I might be the most clueless Bible reader. Being a Bible scholar seems nice enough, but relationship tends to get in my way of that. I'd rather spend my devotional time in stillness than anything reminiscent of cramming for a midterm exam. A little more heart of Mary and a little less stress of Martha. As maybe it should be, especially for us beginners.
There is a time and a calling for Bible scholars. For me and the majority of my life, I'm not that person. That doesn't exclude me from getting in the Word and reading all of it, even the parts that seem heavy or beyond comprehension.
I've tried reading through the Bible many times over my life. I usually get off track, the little check marks in my index stacking up in front of some of the same books, while the books that make me feel uneasy remain check-less (and thus, unread). Last year I finally did it--I finally officially went through the entire Bible, every chapter and verse digested. And the habit keeps going.
Below I'm sharing what I've learned in this ongoing routine in hopes it somehow encourages you in your Bible-reading journey.
What I've Learned Reading Through The Bible
1. Have a plan and follow it loosely.
A plan takes the guesswork out of what to read next. When even simple tasks like getting dressed in the morning or deciding what's for dinner can lend to decision fatigue, following a plan can be the difference of keeping going versus getting hung up on what to read next.
There are lots of "read through the Bible in a year" plans. There's one in the back of some Bibles, plenty on the YouVersion Bible app, and a new one by She Reads Truth. That, however, is not my thing. It doesn't leave room for a sick day when I'm only up long enough to throw up, or a "be still" day when my heart's desire is to dwell on a healing passage.
I get around that by choosing a plan, but ignoring the dates. Following it, but not throwing in the towel
2. Do more than read.
Devotional time isn't just about reading God's Word, although that's definitely important. This will look different for each person. I pray and journal and just sit and listen through the silence. I sometimes compare the texts in different translations or identify my own life in the story. I sometimes talk about a text with my husband or a friend, or I ask one of those Bible scholar types what it means. I sometimes write a text down and memorize it throughout the week, and I sometimes share it (online or in a note) with someone who might need it, too.
Reading is just the start. I'm still figuring out all of the ways it comes to life in my life.
3. Put together the pieces of the bigger story.
I'm always in awe at how much the stories are entwined. I'll read about Abraham in Genesis then see the same reference in Psalm and Acts all on the same day of reading. It happens over and over, because it's all telling the same story. The story of a lost people in need of a Savior. The story of an innocent babe born solely to bring that hope and be that Savior. The story of a weak and incapable people inheriting their Savior's power and life.
It's one story throughout the Bible and one story throughout our lives, and it's amazing and humbling and so many things that the Bible doesn't even contain all the brilliance that is God and His salvation-in-action.
4. Create "quiet time" when the quiet is lacking.
I'm all too familiar with the struggle to find quiet time when there seems to be little time that's actually quiet. Our third baby and I are still in a difficult season of waking up throughout the night and just when it seems we're getting past it, he starts a new phase with teething or sickness. Waking up early for the quiet isn't happening, though if that's a solution for you--awesome! Join the HelloMornings community for encouragement and community around that.
For the rest of us, quiet time may not be all that quiet. My devotional time happens while my baby plays beside me and my preschooler does his "devotional time" on my phone playing on The Bible App for Kids by YouVersion. Depending on the age of the kids, this might also be a good time to get them a variety of Bible picture books or a series of Bible cartoons for them to watch a little while you read.
For those who don't stay at home, you might consider working the time into your breakfast, lunch period, or those awake moments before flipping on the TV in the evening. When you list out your priorities, if relationship with God is in the top, then start rearranging your day to treat it that way.
5. Get in the Word before getting online.
Last summer we had a discussion about actively making Jesus a priority in our lives. Someone made the point that we usually grab our phones as soon as we get up (I have my morning alarm set on mine), which often leads to a quick scroll and checking our accounts starting our day distracted. That was me, and when I started my days that way it tended to continue all throughout the day.
Shortly after that I decided to not get on my phone until I've had time with Jesus in His Word. There were days I resisted getting on until after noon when I could finally snag a few moments with Jesus. Over time, it's grown into a habit that I am so thankful for. Giving Jesus my attention before my phone is a huge symbol of giving Him all of me. It may sound silly when I put it that way, but there's a lot of truth there. What distractions are getting in your way? Intentionally delay them until after you've had your time in the Word.
6. (Cue Dori from Finding Nemo) Just keep reading, reading, reading.
One of my recurring struggles with reading the Bible in the past was deciding where to start. Reading through the Bible was great because I had a basic plan and knew what to read next--no time wasted playing Bible roulette dropping open the book and seeing where it landed.
When I finished "officially" reading through the entire Bible (it took about eighteen months), I resorted to my same old habit thinking, "That was great. What now?"
I spent some time going slow and dwelling a week or more at a time on smaller passages. Which was so great, especially in a season of chaos that I needed slow and rest and intentional pauses.
Then, I started at it again. Reading through the Bible, four chapters a day (two from the Old Testament, one from the middle song books, one from the New Testament). This time from a translation different from my go-to Bible. Still journaling and praying and pausing when necessary to ask someone what it means or dwell on a text.
The point isn't to rush through the Bible. Although if you haven't done that yet, that might be one place to start. But it's definitely not the end. The Bible is timeless reading. What we get from reading it last year may be different than what we'll get it from this year. It always has what we need--encouragement for our struggles, light on a change we need to make, direction for a decision, and His love for us.
There are some great Bible studies on You Version or done by people like Beth Moore when you're ready for diving a little deeper into stories, passages, or topics. Just don't let deciding "what next" keep you from simply getting in the Word. Don't worry about finishing it by the end of the year; just start.
Then keep reading, reading, reading.
It Is Between Me and God