Every year, at the end of December, I printed the checklist. I tucked it into my Bible with optimism and resolved that things would be different this time. This would be the year that I would finally read through the entire Bible. I would miss some days, sure, but then I would catch up and stay on track. I had a plan, and I was resolved to stick to it.
But again and again, I failed.
“Should” Doesn’t Motivate Bible Reading
When I started to grow as a follower of Jesus in my twenties, I learned right away that an important part of discipleship was reading and studying God’s Word. Since the Bible is the primary way God has chosen to reveal himself to mankind, I was quick to affirm its importance.
But still, my knowledge of what is good and true often didn’t transform the way I lived. I swayed between the two extremes of deep, rich Bible study and weeks or months of nothing at all. I could make a very compelling argument to a new believer about the importance of reading God’s Word every day. Meanwhile, my own Bible hypocritically remained shut.
See, I knew I should do it. So I would gather my resolve at the approach of every new year and commit to a Bible reading plan. I tried chronological plans, one-year plans, three-year plans. And I even tried no plan at all except to start in Genesis and keep going.
Bible Plan Dropout
Every time I abandoned my plan after just a few weeks or months, and I grew discouraged. So I tried to start a reading plan in the middle of the year. New Year’s resolutions aren’t really my thing anyway, and I still struggled. Then I tried to get my husband on board for accountability. He’s still plugging away at his reading plan, while I’ve long since given up.
I became convinced there was a deep sin problem hiding in my heart. Why else would I be such a dismal dropout? I brought my frustration to the Lord in prayer. While there was certainly sin in my heart to take to Jesus in repentance, God also answered my plea for help in an unexpected way.
God Can Use Simple Tools
While browsing a bookstore one day, I saw a cheap paperback Bible. I own lovely leather study Bibles in multiple translations, so I was not on the market for another Bible. But as I read the cover and description of this Every Day Bible, my heart was stirred. This simple volume had a straightforward layout. It has selections for 365 days to take readers through the entire Bible (and twice through the Psalms) every calendar year. No study notes or concordance—just Scripture, every day.
You guessed it: I bought the Bible. And God used an inexpensive copy of his precious Word to show me that sometimes we just need to try a different tool.
I’m still not sure why a paperback Every Day Bible clicked for me in a way that a checklist could not. Having all the “right” tools cannot soften a heart from duty to delight. A new Bible cannot change a heart. But God can use simple, unexpected means to draw us into deeper relationship with him.
Bible Basics and Practical Approaches
I assumed that my struggle was solely one of self-discipline. And while there was (and is) room to grow in that area of my life, I also needed to look at the practical element of my dilemma. For me, that was throwing away the checklist. It was a copy of God’s Word that I could dog-ear and spill coffee on or tuck into my backpack on the go. It was one without study notes, so I could simply read and save my in-depth study for another time of day.
Most of my friends successfully use—and complete!—Bible reading plans every year. So I assumed that was the method I ought to use as well. When it wasn’t a good fit, I assumed I just needed to try harder. This should have been my first clue that I wasn’t walking by the Spirit but relying on my own strength and methods instead. I spent too many New Years in a shame cycle. Now I’m grateful that the Lord used a simple paperback Bible to lift my eyes off my failures and set my delight on his Word once again.
Ask the Holy Spirit to Give You the Right Tools
If you’re a fellow Bible Reading Plan dropout, or if you haven’t found a rhythm in your devotional life, I pray my story encourages you to consider both the state of your heart and your choice of tools. Maybe you’ve got all the right tools—your Bible, your checklist, your journal, your special pens. However, your heart is cold or complacent. Ask the Lord to stir delight in your heart for his Word that no tool can fuel.
Pray for joy even as you continue in obedience. And if you’re thirsting for more of God in his Word but you keep stumbling over that checklist or feel burdened by a plan that seems to work for everyone else but you, run to the God of all wisdom and knowledge for help. He delights to answer—and may do so in the form of a paperback Bible.