I've heard it too many times to count. Statements such as:
"I'm a failure at Bible study..."
"I just don't understand anything when I read my Bible..."
"Bible study just isn’t for me..."
"I never finish a Bible study. I get discouraged by the middle of it and just set it on my bedside table never to be touched again..."
These statements break my heart for multiple reasons. One reason being that the enemy is clearly having a heyday discouraging the women of God from doing what matters most. He's convincing women they are not capable of reading the Bible, they are failures because they don't study the Bible, or they are too busy for in-depth Bible study. I’ve heard it from women of all ages, and at times in the past I’ve even said statements similar to the ones above. It’s about time we started recognizing the author of these lies, instilling Truth into our minds, and practicing the discipline of daily Bible study.
Feelings of discouragement, failure, and defeat do not come from our loving God (2 Timothy 1:7). Never. Ever. We serve a God who builds up, equips, encourages, convicts, strengthens, leads, guides, and waters us when we come to His Word, not a God who condemns, criticizes, or chides His children to beat them down. He’s given us His Word to comfort, strengthen, and lead us through this life. It’s a gift, but it’s a gift that comes with a responsibility to dig through the treasure for gold and deeper intimacy with Him.
Digging for Gold
One of my favorite memories as a little girl was going on field trips to the North Georgia mountains to “pan for gold.” At the specific place we went, outside of a once active gold mine there were small pans for us to use to dig through the soggy dirt and find our small treasures. Tiny gems, glittery rocks, and fragments of “gold” remained after sifting and searching. I kept every single treasure I found in a little cloth bag for years. It took effort, searching, diligence, and actually getting dirty at the gold mine in order to find my treasure. In a similar sense, we have to make the daily effort of opening our Bibles, using our minds, spending our time, and digging deep into the Word for the immeasurable, infinite treasure God has placed in there for us.
In order to commit to Bible study and stick with it, we have to be fully convinced of the benefits to be reaped from the daily devotion of studying the Bible. God’s Word profits the hearer, always accomplishes what it sets out to do, never changes, and has incredible power. Psalm 19 describes Scripture as perfect, sure, right, pure, true, and more desirable than gold (v. 8-10). The benefits of studying Scripture are boundless and certain. The enemy knows the power of God’s Word. In the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4, we are given insight into the ways he twists the Word of God, taking it out of context, and, thereby, driving us away from God's truth. However, we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us who equips us for battle by bringing to mind Truth to fight our weaknesses.
The promise of the Holy Spirit’s help in giving the believer wisdom and understanding is another benefit we are to cling to in daily Bible study. If you are a born again believer and follower of Christ, you have the Holy Spirit in you. Jesus promised His coming when He said this: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whose the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:25-26). The Holy Spirit, or the Helper (meaning Counselor), is God’s promise to us. Because Jesus came as God in human flesh, He also experienced the limitations of the human flesh. In promising the Holy Spirit, He was yet again keeping His covenant promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. The Holy Spirit is a part of the Triune God and is continually present with the child of God. John 16:7-11 reveals that the Holy Spirit guides us into ALL truth, is with us continually, convicts us, teaches us, speaks to us, and glorifies Jesus.
The Blessing of Discipline
With this in mind, I want to offer the woman who feels like "Bible study dropouts" some hope, encouragement, and practical ways to approach God’s Word rightly, daily, and faithfully:
- Begin your time of Bible study asking the Lord for wisdom. Prayer and the promised help from the Holy Spirit are two of the most neglected spiritual gifts actually used by the believer. We often approach our time in the Word and daily routine without even taking a moment to pause before the Lord and talk to Him. Invite the Holy Spirit to come and speak to your heart and mind through the Word. Ask Him to help you understand what you are reading. Don’t simply get frustrated if something is hard to understand. Press on and press in. James 1:5 offers us the promise that if we ask God for wisdom, He will faithfully give it to us. We, on the receiving end, must be faithful and open to pause, listen, and obey His Word.
- Ask questions. Often, we approach Bible study simply to receive rather than dig. A good student asks their teacher good questions. As students of the Word, we must bring our whole self to the task of Bible study. Last year I heard Jen Wilkin suggest two simple questions to guide in Bible study: 1. What does it say? 2. What does it mean? These questions have offered me a simple, yet powerful way to approach studying Scripture. Continue to ask by asking: What is this passage teaching me about the character of God, the plight of man, and the hope of the Gospel? Dig deep. Don’t just skim the surface of your Bible reading. Wrestle with it.
- Seek wise counsel. The Christian life was not intended by God to be experienced alone. It is vital for us to be connected to a local body of believers and in regular fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. Seek discipleship from someone more mature in their walk of faith. If you have questions, ask a trusted friend, mentor, or pastor for wise counsel. You can also read a trusted gospel-centered commentary on the scripture passage. Remember, the Bible was written in a different time period. Keeping this in mind will help you in your study of Scripture and keep you from being a Bible study dropout. Perhaps, you simply need a mindset shift? Instead of approaching the Bible with the desire for a daily dose of truth, what if you studied it with a long-term view? Any subject takes time, discipline, and effort to study, understand, and embrace. The Bible is no different. One question that has also helped me in my study of Scripture is this: “If that’s God’s Word to ‘them’, what is God’s Word ‘for’ us?” (from "How to Read the Bible in Changing Times by Mark Strauss) Asking this takes you out of the center of the picture and places God back in His rightful place. After all, ALL of Scripture is ultimately about Him.
- Lastly, keep going even when it’s hard and you don’t “feel” like studying. Trust me, I know, life is hard. Studying the Word doesn’t always leave me with warm fuzzies, and sometimes it leaves me with more questions when I leave than when I started! BUT, it pays off. When I was training for a half marathon a few years ago, I wanted to quit several times during the training process. I hate running, but I love the feeling after I complete a run, and even more-so I love finishing a race! Daily, disciplined Bible study will get you where God is taking you. It will have even greater benefits in your life than any other pursuit. The Christian life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, and we need to approach our Bible study each day with that mindset to keep us from dropping out of the race.
Overall, you need a perspective shift. Instead of approaching Bible study with a me-centered point of view, you need to approach with a holy hunger to know God more. Don’t let the enemy win the battle for your heart. Open your Bible every day...even when it’s hard...even when you don’t feel like it...even when you don’t understand. God is faithful to teach, confirm, and establish you as you seek to know Him. Roll up your sleeves, grab a journal and pen, and start digging for Treasure!
For more additional Bible Study Resources:
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin*
Loving God's Word with JourneyWomen Podcast (I recently had the privilege to talk with Hunter Beless about loving God's Word and pray this is encouraging to listen to!)
How to Read the Bible in Changing Times by Mark Strauss*
How to Read the Bible for Yourself from Desiring God
ESV Single Column Journaling Bible (this is the specific Bible I use and love having the extra space to take notes, study, and write prayers!)*
(Any listings with * are affiliate links! We receive a small commission if you choose to purchase through that link and the commission goes toward continuing to provide gospel-centered content for you!)