Do you casually flip through the Bible, hoping a verse or passage will hit you when you need it? Or do you only read Scripture as you encounter it in your daily devotional? Are you satisfied with sporadic times with God, mostly meeting him on the run?
I used to feel that way.
I used to think that a word from the Lord was rare (1 Samuel 3:1) and would cling to a few passages that had meant much to me, reading and rereading them for comfort. I knew I would occasionally find riches in the Bible, but those pearls were inconsistent and unexpected.
Scripture has long had a significant place in my life, as I came to Christ as I was reading the Bible. I had contracted polio as an infant and spent much of my childhood in the hospital. Though I grew up in a believing home, I was deeply angry at God. But when a high school friend became a Christian, I was forced to reconsider my beliefs. Flipping through the Bible, I asked God to speak to me and tell me why I got polio. I didn’t really expect an answer, but the Bible opened to John 9 and I read: “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.” (John 9: 1-3 RSV). After reading that passage, I knelt by the side of my bed and committed my life to Christ. I was 16 years old.
The following year I was struggling in my decision on where to go to college. I didn’t want to be far from my family because I didn’t know who would help me physically. I sensed God calling me to go to school out of state, but I wondered how I would make it since I could not even walk on uneven ground. As I was praying, I turned to several passages including Isaiah 42:16 “And I will lead the blind in a way that they know not, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them.” I sent in my acceptance to an out-of-state university that day.
When I arrived at college, as my parents were helping me move in, I wondered whether I’d made a mistake. I was afraid because I knew no one there. I opened the Bible and read 2 Timothy 1:7, “for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” That was all the reassurance I needed.
My first semester was difficult, and I longed to go home. I wanted to be near my family and friends. But the Lord spoke to me through Joshua 1:5: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”
Other verses meant different things to me at different times, but those stand out in my memory. For eight years after college, however, I can’t recall any specific verses that were meaningful to me. I wasn’t looking for help from God through his word. I was too busy immersing my life and identity into work and friends. My on-the-run quiet time was merely something to check off my list of daily tasks.
But my thirties brought me back to Scripture as life became difficult. A serious marriage struggle found me poring over Isaiah 55-57, asking God to restore what seemed to be breaking apart. We needed God to revive our hearts and our marriage. God was faithful, and I was amazed at the restoration he brought.
And then our son Paul died, and I clung to Isaiah 61:1-4 asking God to comfort me and bring beauty from ashes. I saw how God beautifully fulfilled that as he restored the places that felt devastated.
Six years later, when I was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, 2 Corinthians 12:9 was a source of comfort. I saw that God’s grace would always be sufficient for me as his power was made perfect through my weakness.
I loved the Bible and clung to verses that God gave me when I needed them. But sometimes it wasn’t enough. In the midst of those trials, in trying to figure out what to read, I began the discipline of a daily Bible reading plan, reading through all of Scripture. I had come to see that daily devotionals that included Scripture were not enough; I needed to encounter God through the entirety of Scripture for myself.
I had no idea how life-giving that practice would become. In 2009 when my husband left our family and my body fell apart, nothing could give me life or bring me joy or give me comfort. It was then that I turned to the Bible for everything. It was all that I had. God’s word felt like his love letter to me.
Life was so painful and so demanding that a single Scripture from three months ago was not enough to sustain me. I needed fresh manna. I needed to hear from God daily. I needed God’s comfort and wisdom and presence.
Like Jacob, who wouldn’t let God go until he blessed him, I begged God not to let me go until he spoke to me. I knew the Bible was where truth and comfort would be found. Because I had a regular reading plan, I knew exactly where to read each day so I wasn’t randomly flipping through the Bible, hoping something would grab my attention.
And without fail, God met me. Familiar passages took on new meaning and unfamiliar ones brought fresh perspective. I found a joy that I had not previously experienced so consistently in the Word.
Since then, Scripture has felt like God’s daily love letter to me; I am learning to hear God’s voice and to notice what he’s telling me. It’s a remarkable blessing and I am praying you would find that same delight in reading.
Would you prayerfully consider a Bible reading plan (the one I’m currently using is here, but there are countless other good ones) and commit to reading Scripture every day for Lent? If you are new to regular Bible reading, perhaps you want to start with small sections of Scripture, like reading through the Gospels, taking one narrative chunk at a time. Get a pen and a journal and ask God to speak to you. Pray as you read and pray what you read. I highly recommend this John Piper prayer, which he refers to as the IOUS prayer, when he approaches Scripture.
Your daily reading may not feel earth shaking. Some days it may feel dry and lifeless. But sitting with God, reading his word, asking him to show you himself, will change you. It takes discipline and practice, and growth may feel slow, but the results over time are astonishing. And this discipline will yield fruit a hundredfold when trials come.
Each day as you read, say to God: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Sam 3:9). I’d love to hear how the Lord uses it to transform you.