I get asked a lot by Christians if I have been reading my Bible lately and so often it is a guilty "not really" as I look away, knowing that I should but not feeling enthused by it. For me, this feeling that "I should" has derived from experiences like this, where I feel that way simply because it is expected of me.
I would go away and, often with their encouragement, diligently read my Bible for about a week. Sometimes, I would try a plan; other times I would try to tackle a book and send daily verses or chapters to a friend as a sort of accountability structure and so they could benefit from it as well. I have not sent her another Psalm in months.
Life would just creep up in the way of it and I would forget or say, "I'll read it later" and never follow up. I do not know for sure why it has been such a struggle, especially when I would enjoy reading my daily Psalm. I guess it is a blend of poor foundation in my reasoning as well as a base negligence for the authority of the Word.
Does it even matter anymore?
I had to keep asking myself, "If I truly thought the Word was significant today, would I brush it off as I do now?" That is not to say the reason everyone does not read their Bible is negligence, I know there are other reasons as well and I seek not to shame anyone. But this was one of mine. I would never admit to such a thing, but deep down it was true.
It may be easy to look at the Old Testament especially and cast aside a book like Chronicles for its sheer boring irrelevance (I will be first to admit that I find books like these excruciatingly boring) but there is something to them—a sense of promise, as we can use genealogies to see God's faithfulness in His promises and the importance placed on family lines.
We see a lot of God's character in the Old Testament; see a lot of who He is and what His nature is like. Though it often varies from the image we conjure up from the New Testament and through Jesus, we see the two do not contradict each other. We can read either part through the eyes of the other and get a whole new understanding of God.
We can also have a habit of casting off reading the Bible when we depend on sermons, Bible study groups, podcasts, Christian books, etc. These are all great, and I love Bible studies for the diversity of focuses and reference knowledge, seeing a group of people unite and discuss our faith and to be a part of that. It is refreshing. But personal reading has to be done, too.
Setting good foundations
We need our foundations to be in God, in the Word itself, not in the voices and beliefs of others, even if they share the same beliefs as us. We need to find out for ourselves what we believe and why we believe it. There are many voices preaching different things, and we will never know which are true to God if we do not ourselves know God.
I sometimes feel inclined to think that my spiritual and emotional relationship with God is enough; that through it He can show me who He is. But how can I know for sure what is from God and what is conjured up from within myself or by misdirection if I do not know the Bible, the book in which He shows who He is and what He stands for?
Not out of obligation but with active intention
I do not want each of us to go away from this and pick up our Bibles thinking, as I often have, that we need to read our Bible because we are expected to feel these things; that it is a chore that we must pick up to qualify as a Christian. That just loops back to the point I made at the beginning about failing to set proper foundations, and defeats the purpose.
We need to look within ourselves; develop for ourselves a reason to read the Bible. I use my sense of crisis in asking "Who is God?" to fuel my reading: this desire to figure out for myself what this faith is about instead of waiting on people to tell me. But perhaps you have other reasons, perhaps you want to be more fervent in your knowledge of Scripture, perhaps you want to reacquaint yourself with it or want Christian guidance but do not know where to look.
Planting the seed on good soil
Whatever your reasons be, let it be nurturing to you and not out of a feeling of obligation. I am not saying it is always going to be fun, or that we should only read the Word when we feel like it. As a student, I am well equipped with the understanding that reading out of obligation is often better than not at all, but in saying that, it is never as fruitful a process when I do it grudgingly. Sometimes I am surprised and get something out of it, but that is not often the case.
Like it is with the parable of the Sower (Matthew chapter 13), how we receive the Word depends on the soil it is planted in.
Regardless of what intentions we have when we go into it, reading the Bible is vital to our Christian livelihood. It is doubtlessly relevant to our current situations and one of our key insights into God.
Sabrina is a third year at University studying English and History. She has a passion for learning and creative writing with aspirations to one day become a high school teacher.