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, but you choke down the foods because they’re healthy?

Do you recognize nothing is sinking in as your eyes glaze over the words and pages?

As a new Christian, I rode the bus to work every day with my head buried in my pocket Bible, underlining passages as they jumped off the page. I memorized verses and bought multiple translations, commentaries and other resources.

I was the local Christian bookstore’s best friend.

No other book had ever pegged 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’d stopped talking to each other.

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

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

I’d been in full-time ministry for four years and was about to be exposed as a fraud.

How could I impart enthusiasm for reading Scripture when I had stopped enjoying the Bible myself?

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

I’m not a bad Christian and neither are you.

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

Maybe people have told you that you develop a taste for reading Scripture the way you do for different foods: just keep trying 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, 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 challenging.

I’ve realized my deeper struggle: I often see God as a father who loves me in theory but is too busy to give me attention in real life.

I often confuse God with my earthly father, who loved me, but also let me down. So I end up treating the Bible as a set of instructions God left for me, which I have to figure out alone.

What could your deeper struggle be?

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

Try refocusing on who the Bible is about.

“If you want to grow in trusting God,” my pastor recently said, “you need to grow in your knowledge of God.” When I read the Bible, I sometimes look for reflections of myself more than I look for God.

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 God’s story. He is center stage.

The ultimate purpose of Scripture is to reveal God to us. The Bible is His story first, and that story provides the context for understanding my own.

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

I’m slowly learning not to treat the Bible like the self-improvement books that crowd bookstore shelves.

Experience Scripture in fresh ways.

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

The most-watched film in history, “JESUS,” is 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. This film lets millions of people hear God’s story spoken in their own language, without ever reading a single word.

Can it still count as Scripture if it comes with pictures and a soundtrack?

If the answer is no, then I’m in trouble.

I find it hard to just open the Bible and read. So along with watching Scripture on a screen, I also look for devotionals or workbooks that use Scripture to explore the challenges I face, such as parenthood, marriage, purity or anger.

You can read the Bible with others, listen to it or watch it being performed on stage or on-screen. God is more interested in getting the Bible through you, than getting you through the Bible.

Look for where God is still pursuing you.

God pulled a sneaky move on me to address my problem with reading Scripture: He gave me three kids.

My wife and I wanted our children to know the story of God, so we started reading “The Jesus Storybook Bible.” It connects the dots of Scripture: who Jesus is, what He’s done and what that means for every person, by telling a beautiful series of stories.

Since becoming a father, I’ve read dozens of God’s stories over and over, watching them soak into my children and into me.

Don’t stop caring about the fact that you find reading the Bible hard.

God loves you when you turn the next page of His book, and He loves you when you don’t.

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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