he might have to say to me.
- I ask for His help to live differently that day in the face of this portion of scripture and spend another minute or so quieting myself before I move on to my actual to-do list. That’s it.
I have been reading the Bible using this method for almost a decade. I do it almost every day, and it enriches my life and draws me closer to Jesus.
Take. Your. Time.
A word of warning: it takes a long, long time to get through even one book of the Bible using this method. The first book I read through this way was Matthew, and it took me over a year. I was immersed in the Sermon on the Mount for almost four months. And when I hit chapter 11, verses 28-30 (“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden…”), Jesus kept me there for three whole weeks.
That was just fine with me. This probably wouldn’t impress cowboy-hat-guy, but I was in no hurry.
And, all these years later, I’m still in no hurry. I look forward to my time in scripture each morning because I’ve done all I can to eschew pressure, comparison, and rush from the daily experience.
Even if the process I outlined above doesn’t quite work for you, my advice is to embark on a similar journey that I did, remembering reading the Bible is supposed to be good, and that it’s okay to make it work for you. I’m so glad I did.