Are You Stuck in Your Bible Reading?
Getting stuck is easy. Getting unstuck is often painfully hard.
This is true in many areas of our human experience. We can get stuck on our weight loss journey, and it takes difficult and intentional decisions to get back on track again. We can get stuck in our careers, which might require a big, scary move to keep us pursuing our professional goals. We can get stuck on our financial goals—an unexpected expense happens, or it’s time for a vacation, or we get downsized—and then we have painful decisions to make.
Stuck-ness can happen in every aspect of life, from fitness to finances to faith. It is not hard to get stuck in our thinking, habits, and day-to-day-ness. It doesn’t take much effort or even awareness to get stuck.
Sometimes, we can get even stuck in our Bible reading.
Many of us kick off the new year with a renewed commitment to read through the Bible. We get through Genesis and Exodus (fascinating books, by the way!). And then, something happens. Busyness. Laziness. Loss of motivation. Or maybe we get to some of the more challenging books in the Old Testament, and before long, that daily Bible reading drifts into something sporadic or even non-existent. Sometimes schedules change, vacations happen, work projects get challenging, the kids are home from school for the summer. All of these things and more can disrupt our Bible reading habits.
Is that Bible reading app taunting you with notifications of days missed? Is that printed reading schedule catching your eye to remind you how long it’s been?
Regardless of why we are stuck or how long it’s been, we can get unstuck. Here are some simple strategies to help us get back into reading God’s Word.
Let go of guilt
If you are list-maker like I am, it doesn’t take long to spiral into feelings of guilt when we miss a few deadlines. That guilt keeps us stuck—stuck in our regrets, stuck in missed opportunities, stuck in shame.
If you are feeling guilty about falling behind in your Bible reading, please hear this: forgive yourself! While that nagging guilt may have created the spark of desire to reengage in reading the Bible, the devil wants to pile up that guilt to squelch your good intentions.
God still wants to meet you through His Word. While we may have set the Bible aside for a minute, it is still alive and ready to speak to you. Let go of guilt and jump back in.
Change things up
Recently, I was helping my oldest son get his truck out of the mud. That truck was really stuck—wheels spinning, mud flying, the works. We winched and we pulled with very little success. After some time, I realized that what we were doing simply wasn’t going to get the truck unstuck no matter how hard we tried. So, we shifted our strategy, and before long, he was back on the road.
The often-repeated adage attributed to Albert Einstein is right: insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get a different result. When we get stuck in our Bible reading, changing things up may create the momentum we need to get us moving again.
If you have been reading the Bible in the morning and your schedule now makes that more difficult, try adjusting your Bible reading to lunchtime or before bed. Instead of reading the Bible, try listening to the Bible on your commute or as you drive kids around to activities. If you’ve been reading it on your phone or tablet, try reading in a printed Bible.
There is not a perfect formula to reading the Bible. Changing our approach can help us see things with new eyes and experience the beauty of the Bible in surprising and unexpected ways.
Venture off the plan
Bible reading plans are extremely helpful. They can help keep us disciplined in our Bible reading and on pace to read through the Bible over a defined period of time.
Yet, if we fall behind, these plans can lead to getting very stuck in our Bible reading. It is easy to believe that we will never catch up without reading chapters upon chapters everyday, which seems impossible. We start on a downward spiral of stuck-ness and guilt.
If you’ve fallen off your Bible reading plan and feel like you can never catch up again, don’t give up. Instead, venture off the plan. Pick up your Bible and start reading in a completely new spot. Give yourself a week to read through the Gospel of John, or read the letter from James from beginning to end at one time, or commit to reading one chapter a day from Proverbs for a month.
Set the plan aside and just jump back in somewhere to reading your Bible. Remember, there is no perfect formula or only a single way to read the Bible. As someone who has some experience with getting stuck, I can tell you that just getting started can make all the difference!
Return to something familiar
Sometimes we get stuck in our Bible reading because our Bible reading plan or schedule has us reading in more difficult sections of the Bible. More than a few would-be Bible readers started the new year with every intention to read through the Bible but got lost in Leviticus. Their best-laid plans died off with the Israelites wandering in the wilderness.
There is tremendous value in reading the Bible from beginning to end to understand the grand storyline of God’s redemptive story. But if you are really struggling with the portion of Scripture that you’re reading, take a break and read something familiar, like a Psalm. Sure, it may take you a little longer to read Leviticus or make your way through Revelation, but it would be better to take a break and read something familiar than to get completely stuck—and give up—in your Bible reading.
Look for ways to get caught up on your reading schedule
If you have fallen behind on your reading schedule and want to get caught up, it is possible. You may have to get creative, but most of us can find simple ways to find reading time. In addition to your normal Bible reading habits, try listening to the Bible. Cut out a little bit of TV time or social media scrolling. Wake up 15 minutes early. Read your Bible while you eat lunch. Simple, intentional decisions like these will help you find time to read more of the Bible during the day and get caught up on your reading schedule.
Most read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year schedules require 15-20 minutes of Bible reading a day. So even if you are an entire month behind, if you can find an extra 15 minutes a day for only a few weeks you can easily get caught up and back on schedule. Getting stuck doesn’t mean that you can’t get back on track.
Go big rather than bite-sized
A lot of our Bible reading is in small, bite-sized bits. Many Bible readers tend to consume the Bible in small sections at a time, such as a chapter, a few verses, or maybe just a verse of the day.
One of the best things you can do to jumpstart a renewed passion for Bible reading is to read big sections of the Bible. Think about reading an entire book of the Bible at one time, or at least large sections of longer books. Reading big sections of the Bible, as opposed to small bits, helps us see the big story, catch themes that are woven throughout the Bible, understand the broader context, and position ourselves to let God’s Word to speak to us on its own terms.
Want to get unstuck in your Bible reading? Set aside one day a week to invest a longer period of time to go big in your Bible reading. Keep reading all week, but then on Saturday morning you can invest the time to read an entire book of the Bible at one sitting. It will change how you engage with the Bible and how the Bible speaks to you.
Let’s get unstuck
Regardless of why or how long you’ve been stuck in your Bible reading, I want you know there is hope. Don’t give up! Make the decision today to take an intentional step to get back into the Word. And while we may have left the Bible sitting unread, it will always welcome us back—because it is living and active. Its pages still contain the very words of God, who wants to speak life and love and hope and truth into your life.
Is it time to get unstuck? Then get your Bible and jump right in!
by Michael Gunnin, Walk Thru the Bible’s Chief Growth Officer