When Bible reading’s a chore.
I used to rush through my Bible reading like a chore. When I remembered it.
It took many years for it to become enough of a true habit to bring me joy—consistently. The good news is that after many years of reading my Bible—even when I sometimes didn’t feel like it—this became a time I now really look forward to. It also became a habit I could pass on to my kids.
Joe Stowell writes in “Sweeter than Honey” that he reads his Bible until he finds something the Lord is telling him for that day. That seemed like a great idea but a little impractical with the many things in my life. Until I tried it.
When I first read of Stowell’s practice, I was reading Leviticus. The next morning I skeptically said to God as I began, “Good luck, Lord. I’m in Leviticus.”
God amazed me. The text I was reading detailed all of God’s requirements for the regalia of Aaron as God’s new high priest. It suddenly hit me that Aaron was between 85 and 90 years old when he began the career that defined his life.
That realization was extremely relevant to me. I was beginning a new phase of life, after forced early retirement from a job I loved.
I have been a teacher my whole life. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE teaching. Being forced to leave my college during a downsizing caused me great grief. And the state of the academic market made me realize my full-time teaching days are over.
I knew I should not think of the past years as the best years of my life. But it was tempting.
God encouraged me through this text to see the enormous possibilities of how he will bless me and use me in the years ahead. If I am looking to him. Reading my Bible regularly is a huge part of this. This blessing came through my reading of Leviticus. Go figure.
What do you do when Bible reading’s a chore?
Try asking God to speak a meaningful word to you for the day through your Bible reading.
Think of the times God has given you delight through his Word. Were they times in a Bible study, in a worship service, with friends, or alone during a time of deep struggle of trying to find God’s will? Or sharing Bible stories with your kids?
Sometimes it’s tempting to think that we only need the Bible during special times or that he only speaks to us through it occasionally. But what if every day we honestly ask him to speak a word to us that day? What could happen if we listen for that?
My experiences are not usually as dramatic as on that jolting day in Leviticus. But I have found much more consistent daily encouragement since I started looking for it.
When Bible reading’s a chore, maybe we need to ask God how to change that for us.
What A Wrinkle in Time gets right is that scripture is essential in the lives of children. And that parents need to bring scripture directly into their children’s lives.
Meg’s dad may not have been adept in his use of Romans 8:28 with her. Especially since she was angry at him for botching her tessering and causing her so much pain.
Romans 8:28 is probably one of the most often poorly used Bible passages, and Meg’s dad’s use was no exception. Meg needed time to recover physically and emotionally before hearing this scripture from her dad. She was angry and needed to simmer down first.
But the passage was spot on from his perspective:
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)
He had just rescued Meg from the stunningly hypnotic power of IT and enabled the trio to find a way to rescue Charles. He was trusting that he was called by God and that God would use even negative events to serve his overarching purpose.
We may not approve of Madeleine L’Engle’s unorthodox ways of incorporating scripture into her fantasy characters’ lives. But we need to admire a father who calls his daughter’s attention to scripture in times of crisis.
I sometimes got pretty tired of my dad’s reading James 1 with me when people picked on me in junior high. My daughters have also admitted that they sometimes had a hard time relating to the scriptures I shared with them when praying through difficulties.
But James 1 stuck with me. At one point I had it memorized in several versions. It is still one of my favorite passages.
A daughter I shared countless passages with during her struggles came to me later with a request: “Mom, can you write down for me all the Bible passages you’ve shared with me?”
—What? Why? How am I supposed to remember them all?
I hadn’t even known at the time that the passages had helped her.
I knew she had a friend going through extremely serious struggles. It turned out she wanted to write these passages on index cards for her friend. She wanted to comfort her with them as they had comforted her. God’s use of his word in my daughter’s life, even when I hadn’t known it, amazed me.
I’m sure that by the end of the novel Meg’s dad would also have heard a much more positive response from Meg on Romans 8:28. By then Meg saw how everything did work out and that the negative event was a powerful learning experience in the triumph.
Meg would have seen with twenty-twenty hindsight that her dad had been seeing with eyes of faith. The tricky thing is that eyes of faith require faith–and have no proof.
How scary it is to speak words of faith into our children’s lives, when we really don’t know how God will work.
We just know he will. And that’s what A Wrinkle in Time gets right.
When God is silent.
What happens when God doesn’t answer our prayers? The Bible tells us that God always hears us, but sometimes we get absolutely no response to our prayers. God is silent. My friends and family have often heard me complain that I wish God would send a banner down from heaven to tell me what to do. I always feel certain that I want to do God’s will. I always believe I just need to know for sure what it is. But God has never worked that way for me.
However, I have had a few crazy stories of God answering my prayers instantly in the way I wanted him to.
Like the time early in our marriage when our washing machine sometimes worked for the spin cycle and just as often did not. Two mechanics could find nothing wrong and suggested we buy a new machine. We did not have extra money to spend on a washing machine, especially one we might not even need. But I was sick of having to wring clothes out by hand and have them in the dryer for what felt like forever.
So out of exasperation I prayed that God would please make the machine either never work properly again or never malfunction again until we needed to buy a new one. Ten minutes later the machine worked perfectly, as it did consistently for six more years. Wow. Sweet! If only I could always get God to answer my prayers like that.
Unfortunately, too often it feels uncertain whether God is answering or not.
When a friend is struggling in a marriage or a loved one is gravely ill, God can even seem to answer with positive signs and then follow with negative results. Or sometimes nothing changes at all. The waiting can drain me and make me feel angry at God.
Too often I identify with C. S. Lewis’s description of pounding at the door of God and feeling that God heartlessly hears and ignores the pounding.
What these experiences show is that often God wants me to listen to him in a new way.
Usually my waiting and listening produce growth–when I actually keep looking to God during my waiting. When God is silent, I need to keep looking at him, knowing he is working. I just can’t see his work yet then. Then, during my waiting, he usually produces a much better answer than what I had originally requested.
For instance, I didn’t know that my daughter’s struggles in her school would lead us to switch her to a far better school for her. We never would have considered doing that if God had answered our prayers by simply fixing the bad situations.
Years later, we prayed that God would end the continuing crises in my family. He didn’t, but I saw huge personal growth. My growth came through my stronger dependence on God and my sense of peace about his plans for my life.
Often when God is silent in my life, he is actually saying to me, “Be still, my child, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).