You feel stuck and don’t know where to start. You open the Bible and distraction upon distraction saps away the time you set aside to study. I get it. Reading God’s Word can be a battle at times. So you go days, weeks, months, even years without consistent, sustained, fruitful time in the Word. And you feel alone. All the Instagram microbloggers, women in your Bible study group, and friends are sharing the fruit of their devotions. But you have nothing to offer, except maybe a verse that you recall from some undetermined time in the past. You scramble internally to offer a meaningful reflection on the verse.
If you could just get into a rhythm, if the demands of life weren’t so great, if the workday wasn’t so taxing, maybe then reading the Bible wouldn’t be so hard. While we can’t change our circumstances or predict when life will cooperate with our desires, we can overcome the battle that often derails reading and studying the Bible.
The Battle in your Heart
We can talk a lot about technique, habits, and systems that may practically help you in reading God’s Word, but the real battle that keeps many of us from reading our Bibles is the battle within our hearts. There are many issues of the heart that often derail our Bible reading, but we will focus on three.
Unconfessed, unrepented sin can hinder our desire and ability to read the Bible. Hearing from God about ways in which we’ve fallen short of his glory and having to face our sin through the pages of Scripture can be difficult. When the weight of our sin presses in and drowns out our ability to get into God’s Word, we need to remember that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). For those who confess Jesus as Lord, he has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12). Now, there is no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).
Deep pain or loss, health concerns, or other emotionally and spiritually draining issues can come between us and our Bibles. Suffering can feel all-consuming, but the reality is that we never suffer alone. Jesus identifies with our suffering because he also suffered—he is acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). Indeed, he took our illnesses and bore our diseases (Matt. 8:17; Isa. 53:4), so we can take our suffering to him in prayer. We can ask him to comfort, heal, and strengthen us in our weaknesses. The Spirit also helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us to the Father with groanings too deep for words (Rom. 8:26) and with groanings deeper than our pain.
Shame is that feeling we get when we feel exposed and disgraced for something we’ve done or because of a sin committed against us. Exposing our sin can bring feelings of shame or guilt, which, as we just mentioned, keeps us at a distance from our Bibles. The Lord still desires for us to come to him so that we might renounce secret, shameful things and instead commend ourselves before him by openly displaying the truth of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:2).
We may also experience shame because of something done to us. Shame lies to us, telling us we’re not worthy of God’s love and attention. It may cause us to question or to be angry with God rather than the one who wronged us. We may not always understand the ways of God, but we must remember who our God is. He is loving and gracious and all-wise, the God who turns shame into praise and fame for all to see (Zeph. 3:19). The God who will not clear the guilty by leaving them unpunished (Ex. 34:7), but will enact his vengeance and judgment in due time (Rom. 12:19). Our lives become a testimony of God’s shame-erasing power, and we tap into that power through the Word of God.
Our Weapon in the Battle
When sin, suffering, shame, or any other heart struggle keeps us away from the Word, we can take them to the Lord in prayer. Igniting our prayer life can be an effective weapon for winning the Bible-reading battle. But I hear you—often a struggle in one area leads to a struggle in another, so prayer might be a battle as well. If that’s the case, here’s a simple prayer to get you started. Ready? The prayer is this: “Help, Lord.” That’s it. Message sent, delivered to, and received by the Lord. He knows all that’s unspoken behind those simple words. His Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know exactly what to pray for. God hears a simple prayer of “help” and is able to deliver us from any of our troubles and distress (Ps. 34:17). This includes distress over having a hard time opening our Bibles.
The Battle is Won at the Cross
Even the battle of spending time in the Word was won on the cross. On the cross, Jesus died to free us from shame and guilt and sin. He died so that we might be free to worship him with sincerity of heart and so that we would be invited to choose the one most necessary thing, sitting at his feet and listening to him (Luke 10:42). He died so that our sin and suffering and shame would not overcome us. And he died that we might have full access to the Father, every bit of his Spirit actively working within us to cause us to desire to spend time with him. Desire is the first sign of spiritual health, and the Lord will meet us at the point of our desire even when we struggle against the battle in our hearts.
The Bible is a book meant to transform our hearts, even when our circumstances don’t change. So even though the battle in our hearts conspires against us, let’s remember that we have victory in Christ so we can enter into God’s Word, ready for him to transform us in the midst of the battle.
Meet the Author
Kristie Anyabwile is the author of Literarily: How Understanding Bible Genres Transforms Bible Study. She is the Associate Director of Women’s Workshops for the Charles Simeon Trust and is a founding member of The Pelican Project. She has written contributions to multiple books, and you can also find her work at The Front Porch, The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Christianity Today, and Revive Our Hearts. She is a pastor’s wife and has been married almost thirty years. She and her husband have three children.