Obstacles to Faith

When You Don't Like Reading the Bible

Do you ever feel like banging your head against your Bible?

Does reading Scripture feel like a detox diet, where nothing tastes good so you just hope it’s healthy?

Do your eyes glaze over words and pages, knowing nothing is sinking in?

Well, if you’re the only one, please don’t tell anyone because so am I.

As a new Christian I rode the bus to work everyday with my head buried in my pocket Bible, underlining passages as they jumped off the page. I memorized verses, bought additional translations and overloaded my bookshelf with anything to help me better understand what I was reading.

No other book had ever described me so accurately. I saw my problems laid bare on its pages and yet found hope that I could become a new person.

But at some point in my journey, the Bible and I drifted apart. I’d open that same pocket Bible, but the connection to its contents was gone. We stopped talking to each other.

It all came to a head the summer my wife and I taught a class on how to study the Bible.

The anxiety attacks began weeks before the course was scheduled to start. I’d wake up crying, overcome with panic.

I’d been in full-time Christian ministry for four years, and was about to be exposed as a fraud. Deep down I knew that I couldn’t impart genuine enthusiasm for reading Scripture. I had stopped enjoying the Bible myself.

Perhaps you’re experiencing similar frustration, disappointment and even shame over your experience with Scripture. If that’s you, before writing yourself off as a Bible-light believer, here are some things to consider:

You’re not a bad Christian.

Being around Christians who love Scripture can be infectious. But it also makes me feel second rate. I spent years seeking a cure to Bible-reader’s block, missing one vital truth: struggling to enjoy the Bible doesn’t mean you’re sick.

People may have told you that you develop a taste for reading Scripture the way you do for different foods – just keep going until you find the flavor. But the Bible is not a jar of olives.

Have you explored why you’re struggling with Scripture? If not, then just “trying harder” may actually push you further away from God instead of helping you connect with Him.

There might be a deeper reason why reading the Bible feels hard for you.

I’ve realized that my deeper struggle is that I often see God as a father who loves me in theory, but is too busy to pay attention to me. I confuse God with my earthly father. He loved me, but he also let me down.  So the Bible then becomes a set of instructions God has left me, but I have to figure them out alone.

What might your deeper struggle be?

Sometimes processing this question, or exploring your view of God through a community group or Christian counseling, can help you discover a deeper wound God wants to heal.

You might need to refocus on who the Bible is about.

“If you want to grow in trusting God, you need to grow in your knowledge of God,” my pastor said recently. But sometimes I look for myself in the Bible more than I look for God. That’s a form of pride.

It’s true – there will never be another book that more adequately communicates the purpose and struggle of being me, or being you. But I am not the central character of this story. The ultimate purpose of Scripture is to reveal God to us.

The end goal of our faith is not heightened self-awareness, but relationship with Him.

I’m slowly learning not to treat the Bible like the self-improvement books that crowd the shelves of airport bookstores. The Bible is His story first, and that provides the context for understanding my own.

There are fresh ways you can experience Scripture.

I love films. So while preparing to teach that course on studying the Bible, I “cheated” and watched a film adaptation of the Gospel of John. The film contained every word of the book and I watched it again and again to absorb the story.

Does it still count as Scripture if it comes with pictures and a soundtrack? I think so.

The most watched film in history is called JESUS, and it’s based on the text of Luke’s Gospel. You can watch it right now via an app on your phone, and even share scenes with friends. Millions of people are hearing God’s story spoken in their own language, without ever reading a single word.

I find it hard to just open the Bible and read. So I use devotionals or workbooks that use Scripture to explore issues I’m struggling with in my life, such as parenthood, marriage, purity or anger.

Read the Bible with others, listen to it, watch it being performed on stage or screen. God doesn’t grade these things differently.

Look for where God is still pursuing you.

To address my problem with reading scripture, God pulled a surprise move on me: He gave me three kids.

My wife and I wanted our children to know the story of God, even if they never owned a theology book. So we started reading The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, because she brings every story, from the Old Testament to the New, back to Jesus. She connects the dots of Scripture to who Jesus is, what He’s done, and what that means for every child.

I still struggle with reading the Bible. But since becoming a father, I’ve read dozens of God’s stories over and over. I’ve watched them soak into my children and into me.

God recently gave a gift to me – a father who doesn’t always like reading the Bible. He allowed me to read the story of Christ’s death and resurrection to my 4-year-old son, who then climbed into my lap and prayed for Jesus to come into his heart.

As the old saying goes, God’s more interested in getting the Bible through you than getting you through the Bible.

Don’t stop caring about the fact that you find this hard. God loves you when you turn the next page of His book, and He loves you when you don’t.

Remember why God gave you the Bible in the first place: He wants you to know Him, and know that you can trust Him with your life.

Where do I go from here?

Ross has served with Cru since 2004. He currently serves on the Digital Marketing team. Born in Scotland, Ross attended the University of Manchester in the UK and Louisiana State University. His passion is writing about God in ways accessible to those who don’t know Him. Contact Ross at Ross.McCall@cru.org.

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