Sometimes, I don't feel like reading God's Word. I know I should read it. I know I need to read it. But the desire is lacking. Have you ever felt this way?
I've had several conversations about this recently. I currently lead a small group of college freshman, and one of the things I emphasize with our group is studying the Bible for ourselves because we are not able to grow in Christ without spending time with Him and hearing what He has said to us in His Word. See if you fit in any of the categories that I've recently heard in conversations with college students:
- I don't want to crack open the Bible because I feel guilty about sin in my life. I feel the need to clean up before I can approach God or spend time with Him.
- I had planned to read my Bible before going to bed tonight, but I just can't keep my eyes open. I'll just get up early tomorrow morning and do it then. (But you end up snoozing the alarm the next morning.)
- I just don't feel like doing it right now. (So we end up waiting till we "feel it.")
- I feel paralyzed when I think about reading God's Word. I don't even know where to start. What do I even read? And it's hard to understand. I don't feel like I know enough to even read the Bible and be able to grasp it.
- I know I need to do it, but to be honest, I'm not doing it because I'm excited to spend time with God. I'm doing it because I know I should. It's straight up because of discipline just like I don't feel like working out, but I know I need to go to the gym. I do it out of discipline, not love.
Have any of these ever described your attitude towards reading the Bible, or am I the only sinner here? And isn't this terrible to admit? I feel guilty that I would even have any of these attitudes about this discipline, especially when I consider all that Jesus has done to make it possible for me to have a relationship with God.
Last week, I was doing some research for a work project that involved Psalm 119, and as I was reading the psalm, I kept noticing how the psalmist repeatedly expressed his delight, love, and longing for God's Word:
- "In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches." (v. 14)
- "I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word." (v. 16)
- "My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times." (v. 20)
- "Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors." (v. 24)
- "Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it." (v. 35)
- "Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness, give me life!" (v. 40)
- "for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love." (v. 47)
- "Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight." (v. 77)
- "If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction." (v. 92)
- "Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day." (v. 97)
I think you get the idea...
I found this oober convicting when I read through the psalm. Is this how I would describe the Bible and what it means to me? Do I long for it? Do I love it? Do I delight in it? I want these things to be true about me, but often, they're not.
So what do I do when I don't desire to read the Bible?
I have a younger brother who is something of a pyro, and we're from the country with plenty of space for fireworks, bonfires, etc. Something I've learned from him is that, if there's some burning coals, all that's needed to fan those embers into a flame is to add some brush and some oxygen and to feed the embers with these two things till it grows.
If you at least want to desire to long, love, and delight in God's Word, you have an ember. You just need to feed it and fan it into a flame.
How do you do this? How do you cultivate an affection for God's Word? Well, you can't really hunger for something you haven't tried.
I'm more of a salty snacks than a sweets person, and this past Christmas, one of my cousins took a block of cream cheese, spread basil pesto and Italian cheese on it, baked it for 20 minutes, then served it with Wheat Thins. Oh my goodness, it was so good! And I have craved that stuff ever since. I made it for New Year's, and I'm actually making it for a get-together this weekend because I tasted it once and just want some more.
To cultivate a desire for more of God's Word, you have to spend some time actually reading God's Word. Get that initial taste for it by actually digging into it, reading it. And when you read it, ask God to help you love it. Ask Him to make you hungry for more of Him. Ask Him to change your attitude and to give you a desire for His Word, to anticipate and look forward to it.
Something I started doing this week is to take a one section of Psalm 119 (the entire psalm is divided into 22 sections, 1 coordinating with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet) and to pray through that section before I study the Bible. So last night as I read Psalm 119:10 ("With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!"), one of the things I wrote (I often write my prayers so my mind doesn't wander off and start thinking about my grocery list) is "Lord, 'let me not wander from your commandments' even though I'm very much prone to wander.'" With each verse, I wrote a one-sentence prayer varying from confessing sin to praise God to petitioning Him to help these words be true of me.
Even if studying the Bible is a regular part of your time with God, all of us can easily get caught up in doing it as part of our routine. We forget it's a relationship that we are cultivating and that studying the Bible is part of how we spend time with God. But for me, praying over my attitude and asking God to give me a love and excitement for His Word helps me, especially in those times when studying the Bible becomes more duty than delight.
I pray that we would be women who love the Bible and who live by it - that the following would be true of us:
"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you." -Psalm 63:1-3