We’re halfway through 2017. If you made a New Year’s resolution to spend more time with the Bible, how is your resolution going?
Has it gone smoothly and become ingrained in your everyday routine? Or do you wince with guilt at the thought of a resolution you dropped months ago, despite the best of intentions?
Let us know in the poll below how your resolution is (or isn’t) holding up!
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A poll we conducted at the beginning of 2017 revealed that many of you hoped to make this the year you really connected to God’s Word—by reading the entire Bible (33% of respondents), reading a specific part of the Bible (18%), memorizing verses (30%), or one of several other options.
If you’re struggling to keep up with a resolution you made—or perhaps you’ve already floundered and given up—it’s not too late to salvage your resolutions, even though we’re midway through 2017! In fact, even if you’ve completely given up and nearly forgotten about the resolution you made last winter, there’s still plenty of time this year to make the Bible more central in your life (even if not in the exact way you originally resolved).
Bible reading resolutions (especially commitments to read the entire Bible) are easy to make, but can be challenging to keep. If you’ve hit a wall with a Bible reading resolution, or are on the verge of abandoning it altogether, here are a few things you can do before you throw in the towel:
1. Change up your Bible reading plan.
This is especially useful if you started reading the Bible straight through from beginning to end. While every part of the Bible is important, it’s an unfortunate reality that the first parts of the Bible (the early Old Testament books) are some of the toughest to read. For this reason, many Bible reading plans eschew the beginning-to-end approach and instead tackle the books of the Bible in different orders—for example, a reading plan might journey through the Bible books in chronological or thematic order. If you’ve stalled on a dull or difficult patch of the Old Testament, don’t drop your resolution entirely—consider switching your reading to a more accessible part of the Bible, such as the New Testament. After a few months of reading the New Testament, you’ll be better prepared to return to the Old Testament. You might also experiment with a Bible reading plan that combines Old and New Testament readings each day.
2. Downscale your Bible reading resolution.
It’s better to read some of the Bible than none of it! If you’re on the verge of putting down your Bible entirely because you’ve stalled out, consider instead switching to a less ambitious reading commitment. If you are struggling to read the entire Bible in 2017, consider changing your resolution to read just the New Testament. If the New Testament is proving difficult, consider reading just the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). If that’s too challenging, consider picking just a single book—a Gospel, or perhaps Psalms or Proverbs—and taking your time working through it alone. The point of a Bible reading resolution is not to prove how much of the Bible you can read; it’s to spend more time with God’s Word. Better to read just a single verse this week than to put your Bible aside for good because you can’t keep up with your original resolution.
You can downscale the duration of your reading resolution as well. Rather than committing to read the Bible through the rest of the year, why not start with something more manageable—like reading the Bible through the summer, or every day in the month of August, or something else that’s easier to achieve? Whether you adjust the reading plan you’re following, the timeline of your reading, or both, it’s far better to find a way to spend some time in the Bible rather than none at all.
3. Don’t focus too much on how much time it’s taking you.
Some Bible reading plans, particularly the more ambitious annual plans, require a fairly hefty amount of reading each day. Don’t get flustered if it takes you more than a day to get through some of the readings. If you race to read the entire Bible in a year but understand little of it because you had to skim your daily readings to fit them into your schedule, you haven’t gained much. Don’t fret about an arbitrary timeline or deadline you’ve set, and take as much time as you need to read God’s Word. If it takes you three years to read the Bible instead of one year, that’s still infinitely better than giving up and not reading it at all.
4. If the Bible is proving too confusing, don’t forget to call on help.
The Bible’s length is not the only reason people struggle to read it. It’s a collection of ancient texts written in very different cultural contexts and for very different audiences; there’s no shame in finding it a sometimes difficult, confusing, or even boring read.
If this describes your experience with the Bible so far in 2017, make sure you’re availing yourself of the resources at your disposal to help you better understand and appreciate what you’re reading. A periodic check-in with a pastor or friend who knows the Bible well to discuss what you’re reading (and what you’re struggling with) is one good solution. There are some free online resources that might help your reading go a bit easier, too:
- Mel Lawrenz’ thorough “How to Understand the Bible” series of posts here at the Bible Gateway Blog. These articles are aimed at everyday people looking to better understand what they read in the Bible, and contain many useful tips for reading the Bible effectively. His follow-up series “How to Study the Bible” is excellent as well.
- Make use of the free Bible commentaries, dictionaries, and other references books that you can access alongside Scripture text on Bible Gateway. These are trusted resources created for the purpose of helping readers connect with the Bible text despite the gap of time and culture that separates us from its original audience. Here’s how to use them.
- Use Bible Gateway’s text options to “clean up” Bible text by removing footnotes, cross-references, and other annotations from view. Here’s how to do that.
- Use Bible Gateway’s text annotation features to highlight Bible passages, bookmark favorite verses, or take notes about what you’re reading.
With some combination of the ideas above, you can salvage a Bible reading commitment and make the Bible a meaningful part of your everyday life.