Maybe it’s happened to you: you know it’s time to read your Bible but you find yourself not really wanting to. Something that you know you should feel passionate about just seems incredibly mundane. In church, we often hear the same stories told and passages preached many times over. And while it’s true that there is always something new to be learned, it can also feel like it’s just the same stuff being recycled. This pours over into our personal time in the word and we find ourselves unmotivated to actually pick up our Bible and read anything: whether it be something new or a passage we think we already know. So what can you do when reading the Bible just feels…boring?
- Try different translations. I grew up reading the King James Version. It’s like Shakespeare for scripture if you’re not familiar with it. I remember sitting in Sunday School and feeling proud when my peers complained that the Bible was just really hard for them to understand. The teachers would go into an explanation of how the Holy Spirit will open your eyes and mind and allow you to comprehend the message. As an avid reader and lifelong churchgoer reading the KJV wasn’t difficult for me. Therefore, I thought my ability to read the KJV Bible represented some kind of spiritual maturity or special closeness to the Spirit. While I never would have said it out-loud, looking back I just shake my head and sigh over younger me. So what changed? In college I began studying Spanish at a more advanced level and took beginner level classes in at least 3 other languages. My understanding of how language and translation work helped me realize that receiving things in the language you actually speak and live is totally different than hearing an antiquated version. There’s a reason so many people struggle to understand Shakespeare’s plays without help from an English teacher. If you hand me a Bible in Mandarin I will have NO earthly idea what I am reading. So why should we expect ourselves and others to read Scripture in a language they never use at any other time? At this same time, I joined a church where not everyone used the KJV! In fact, most of the girls in my small group preferred this translation called ‘ESV’. It didn’t take long for me to request an ESV study Bible for my Christmas present that year. And it totally changed the way I read the Bible. Since then I have branched out into all kinds of translations. There is wisdom and understanding the integrity of a text. The ESV is a more literal translation than say the NIV. For that reason, I weigh it a little more heavily when using both translations to prepare a lesson or even in my own reading time. But it’s also important to recognize the benefit of hearing the same thing said in a different way. When I read Luke 2 in KJV for example, it’s hard for me to actually read and not recite the entire passage. Since I have it memorized it can be easy to run through it and not really meditate on what the words are saying. But when I read Luke 2 in ESV, NIV, or even the NKJV I am suddenly able to think about the words on the page and take them in as something fresh and new. My attention can be drawn to other aspects of the text and to new details that stand out more in other versions.
- Get a New Bible. If you have been using the same Bible for the last 10 years, it might be time to get a new one. It doesn’t even have to be a new translation. But sometimes just the shift of words on the page and the freshness of a new layout can make it more exciting to dig into the word.
- Become a Kid Again. If you can’t explain something to a child, then odds are you probably don’t really understand it. Our children’s ministry recently studied the life and missionary journeys of Paul. This is stuff we all know, right? Wrong. As I was writing these stories for the children and looking for activities to help them understand I realized how many gaps there were in my own understanding. I knew about Paul’s missionary journeys: singing hymns in jail and writing letters to the churches. But truthfully, I had never studied his journeys together as small parts of a larger story. I have heard pastors preach on principles from Paul’s letters or use events in his life to take out some teaching. But no one had ever really told me the whole story! I felt deceived, shortchanged, like all my life I had been looking at pieces of a puzzle without ever being told they could all fit together or being shown the cover of the box. It wasn’t until I tried making sense of it all to teach the children that I realized how limited my own sight had been. But what I saw as I tried to teach these ‘complex’ passages to children is this: we ALL benefit from reading the Bible as a story. And the benefits only multiply if you learn to tell those stories to others (not just to kids).
- Get Creative. When I feel low on motivation to get into the word, I often turn to the Psalms. I suspect it has something to do with the nature of these writings. They tend to connect with the heart and emotions and pull them in, even when the initial desire wasn’t there to start with. However, it isn’t just the words of the Psalms that I connect with: it’s also the fact that they are rich in poetry, hymns, and praises. David himself was a skilled musician with an affinity for dancing. So why not let out your inner artist and get creative in how you read the Psalms? A friend and I in college used to do dramatic readings. We would look at the context of the Psalm and then get into character: am I David going off to war? A princess longing for her prince? A person crying out in desperation as my feet sink into a pit? It might seem silly at first, but reading this way helps you understand that Scripture is FAR from boring. It’s full of all kinds of characters, feelings, and situations that have any fairy tale beat in terms of originality.
- Sing it. There are moments where picking up your Bible and reading doesn’t just seem boring, it feels like too much. In moments of depression, shame, or deep sadness perhaps singing scripture is the best way to get our hurt back in tune with its Savior. There are many songs that literally put scripture to music. So when picking up the book seems impossible, using our voice to sing the word over ourselves and back to the Lord is a wonderful and Biblical alternative. One of my favorite songs to sing when I am feeling this way is Your Love is Strong by Jon Foreman. This one takes several parts of scripture and string them together into a coherent praise of how strong God’s love is for me and how great his provision. It often takes me from a place of apathy to one of longing for more of Him. Look for songs that include scripture and have them ready for those days when worship needs to happen where you are, and in whatever state you find yourself in.
Finally, remember that the Bible is NOT actually boring. We often see it that way because it has been presented to us something formal or limited to studying it in a specific way. But just as we all have different styles of learning we will have different styles of reading. And sometimes we just need to change things up to be reminded of how exciting scripture really is. And how amazing it is to have the gift of God’s word right here with us.