For the next few months, Bro. John O’Malley will be sharing with us from his book, Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles. We know that everyone can use some encouragement to stay in the Word of God on a daily basis, and we hope these articles will be a blessing to you in your walk with the Lord.
The Obstacle of Comprehension—I just do not know how to get anything out of my Bible reading.
When it comes to your Bible reading and devotional time, you get to the moment where you will meet God for the day. You open and read your Bible, and suddenly you are seeing a familiar setting (Bible open) with clear markers (books of the Bible, chapters, and verses). However, the moment you start to read the words, you realize you do not understand what is happening in the passage. When you finish reading your assigned Bible reading, you walk away without getting anything out of your time with God’s Word. It is frustrating when this happens, but Bible reading and Devotions do not have to be this way. This scenario is not what the experience is supposed to be for the believer.
When I am in a place of not knowing or getting anything out of my reservation with God, I know it is not Him. I know it is not His Word. So I feel guilty that I am not getting anything out of the Bible. Here I am a preacher, and sometimes even I feel that way.
The tips below to Overcome the Obstacle of Comprehension are what I use when I feel like I am not understanding or getting anything from my time in the Word of God.
Tip #1: Write these statements on a 3×5 card.
Put the card in your Bible or near your devotional book. Copy the words to your reading device and read them aloud before and after your quiet time.
I read the Bible to feel better, not worse.
I read the Bible to grow in grace, not in guilt.
I read the Bible to get to know the Author.
I read the Bible to become who God needs me to be for His glory.
I read the Bible not to impress others.
I read the Bible for God to make an impression on me.
Tip #2: Rest before reading.
The days I feel this way I look at my sleep schedule and consider, did I prepare for my reservation with God this morning by getting proper rest? As kids, our parents would say to us, “Get some rest! Tomorrow is a big day.” For the believer, each tomorrow is a big day. Each day I have a reservation with God. I will meet Him; He will speak to me, and I will talk to Him.
I know for many it is easy to recommend waking up earlier. That is fine if you are a morning person. Sometimes I feel like my “later at night” and my “earlier in the morning” will meet and there will be no more sleep.
You may be in a season of unrest. Your nights are filled with restlessness and thoughts of what might be coming next in your life. God works third shift. He never sleeps.
There have been many nights when I prayed the following based on thoughts of Psalm 127:
Your Word tells me you give Your children sleep. I know I am Your child. Please help my mind and body to get in sync to get some sleep. Will You please grant me sleep?
Until sleep comes, lay upon my heart someone for whom I should be praying right now.
Lord, if You chose to awake me at this hour to have me listen to You from Your Word, please speak to my heart.
Help me to have the strength I need for tomorrow.
Tip #3: Remove distractions before reading.
My preferred way to read is to have headphones on with either ocean sounds or Baroque period music playing, or instrumental only music. I do not listen to music with words during this time. The music is softly playing.
Secure a space that will allow you a moment of privacy. I know many young mothers who retreat to private areas in the home to do their Bible reading. Seek your spouse’s help to give you the haven you need to have this Quiet Time with God.
Enlist your spouse to help you find a quiet place. Ask them to assist you with what distracts you while you read. Then return the favor to them. Meet God with as few interferences as possible. After all, you have a meeting with the King of kings. Remove anything that is a distraction so you can focus on Him.
Tip #4: Reduce the quantity of verses you are reading.
I know this sounds unusual coming from a preacher. Allow me to explain. If you are in a season of your life where you are not understanding or getting anything out of your time with God and His Word, maybe you are trying to read too much. Instead of trying the marathon (reading the Bible through every six months), try reading from the Psalms each day.
For a two-year period of my life, I read just the book of Psalms for my devotions. Every month or so, I would read it through. I would read and try to imagine what the Psalmist was going through as I read. I slowed down my reading and got more from it. If it takes you five years to read through the Bible, you are not less of a Christian. Read it at a pace that you can comprehend it and receive something from it.
Tip #5: Reset your expectations.
What are the expectations you have when you read the Bible? Perhaps I can help reset them for you. When you read the Bible, you should expect at least one of these things to occur. Copy these five expectations to a notecard, put it in your Bible or on your reading device. Read them aloud before you read the Bible each day.
God will have something for me that day in His Word. I will look for it.
God will teach me a precept, a principle, or a promise. I will look for them.
God will help me discern a solution to a problem I am pondering. I will look for that solution.
God will strengthen my faith in Him. I will trust Him as a result of what I read today.
God will renew my courage to walk on with Him. I will walk today in the light of what I read.
God will convince me of how dearly I am loved. I will meditate on His love for me and the security of His love.
I encourage you to make your own list of expectations of God. Think about the things that you love to look for about God’s character and nature.
Tip #6: Read with a companion.
I would encourage you to have a companion with whom you can seek clarification or get the sense of something. If you do not understand something, how will you learn unless you ask? Do not be afraid to seek help. This companion might be:
- A trusted friend–identify someone with whom you are comfortable being spiritually vulnerable. Contact them. Tell them, “I need someone I can call when I am stuck understanding a passage. Will you be my devotional companion?”
- A spiritual adviser–your pastor, Sunday School teacher, or a deacon at church may help you as you seek clarification.
- A printed Bible reference companion book–a book that helps you understand passages in bite-sized pieces.
- A devotional commentary–a trusted author who gives the sense of the passage and teaches a principle or precept from the passage.
Tip #7: Reflect on your daily reading.
Reading without reflection causes me frustration later in the day. Reflection is pondering the words you read and then looking deeply into your soul and spirit. The time for reflection is the time when you give unrestricted access to God to adjust and remove the elements brought to light from your reading as you reflect on His Word and while the Holy Spirit works on your heart. As you first begin, give yourself thirty seconds for reflection. Work your way up to several minutes for reflecting. I think of it as a time to acknowledge what I read, appreciate what I read, and ask God to change me based on what I read.
Tip #8: Revise your reading plan.
I would not recommend the same Bible reading schedule for every season in your life. I sometimes read a plan of ten chapters a day from random books. Other times I read a plan of themes I can choose within my Bible software on my portable devices and computer. There are times I read a devotional book and its assigned reading. Try different plans of Bible reading; the variety will engage your senses and heart.
If these thoughts have been an encouragement to you, you can email Bro. O’Malley here to let him know. If you’d like to purchase the entire Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles book in PDF, Kindle, or iBooks format, click here.