I used to study the Bible with fervor…
Just one year ago I was joyfully teaching two women’s Bible studies – one in the morning, one in the evening. I was daily studying Scripture, loving every word. The Holy Spirit carried me from precept to precept, and I loved sharing what I was learning: the connections between the Old Testament and the New, the meanings of complicated words, the excellencies of theological truths, and the hopeful application to everyday life.
Now, Bible Study feels impossible…
Eight months ago, we welcomed our fifth child. Now, caring for a newborn and homeschooling our other children takes everything I have to give.
It’s odd to write this post – just a year later – as a woman who feels like Bible Study is a foreign language, a foreign skill, even a foreign interest. Instead of Bible Study feeling as natural as my own heartbeat (as it used to feel), it now feels more like wrestling a lion.
Although I read a few verses while I’m nursing the baby, if you were to sign me up for a weekly Bible Study with a workbook and a pile of multi-colored highlighters, I’d cry because I’m sure I can’t do it.
I’m learning that when a woman is not studying Scripture it may be due to reasons far more complicated than “will-power”, “priorities”, or “scheduling”.
Bible Study gives me flashbacks about being on a boat…
I can best describe this struggle by taking you back in time to my childhood visit to an amusement park. I asked to go out in one of the bumper boats in a little manmade pond.
I realized pretty quickly that I had no idea what I was doing. Everyone else zipped around, making waves, maneuvering surprising bumps into other boats, and throwing their heads back in triumph. They were having so much fun.
But there I was, a little girl, stuck in a boat I couldn’t drive, being splashed about by happy, happy strangers.
My boat bobbed over to the opposite side of the pond, nudged up against the guardrail, and sat there.
Three minutes later, the attendant blew his whistle and beckoned all of the boats back to the dock. The other boaters collectively sighed that the fun was over. They easily turned their boats in the direction of the dock and zipped back obediently.
But I was still sitting on the opposite side of the pond, trying to figure out how to run the engine, not to mention the lofty task of steering the boat back to shore.
It was abundantly clear: I was stuck fast.
With wild desperation in my eyes, I looked up at the attendant.
“You’re supposed to bring your boat in!” someone yelled from shore.
That unleashed an explosion of instructions from the eager boaters waiting in line. “Put your foot on the right pedal!” “Turn the wheel to the left!” “Now turn it to the right!”
The pedals, buttons, and steering mechanism were puzzles I couldn’t solve.
I tried to steer left, but the boat moved right. I tried to reverse, but the boat lunged forward.
I tried to listen to the instructions hurtling over the water, but to no avail. It didn’t matter how well the people on shore yelled, I was completely unable to operate that boat and drive it to the dock.
I remember giving up, raising my hands in helpless surrender.
That’s when the attendant effortlessly jumped into a docked boat, zipped across the pond, and towed me to shore.
I was so embarrassed as I got out of the boat and wondered, why couldn’t I do that? What’s wrong with me?
Needless to say, I lost all of my interest in boats that day.
What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do Bible Study?
Lately, I feel like the girl in the boat when it comes to Bible Study.
I feel confused, overwhelmed, and incompetent. Meanwhile, women everywhere are studying the Bible and loving it. They’re doing their homework, learning, discussing, and thriving while I’m sitting on the sidelines, stalled out.
I don’t want to sit here anymore.
If you happen to feel overwhelmed by Bible Study, but want to move, I have a plan to get us unstuck.
How to get unstuck…
My former enthusiasm for Bible Study is in my memory instructing me that it is possible to love and engage in Bible Study. I offer this to you: it really is possible to learn how to study the Bible even when it feels impossible.
If you’ve never tried to study the Bible, you may not grasp how much it will benefit your life. You may not know how the Holy Spirit will use it to heal, encourage, equip, and correct you in ways you never dreamed possible, or how you will become acquainted with Jesus more intimately than ever before. But I can remember that all these things are true: when I diligently studied the Bible, I reaped blessing upon blessing.
I am asking God to restore my ability, confidence, and joy in Bible Study. Would you like to join me?
We’ll need to do 3 things:
- Adjust our mindset.
Bible Study is not an optional recreation or a lark for bookish people. You and I must study the Bible, even if it’s difficult. God’s Word is our nourishment and fortress. It’s how we know Jesus. That means we need to adjust our mindset to believe Bible Study is a necessary thing for us to do, though it may require significant sacrifice and investment.
- Ask someone to help.
Do you know someone who is enjoying Bible Study lately? Ask her to sit by your side while you read a few verses together. Listen to her wonder, watch her highlight and take notes, repeat the words she looks up in her Concordance, and look over her shoulder when she prayerfully applies the verses to her own life.
If you make a weekly date of this apprenticeship, you’ll start to acquire some skills and will grow in understanding and interest.
More importantly, ask God Himself to spark your interest, to increase your ability, to instruct you, and to help you. He will.
- Apply ourselves to consistent, high-quality practice.
The “younger me” could have learned how to drive boats if my life depended upon it. Of course, I would’ve needed hours of instruction and practice in order to forge pathways in my brain that were not there before, but I could have mastered it eventually. (Who knows? With enough exposure, instruction, and practice, my impossibility might have turned into a life-long passion.)
The experts say that anyone can learn anything if she practices consistently with high-quality instruction. In fact, 99.9% of people who perform with excellence, do so because they received high-quality instruction and practiced well, consistently.
In our culture, we typically practice the things we’re naturally able to do, but in this case, you and I must practice the thing we’re naturally unable to do.
If we practice Bible Study – say, for 10 high-quality minutes a day – we will rattle the walls of impossibility and… improve. We’ll get our bearings within that big book, we’ll learn the vocabulary, and we’ll gradually discover the everlasting pleasures tucked within those pages.
God graciously invites each one of us – especially those of us who feel like Bible Study is impossible – to begin.
After all, He knows best that “with God, nothing is impossible”.
Here we sit, confounded in our impossibility.
We want to study the Bible, but it seems so difficult.
What’ll we do?
Let’s lift our hands in helpless surrender.
Our Attendant – God Himself – will come to our aid.
As we apply our hearts and minds to the hard work of learning how to study the Bible, we will soon join the Psalmist in saying, “I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” Psalm 119: 48
I’m sure of it.