Dear ES, I want to read my bible at the moment, but I don’t really know where to start and everything that is going on is making me feel overwhelmed. Any suggestions on some good places to start reading? From a lost Christian
Dear lost Christian,
Even when life is normal, it can be hard to know where to start reading the bible. And at the moment things feel a bit like a rollercoaster: one minute you’re self-isolating, then things are starting to reopen (but only in some states), and we’re still social distancing…keeping track of what you can and can’t do makes day to day life hard to keep up with. Normally our routines are what keeps us grounded in times like this, but if those go out the window, it can be hard to get them started again. So if you’re struggling to read the bible at the moment, that’s understandable. But its also fantastic that bible reading is something you want to include in your daily routines because this is something that is so important!
Keeping reading God’s word is important, because this is how we learn who God is and how he wants us to live our lives. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul says:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Reading the bible isn’t just like reading a uni textbook or a novel- this is reading God’s words for us, and God will use it to change and shape us. This should be something we devote time to personally, as well as having teaching from church and ES.
But with 66 books, 1189 chapters, and 31,102 verses in the bible where should you start? Paul tells us in 2 Timothy that all scripture is valuable because it is all God’s word, and God works through all of it to shape us, but here are some good suggestions on places to get started.
One great place to start reading the bible is in one of the gospels: this is usually where we get started reading with not-yet-christians, but its also great for all Christians to be familiar with the life of Jesus as he reveals God to us! Re-familiarising yourself with the life and teaching of Jesus is a great place to start if you’re trying to get back into reading the bible.
Another suggestion (from David Helm’s book One-to-one Bible Reading) is a reading plan going through the Psalms. At many times Christians find comfort in the Psalms as they see how the authors have praised God in all kinds of circumstances. Helm suggests going through a selection of psalms that show different aspects of this (he suggests the following: Psalm 1, Psalm 2, Psalm 42, Psalm 46, Psalm 73, Psalm 74, Psalm 90, Psalm 91, Psalm 107, Psalm 110, Psalm 121, Psalm 148). Going through this is a great place to start to think about how we can praise God, no matter what our circumstances are.
If you’re wanting to dig deep into some theological thinking, David Helm also suggests reading the book of Romans as a great exploration of how we are saved by God. Romans has been a book that has inspired so many Christians in history to think deeply about God, and it’s a great book to spend time digging in to!
If you think you would like to spend some time reading the Old Testament to think about God’s big picture of the bible, David Helm recommends looking at the book of Micah. He says this is a prophetic book thinking about God’s people and their relationship with him: through the themes of judgement, salvation, and repentance. This is a great way to think about how this was for God’s people in the Old Testament, and the hope we now have through Jesus.
All of these are great suggestions of places to start if you’re not sure how to kick-start or restart your bible reading. And if you’re not sure how to get the most out of reading God’s word there are some great books that help you think about how to do this well. One-to-one Bible Reading by David Helm has some good suggestions of questions you can use to look into different parts of the bible. Another great book thinking about this is Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin (which is great for everyone, not just women!) and thinks about what we should do to intentionally dig into the bible. There are also some great bible reading plans that you can find from groups like the Bible Project through the bible app- you can even set reminders on this to keep you on track, and make sure you keep this as a part of your routine every day if this is something that would be helpful to you! Or check out https://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/ for some other great reading plans.
It’s so encouraging that you want to make time for this in your life, and you’re willing to be honest about your struggles with this.
Grace & peace,