As Christians, reading and understanding the Bible is key to growing in our understanding of God – and important if we want to deepen and grow our relationships with Him. But many of us aren’t exactly sure of how to do that.
I get it. I’ve been there. It’s hard knowing where to start. It’s hard knowing what something means – or where to go to find out. Add everything else you’re doing with all your many roles – a wife, a mom, an employee, a PTO volunteer, chaffeur, family activity coordinator, vacation planner, to name just a few – and it’s easier to quit before you even attempt to even try! There’s only so much time in a day, right?
But when we apply God’s Word to our hearts, we add rich fuel to our souls. And if we want strength and wisdom and direction for our marriages and our kids and everything else we’re doing – understanding the Bible can’t be optional.
We have to start somewhere. So scan this list and choose one you’ll tackle this week, or for a couple of weeks. Got it down? Pick another one. You’ll find your understanding of the Bible quickly gaining altitude.
10 Simple Steps to Better Understand the Bible
1. Choose a different translation.
Sometimes we get stuck in habits or preferences that no longer help us or make us better, and our Bible study can experience the same type of limbo. If you find your eyes glaze over every time you try to sit down and read your Bible, a trip to your local Christian bookstore may be part of the solution. The first time I ever successfully read through the Bible in a year, I used the Message translation. While not a literal interpretation but a paraphrase, the contemporary language gave me fresh eyes and helped me be open to what God wanted to show me. I grew deeper that year in my desire to understand God’s Word and spend more time reading it, and that excitement carried over in the years that have followed.
2. Read to enjoy before trying to understand.
When you haven’t spent much time reading the Bible, it can be difficult to understand certain sections or specific books when you first start. Get in a habit of reading before you attempt any studying. Develop the habit of a regular Bible reading time first, before you try breaking down what a specific word means, or understanding what the Greek or Hebrew root actually refers to. Once reading feels natural to you, asking questions and finding answers will come much easier.
3. Try chunks before chapters.
If you’re not really a reader to begin with (less than 1% of Americans are!), telling yourself you need to read 5 chapters a day of the Bible may not work for you. So read in chunks. Pick 10 verses, or 5, or 20. The goal is to start somewhere.
4. Use a journal.
We all vary in ways we like to learn, and for some, writing or copying things down is one way you can better focus and remember something. Find or purchase a little spiral-bound notebook you can use as a scripture journal. Each time you sit down to read your Bible, write down one or two scriptures that make an impression on you. Include what God says to you through those verses and why they’re so meaningful.
5. Read by topic.
If reading through the Bible in a year seems overwhelming, than start by reading portions of the Bible on a topic that interests you most. There are many topical reading plans available online, or in books that offer lists of scriptures. Maybe you need scriptures that can apply to your life as a busy mom, or you’re dealing with fear and want to know what God’s Word says about that. Here are a few to get you started:
6. Start with one specific book.
If reading the entire Bible sounds completely overwhelming and impossible with your schedule, than start with one book. Read the Gospel of John, or Genesis or Exodus, the Psalms or the book of Proverbs (with 31 chapters, you could read one chapter a day in a month).
7. Ask questions. When you read something you aren’t sure about, or one question you have leads to another, don’t be afraid to ask someone for an answer. I have a dear friend who is a fairly new believer. She often feels intimidated by others in her Sunday school class. She thinks everyone must know more about the Bible than she does, so she’s always reluctant to ask a question when she doesn’t understand something. But asking questions helps us find the answers. Ask your pastor, ask your Sunday school teacher, ask Google (but be cautious – not every source on the Internet is a good one – contrary to the commercial that says if it’s on the Internet, it must be true!) Some good websites to go to for research and references: BibleGateway.com, Bible.org, BibleStudyTools.com, StudyLight.org, and BibleHub.com.
8. Use a devotional. Sometimes it’s helpful to start with using a devotional – there are many out there to choose from, with a wide range of topics. Some have one author, some have many. Some focus on specific topics like parenting or marriage; others aren’t so specific. A good devotional will focus on specific scripture, and then share a story or thought for the day that helps offer life application in reference to that scripture. Try to avoid devotionals that simply tell stories and try to fit a scripture in just for the sake of fitting a scripture in. When we approach reading God’s Word, we want to read it for what it says – not for what we want to try and make it say. My favorite devotional I’ve repeatedly used over the years, and am using this year is My Utmost for His Highest but there are many worth trying. Ask your friends what they’re using.
9. Pray for understanding. Before you begin reading, take a moment and pray for God to help you read what He wants you to learn. Ask Him for eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart open to receiving His Word for your life. Expect to learn from what you read – and be ready to act on it! If praying to God doesn’t come easy for you, or you’re not exactly sure what to say, or how to pray, then I hope you’ll come back for my next post. We’re going to talk about 7 Ways Busy Women Find Time to Pray.
10. Apply scripture to memory.
If you have no time to sit down and read on a regular basis, then make time each day to focus on one scripture verse and put it to memory. Use notecards and keep a scripture verse in your car, or on your bathroom mirror, or on the refrigerator in your kitchen, where you can be reminded. Or do what I do, and use an app. My favorite scripture memory app is Scripture Typer. I’ve used it while waiting in the doctor’s office, or sitting in my car in the car line, waiting to pick up my son. We can find what works for us, when we make Bible learning a priority for our lives.
Has this list been helpful for you? What else would you add? If you know a friend who is struggling to find time to read or better understand the Bible, please share this post with them! And if you haven’t signed up to be one of my subscribers, let me invite you to do that now, so you can be sure you won’t miss a post.