Even if you know the benefits of regular Bible reading and the difference it can make in your life, the Bible can be hard to read. You might find that it’s hard to understand or that it’s boring. You might even feel guilty thinking that you shouldn’t feel this way about God’s Word.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why the Bible is hard to read. After that, I’ll share 7 tips that have helped me through many years of reading the Bible and helping others do the same.
Why Is It so Hard to Read the Bible?
Anything worthwhile takes effort. It’s hard to learn a new language, to lose weight, or to change a habit. Some of the reasons that reading the Bible is hard are similar to anything that you try: life gets busy, you don’t see progress, or you lose sight of the motivation that got you started.
There are also some things that are unique to the Bible that make it hard to read and understand.
The Bible is a large book, a collection of 66 books, written by about 40 authors over a period of 1600 years. It’s originally written in 3 different languages and includes several literary genres.
The variety and scope of the Bible make it a challenging book to read. One moment, you can be reading poetry in the psalms, then the next, you might be reading one of the prophetical books with a lot of metaphors and a historical background that might be foreign to you.
Here are 7 tips that will help you to engage with the Bible when you’re having trouble reading the Bible. They range from motivational to practical tips to help remove some of the roadblocks that keep you from enjoying and benefiting from God’s Word. Try several of them to see which ones are the most helpful.
7 Tips That Help When You’re Struggling to Read the Bible
1. Check Your Vision and Your Motives
Ask yourself: Why am I reading the Bible? Remind yourself what made you want to read the Bible. Was it because you had a spiritual hunger? As with anything, you have to remind yourself of the vision every once in a while.
Here’s an article where I look at some of the benefits of reading and studying the Bible. You can see if one of the reasons resonates with you: 21 Valuable Benefits of Studying God’s Word (link opens in a new window) It can help reignite your vision for why you wanted to read the Bible in the first place.
Ask yourself: Do I feel pressure to read the Bible? Do I feel shame and guilt when I don’t enjoy reading it? It’s true that God brings conviction to do the right thing. Sometimes, it’s not God, but your own guilt or shame that puts the pressure on yourself.
Is it possible that you’re reading the Bible out of legalism? Are you trying to get God to like you more if you read the Bible? Read it instead because God already likes you. What Jesus did on the cross proves it (Heb. 12:2).
Read it for the right reasons, then you’ll have the vision and strength to go through seasons when it’s not so exciting. It can be the very thing that gives you strength when you come to face trials in life. What you read now can be the thing that Holy Spirit brings to your mind at a later time.
God is not running a Bible-reading contest from heaven. If you feel like the pressure to read and enjoy the Bible is hindering you, try some of the tips below to help you remove those roadblocks in your journey of Bible reading.
2. Read Another Part of the Bible
If you’re not in a Bible reading contest, there are no rules that force you to read the Bible from cover-to-cover. There’s no rule that says you have to read a certain book of the Bible or in a particular order.
Try reading another part of the Bible. If you’re reading the Old Testament, try reading somewhere in the New Testament. If you’re stuck in a historical book, try reading some of the poetic books like Psalms or Proverbs.
All of the Bible is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and is useful for you. Feel free to explore and find a book that you enjoy.
Through different seasons of your life, you’ll find that certain books of the Bible resonate with you more. Read the parts that you enjoy right now. It’s good to be stretched, grow, and try new things, but it’s also okay to stay where you are at the moment and take your time to receive the full benefits.
If you have a favorite book of the Bible, it’s okay to read it again instead of going to a new book. When you’re ready, branch out from that book. For example, if you enjoy reading one of the Gospels like Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, try reading the Book of Acts that picks up the story of Jesus’ Disciples and the early church.
3. Read a Different Translation of the Bible
What translation of the Bible are you reading? The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Greek, and a little bit of Aramaic. The Bible that you’re reading is a translation.
Several factors come into play when the Bible is translated. When was it translated? The King James Version, or KJV for short, was written in the 1600s. That’s why it has English words from that era. You’ll probably enjoy reading the Bible a lot more if you use a newer translation.
Some translations are more word-for-word translations like the NASB, ESV, and NKJV. Other translations are thought-for-thought making them sometimes easier to read in English like the NIV and NLT. There are also some that are paraphrases (The Message, the Living Bible).
I use more word-for-word translations for my in-depth Bible study. For my every-day reading, I enjoy the ESV but sometimes appreciate the NLT because it flows a bit more smoothly.
I usually suggest the ESV as a good starting point for a general reading Bible, but if you’re struggling to read the Bible, I recommend you give the New Living Translation (NLT) [link to Amazon – check out the reviews] a try. It is easier to read and can be just the boost you need to make Bible reading more enjoyable.
4. Make It Personal: Apply the Bible
Even the Bible becomes boring if it doesn’t apply to you. It can feel like you’re reading about random events and ideas if it isn’t meaningful to you. Things are boring when they don’t make a difference in your life.
The most important point of reading the Bible is to encounter Jesus, the living Word of God, through the Bible, the written Word of God.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.John 5:39-40 (ESV)
Make the point of reading the Bible to meet with God. Personalize the Bible and read it as God’s Word to you personally. If you read the Bible with the goal of applying it to your life, you will approach it with a whole new perspective.
One simple way to apply the Bible is to ask yourself: “What does God want me to do according to this passage?”
|What does God want me to do according to this passage?|
|* Is there a Sin to confess?|
* Is there a Promise to claim as my own?
* Is there an Example to follow?
* Is there a Command to obey with a joyful heart?
The main words in each question are the initials S.P.E.C. and can help you remember them.
Also, approach the Bible as a way to experience God. For example, if you’re stuck in the book of Exodus, connect the story of how God delivered the people of Israel with how God has delivered you. What lessons can you apply to your life? In what ways can you be thankful for His deliverance?
Also, ask yourself: Who can I share this with? Share the insights and stories that you’re reading in the Bible with someone today. It can be a tremendous blessing to you and to the person you share it with.
Make the Bible personal and apply it to your life and it can become a great source of God’s Wisdom for your day.
5. Listen to the Bible
If you’re stuck in your Bible reading, try listening to the Bible instead.
When you listen to the Bible, it can take on a whole new meaning or give you a fresh perspective on the flow of thoughts.
You can listen online with sites like ESV.org. Many Bible apps also offer audio along with the text. My favorite Bible app is Bible.is because it lets me download the audio files ahead of time onto my phone so I can listen anytime. I like to listen to the ESV dramatized version of the Bible while I’m going about my day.
6. Memorize Bible Verses
When you’re having a hard time reading and understanding the Bible, try memorizing it. Memorize a short or long passage of the Bible and think about it throughout the day.
Don’t feel like you have to be rushed and go to a new verse or chapter every day. Feel free to hang out there for a few days, weeks, or even months. Remember, the point is to encounter God and let Him change your life, not check off boxes on a Bible reading chart.
Memorizing Bible verses is a great way to hide God’s Word in your heart (Col. 3:16). You can think about it anytime. It’s like a pot of stew that’s been simmering on the stove for hours. Memorizing the Bible lets you keep the Word close to your mind and heart so you can understand and apply it to your life.
Unless it’s your homework assignment to read the Bible, there’s no timeline or timelimit. It’s better to read one verse over and over again and think about what it means and to pray and ask God for insight than to move on quickly.
Memorize it. Think of who you can share it with and do it. Think of ways that you can apply it to your life.
7. Study the Bible Instead of Reading It in Passing
One of the reasons the Bible is hard to read is because of the historical, language, and cultural gap between when it was written and your life today. On a side note, it’s amazing how long ago the Bible was written and it is still changing people’s lives all over the world!
One way to bridge the gap is to do a little bit more in-depth study to understand the background story of the book you’re reading. When you understand the setting, the people involved, the problems they were facing, you can connect with it better. It begins to matter to you and you begin to connect it to your life.
One resource that I highly recommend is: Unlocking the Bible: A Unique Overview of the Whole Bible (You can check out the reviews on this link to Amazon). It gives an explanation of every book of the Bible and helps you see how all the books fit together to tell one grand story. Be sure to get the book and not the companion volume that only has diagrams, charts, and images. The covers look very similar.
For example, if you’re reading one of the Epistles, or letters, in the New Testament, such as the book of Philippians, it can be helpful to know that Paul is writing this letter of joy from prison. He is writing to the people in a church that he started on one of his missionary journeys. What problems were they facing? How does this apply to your life?
I like to take one or two books of the Bible per year and study them really slowly. The pace is up to you. Feel free to set a goal, but start somewhere and you can always adjust it as you go.
If you want some ideas on how to go deeper in studying the Bible, here are 11 Ways to Study the Bible: Methods, Techniques & Tips (link opens in a new window). In that post, I share a variety of different ways to study the Bible so you can find the way that works best for you.
Encounter God Through His Word
In Matt. 13:1-23, Jesus tells his Disciples a parable about a Sower who goes out to sow seeds. The seed is God’s Word. The soil is your heart.
There is an enemy that comes to try to snatch the seed away. The cares of this life will try to choke it out. But God’s invitation to you is to receive and understand His Word so that you can know the joy of having a relationship with Him.
If you’re experiencing spiritual dullness, ask God to restore the first-love that you had before. Commit to follow Him and take time to cultivate a vibrant life in God. I pray that your time in God’s Word will be a source of great joy and wisdom for you.
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)
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|If you found this article to be helpful, here are a few others that I think you will enjoy:|
Can you use encouragement from God’s Word? Encouraging Bible Verses for Strength, Comfort, Perseverance. In it, I share 21 verses from God’s Word that encourage, inspire, and bring a fresh perspective.
25 Most Powerful Bible Verses: How to Apply Them to Your Life. These verses will help you experience God’s power, so you can personally know His peace, joy, and comfort. I also include practical ways that you can apply the verses to your life.
What Version of the Bible Is Easiest to Read. In this article, I explain why I recommend the New Living Translation that I mentioned above.