I’ve been feeling particularly burdened for mothers who are in survival mode– not getting enough sleep, several littles under five, feeling almost insane for lack of intelligent conversation, not to mention any complications like a child with special needs, marriage problems, extended family conflicts, a husband’s difficult work or school schedule, grief, or any number of situations that can make thinking right thoughts, somewhat [somewhat can be a jaw-dropping understatement] difficult.
Even though I’m no longer half insane from sleep deprivation, I do sometimes have troubles reading my Bible. Sometimes I don’t feel like reading my Bible. Sometimes I’d rather sleep. Sometimes I consider the options (laundry, Bible reading, Facebook) and I consider that the first two don’t sound as appealing as the last one. So I check Facebook, the news, my email, and then start on Facebook again. I don’t read the Bible at the same time every day. How can I, when my husband’s schedule changes daily, when my children all wake up at different times, and when I have a hard time deciding whether to spend the morning cleaning the house or doing school?
What’s a mom to do? Stop and think with me a bit. You’ll probably see some survival thoughts of your own.
If I were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book of the Bible with me, I wouldn’t say, “Oh, just give me those passages in Leviticus.” If I knew my Bible were going to be confiscated in a year, I would not start memorizing first Chronicles.Rather, I would pick the meatiest, most profitable portions. This reasoning explains why I often skip the parts I don’t understand or find boring during the survival days. Save those for later, when I can actually think straight. Truthfully, I still often skip over the parts I don’t understand, and I do skim through the geneologies. Yes, all scripture is profitable, but not all scripture is equally profitable.
As for the things I don’t understand, I’ve learned that it’s okay to save confusing portions of scripture for later. Years later. When I was a younger Christian, someone suggested that I put a question mark by every passage that I had a question about. I was quickly discouraged beyond words because I had so many questions, even some major, faith shattering questions, about verses I was reading. I had to either set the questions aside, or reject Christianity altogether, because I was not mature enough or capable enough to understand them. As I matured, I discovered that I began to understand many of those things that confused me, just by virtue of growing spiritually. Now I don’t see those portions as scary as I did back then. They’re more like puzzles that I wrestle with when I have time. I know difficult passages may always be difficult, but I look forward to the sense of satisfaction when I finally crack one.
Consider that Peter talks about the things Paul writes about as being difficult to understand!
II Peter 3:15-16a And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
Consider that some Christians may not understand some spiritual things until they’ve wrestled with more basic things.
Hebrews 5:13-14 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
What should I do instead? If I want to delight in God’s Word, I read the fun stuff. I read the narratives. I read all my favorite Psalms. I camp out in Proverbs for awhile, or spend time reading one book of the Bible over and over and over.
I still think that following a Bible reading plan is helpful and profitable. The discipline of reading systematically helps us not to get out of balance in our Christian lives. I have found one way to be consistent is to follow a checklist like this one. Lee showed me a little while back an app for my phone that allows me to “catch up” when I’ve missed a few days (or weeks). It seems that I need to work on being systematic for awhile, and then I find myself needing to be LESS systematic for awhile. I’m constantly readjusting, based on what’s going on in my mind and life at the time. I think that’s okay. I do recognize that it’s easy for me to justify my lack of discipline as a micro-season of life (for example, I noticed last week that I haven’t read systematically since March of this year) The hard part is recognizing and adjusting to the reality and rejecting the sin. No easy answers here, but I believe God’s Word helps us discern the thoughts and intents of our hearts. God will help us know where we need work and where we need to have patience with our particular season of life.
What I have discovered far more difficult than getting Scripture in my mind during busy seasons, is putting it to work by obeying it. Lately, I’ve been convicted at the (embarrassingly) large number of times I get a glimpse of what I should do (specific actions, not general “be less prideful” goals that are hard to accomplish and measure), only to forget them until it’s too late to take action. I forget! I’m realizing that, far more important than the Bible I don’t understand, is the Bible I do understand. I don’t need the Bible knowledge of a mature Christian to be wise. I simply need to start putting into practice the simple commands that are plain for me to understand. As I am faithful with the understanding God has given me, I discover that he gives new understanding when I’m ready for it!
I know there are other approaches to the busy times of life. These are some concepts that have helped me not to be overwhelmed, but still be faithful to be growing spiritually. I’m sure there are more.
- Spend the most time on the most profitable portions of Scripture
- Save the portions that I don’t understand for later
- Delight in what I’m reading, not forgetting that reading systematically is of great value, too.
- Start applying what I can, and trust that God will show me the things I don’t understand later.
Tomorrow I’ll continue this discussion and talk about reading the Bible with Distractions.