It's Like Studying Shakespeare
It’s daunting – you open your Bible, flipping through aimlessly, hoping that the Spirit miraculously makes “the words” jump off a page. You know, “the words.” The ones that will inspire you to finally speak kinder words to your husband, the ones that will, in an instant, transform your relationship with your mother in law, the ones that will motivate you to make that meal for the neighbours down the street – you know, the aha moment you’re craving. Heck, maybe you’ll be able to Instagram it later when you finally remember to drink your three-times-microwaved coffee. You keep flipping. At this point, you’ll settle for a generally exciting idea, never mind the aha words. Nothing is catching your eye. You might as well be flipping through Hamlet, hoping that the old English will suddenly make sense.
The listless, absent-minded page turning ends with you reading a Psalm (again). Finding some comfort in the fact that God rescued the Israelites from their enemies that one time, you pray, and then run off to pick up the kids from school.
I’ve certainly experienced this type of slightly frustrating interaction with God’s word before. But is this normal? Is this what reading the Bible is? Is it always this random and mysterious? It can’t possibly always be this frustrating, can it?
Sister, may I suggest a plan. A plan was what made the difference between me getting the occasional inspiration-verse out of my time with God, and learning massive theological ideas that carried me through difficult times. A plan is what forced me to grapple with big thoughts about God and my relation to Him in a way that I would never have thought of on my own. A plan was a game-changer for me.
Let’s back up: Why create a plan? I’m a business owner, so “planning” is part of my regular-activities-list, and in the words of my dad, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” A plan helps me achieve something – a goal. Starting with a goal in mind is the key to sticking to any plan I make: a target body weight keeps you from munching on those salt and vinegar chips; a long-anticipated vacation makes it easier to put money away into savings; knowing where I want my business to be by the end of the year forces me to make the tough decisions. A plan gives focus to your quiet time. In an already hectic world, this is critical. A plan gives you the ability to focus in, and then allow the things you are learning to build on each other over time.
Start there: What’s your goal? Before you answer, may I encourage you to avoid a huge mistake I made along the way? Your goal should not be studying the Bible simply for the sake of checking it off the list, or for the sake of knowledge. Start with a goal about God, not about yourself. When that fundamental shift happened in my mind, it changed the way I connected with scripture. When I made it my focus learning about Him, the lover of my soul, I became fascinated with His ways.
Once your goal is established, choose something you personally are interested in. Many people will tell you what their favourite books of the Bible are, or what studies impacted them, but none of those people are you. It’s ok to study something based on interest – perhaps the Spirit is leading you to something you really need to hear. I felt intrigued by the Old Testament, and so I started there. I started with narratives, not prophetic books, because I wanted to truly understand how God worked in those crazy stories we learned about as kids. If you select something you’re truly interested in, chances are you’ll stick with it longer than you would something that didn’t pique your interest.
I wasn’t joking earlier when I brought up Hamlet. At this point, you’re all fired up to set a goal and make your study selection, however, the part that you need to steady yourself for is the Shakespeare-component. You heard me – the part of studying the Bible that is tough. The part of studying the Bible that requires you to put on your “ancient peoples” glasses and read through their lenses. The part of studying the Bible that feels more like trudging through Shakespeare than it does a daily devotional. That’s ok, we all experience this. I want to personally encourage you to stick to the plan, even when things aren’t making sense, or you feel like you’ve lost sight of the meaning. Be patient with yourself and allow time to grow in knowledge and understanding. Although studying the Bible isn’t rocket science per se, it does require hard work. It requires you to show up and let the Spirit do His work in your heart and life. It requires you to dig in and show some grit. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy or that it will be a slam-dunk every time you sit down to study. But what I can promise you is that if you develop (and then stick to) a plan, and repeat that process over and over, your relationship with your Creator will be the richest relationship you’ve ever experienced and studying may just get easier over time. Your knowledge will grow, and your closeness to the Saviour will become the dearest thing to you. It may feel like you’re studying Shakespeare sometimes, but I promise, it’s worth it.
By Josie Peters
Josie Peters is a business owner, wife, and advocate for the modern woman to help her understand the word of God as she navigates the different seasons of life. Her passion is for women to be equipped for the battle and transformed for Christ, experiencing Him in three-dimensions and technicolor. Born in Cape Town and raised in Canada, this global perspective is something she brings in to both work and ministry. She and her husband Josiah both work in the design industry and enjoy the everyday stuff of marriage, travelling, and seeking to grow closer to God as they live life together.