If reading the Bible is supposed to be such a joyful habit, then how come so many people actually experience this joy? Are you broken if you don’t feel joy? Or how do you get this joy to last past that first big distraction that hits, like “I forgot to wash the baby’s bottle,” or “I didn’t email my report to my boss,” or “How did I run out of coffee creamer?”
True story. I once broke our coffee pot before I had a chance to make coffee. I didn’t get a chance to go buy a new carafe until that evening. As I’m checking out, the cashier had the audacity to ask, “Are you having a nice day?”
I glanced between her and my one item. I responded, “Well, I have to buy a new coffee pot. How do you think my day is going?”
That first cup of coffee on that day was a joyous occasion. It didn’t provide long lasting joy, however. Within two days, my broken carafe was a distant memory and I was even criticizing the coffee being made in the new one. Turns out that replacement carafes effect the speed that coffee brews. I didn’t know that.
What I do know is that the Bible is meant to bring long-lasting, eternal joy. So let’s trouble-shoot some problem areas for why that’s not your experience.
There’s five main reasons that you don’t experience joy from reading the Bible:
- It’s an obligation instead of an act of worship (read more)
- You need to know more about the Bible’s story to see its beauty (read more)
- You know the passage too well and no longer see the beauty (read more)
- You overlook the symbolism that links passages together (read more)
- You aren’t treasuring it enough (read more)
Reason #1 Your Bible Reading isn’t Bringing Joy – You’ve Made it Into an Obligation Instead of Worship
Ouch – does that sting anybody else like it does me?
It’s true though. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to check off Bible Study from our daily to-do list that we overlook the true purpose. The Bible is meant to reveal God and His glory to us. It tells a story about a Creator who made people in His image to glorify His name.
Those people rebelled against the Creator. We still rebel. The rest of the 1,186 chapters tell about how that Creator offered New Life to His Creation through His own mercy and blood. This New Life restores purpose back to humans. That purpose is the same as it was in the beginning: to worship Him.
The Bible is designed to inspire worship. It does this in so many ways. However, if we don’t approach it with this mindset in place, we will miss the opportunity to be astounded at God. We won’t feel a need to worship as long as we’re just trying to get our three chapters out of the way.
Solutions: Prepare your heart for worship. Ask God to soften your heart to His Word and to astound you. Make notes about how the passage reveals God’s greatness.
Reason #2 Your Bible Reading Isn’t Bringing You Joy – You Lack the Knowledge to Understand It
That being said, there really is something necessary about being familiar with the Scripture. A lot of people like to hang out with Jesus in the four gospel accounts or camp out with Paul in the New Testament. The brave might start to read through the entire Bible. However, we all know the joke about getting stuck in Leviticus.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that people struggle right when their knowledge from previous Sunday School lessons ends? Familiarity with the content helps us find God within the passage so that we can better worship Him.
Now, I’m not going to claim that I can read the census in Deuteronomy or the laws for the priesthood and gain a lot from it. However, the entire Bible builds upon and connects within itself. Knowledge of all parts improves your understanding.
In fact, you cannot truly understand Paul’s writings unless you understand the events and prophetic passages that he is referencing. You’ll miss how God wrote one large narrative through many authors if you don’t understand how many prophecies and events foreshadowed the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Solutions: Read it fast to absorb a greater view of a book of the Bible. Read it slow so you can write down your questions to seek out answers. Immerse yourself in books and Bible study that familiarize you with the content of the whole Bible.
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Reason #3 Your Bible Reading Isn’t Bringing You Joy – You’re too Familiar with It
Wait, what? I know, it’s confusing. You should take care that you don’t mentally check out while reading a passage that you think you’re familiar with. If you do this, you are basically giving yourself permission not to be impacted by God’s Word.
Sometimes, we also become so familiar with a specific story from the Bible that we forget how it connects to the entire saga. For example, many of us know the story of humanity’s fall into sin. We know that Adam and Eve were cursed with having to labor for food and to labor for children. (Thanks, guys!)
We also know that God allowed them to live. It’s very easy to forget that in the middle of the curses, there’s also a promise that a future human will one day crush the snake/Satan (Genesis 3:15). By the time you get around to the gospels, it’s easy to forget that Jesus is that snake crusher. On the very day that eternal death entered the world, God provided hope of eternal life.
Solutions: Slow way down. Read just a few verses at a time if you need to. Spend a few minutes reflecting on what passages might connect to the one you just read. Alternatively, try memorizing a chunk of the passage.
Reason #4 Your Bible Reading Isn’t Bringing You Joy – You’re Overlooking the Symbolism
A lot of people today dislike poetry. They don’t get the symbolism, the verse structure, or why certain metaphors were used. The funny thing about poetry is that it’s always going to be hard when you first begin to read. However, we learn to understand poetry by reading lots of poetry. In other words, learning to appreciate poetry is a lot like reading the Bible.
I’m bringing up poetry because the symbolism is a crucial element that people find difficult. However, by the time you’ve read a lot of poetry, you see how some symbols get shared and referenced between different poems.
Before you know it, your brain automatically translates metaphors like a well-watered tree beside a stream to mean both the most productive and peaceful life one could live. This life is only possible when a person has centered their life around the words of God which bring eternal life.
Oh wait. That’s a symbol from the Bible, not poetry. Silly me. The point is there. Psalm 1 uses beautiful symbols to communicate its truth, but the symbols gain additional meaning as you see how other areas of the Bible use them. Jesus spoke of salvation as eternal water when speaking to the woman at the well. Meanwhile, a tree planted in a fertile area only has to grow good roots to have everything it needs. Oh yes, did you know that God talks about Israel as planting a vine?
That’s only three different passages referenced. Do you see how the words and meanings of each layer on top of each other to provide one truly powerful symbol?
Solutions: Make a note of the images used in prophecies so you can begin to see how they build on each other. Use a themed Bible Study or do a keyword search to see how other parts of the Bible use the same symbol.
Reason #5 Your Bible Reading Isn’t Bringing You Joy – You aren’t Treasuring God’s Word
I also almost titled this as “you aren’t letting it be carved onto your heart.” Either way, it explains why joy isn’t long-lasting. Even the most disciplined Christian will face distractions that steal their attention from God’s Word. We are redeemed people who are still bound to a sinful world. We still have a predator that wants to devour our hope and joy (1 Peter 5:8).
We have to contend with spiritual warfare, including distractions. This means that we understand things aren’t always going to go smoothly. We’re going to remember a thousand things that we haven’t done. Our children are going to fall down and get hurt. There’s going to be a knock at the door.
We also have natural weaknesses, such as an inability to cram too much into our mind at a time or a need to sleep. Not everybody can focus as soon as they wake up to start their day with Bible study. Some people get naturally foggy ally focus just because they are starting at the page of their Bible.
These things mean we need to extend grace to ourselves. If you are having a day where Bible study isn’t going smoothly, then take it back to the heart of the matter by addressing your heart’s greatest need. This is the need to worship God.
At the same time, God’s word should be our treasure. This means there is a certain amount of discipline needed to honor the Bible as a treasure. Think of it as fighting for something valuable (because it is). This also means we need to recognize the danger of distractions. They take our attention either from reading the Bible or act as a delete button in our brain.
We cannot change the fact that we will face distractions. We can work on building habits into our life that help us retain and treasure God’s word throughout the day. Treasuring His Word allows Him to carve it onto our hearts. This means our hearts will become a spring of Eternal Water that allow joy bubble up throughout our day.
Solutions: Find a daily time that to be your usual Bible study period. Seek to apply God’s Word immediately to your life. Pause throughout your day to remember the passage that you read earlier. You don’t want to flush God’s word down the toilet of your life, but bathroom breaks can make a good moment to pause and reflect. Memorize an especially meaningful verse.
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