There are times when I read God’s Word…and the words seem to fall flat. I’m hungry to hear from God, eager to meet him in my Bible—yet nothing jumps off the page or particularly moves my heart.
This can feel like looking at a delicious meal, and wanting to enjoy it, but having no appetite for it.
Identify Your Motives
Such hunger and disappointment reveal two attitudes about the human heart, one we should pursue and be thankful for, and one we should confess and flee from:
First, our hunger and disappointment mean we desire God—this is good! We want to hear from him, because we love him and want to obey him. We desire to know the God who speaks and walk closely with him by opening the Scriptures.
But our hunger and disappointment can equally say we expect God to reveal himself on our terms and timing, according to our needs and feelings. If we’re not careful, our time in God’s Word can become less about knowing him and more about checking off a list of spiritual duties to make ourselves feel good.
Usually, our hunger and disappointment are some combination of both.
Recognize Your Dependence
C.J. Mahaney says in his book Humility, “One morning, I’m profoundly aware that God is near to me, while the next day I can sense only His absence….I’ve learned that regardless of how I feel when I’m finished reading my Bible in the morning, I can know that I’ve made the statement, ‘I need You. I’m dependent upon You.’”
As I’ve battled through Bible reading in certain seasons, this reminder has helped and humbled me. We open our Bibles to see God and depend on him, and what better opportunity to do this than when we struggle to sense his presence and be moved by his Word. We need God even to meet with him, and this need produces humility within us. So, in a divine turn-of-events, the dryness we feel leads to deeper dependence, exposing our motives and increasing our desperation for God to do what only he can do.
Read God’s Word through Four Helps
Several things have been helpful for me in pursuing humble dependence on God for the reading of his Word each day:
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)
Prayer is an expression of our dependence on God and another aspect of our communion with him. Through prayer, we’re reminded that we approach God the Father through Jesus, not our efforts or merits. Prayer humbles us from plunging into the Word with a self-sufficient attitude and tunes us to the Holy Spirit, who alone can open our spiritual eyes to see and apply his truth.
Prayer reminds us that spiritual sight is God’s work, not ours; we open his Word by the strength he supplies and trust him to act. Because we know God will never leave or forsake us, we can have confidence he’s speaking and working, even when we can’t sense it. We pray because we cannot read our Bibles to see God’s glory apart from his enlightening help.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)
When God’s Word feels dry to me, I can walk away from it feeling insecure and bitter. So I bring this concern before God in prayer and confession, asking him to search my heart.
There are a couple ways our sinful pride is exposed as we read our Bibles:
Insecurity. If “how well” we read our Bibles, and what we “get” from the reading, is the measure of our time with God, then we’ll feel insecure when these are lacking. Insecurity is another angle to pride: It’s self-confidence fighting with failure and refusing to rest in grace.
Bitterness. Pride also lives at the root of bitterness, which says we deserve certain benefits from God and can therefore be upset when we don’t receive them. So we become bitter if he doesn’t act the way we think he should.
Pride is sin. It’s always lingering in our hearts, but a dry season of reading God’s Word exposes it. Leverage your time of prayer to confess pride and sinful motives to God, and ask him to lead you in the way of humble dependence through a repentant heart as you read.
3. Other Believers
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints…Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth… (Colossians 1:3-5)
Friend, if the Bible has felt dry to you lately, you’re not alone—fellow believers are in the same boat. Yet, many are experiencing the opposite: While some of us are struggling through it, others are enjoying God and seeing much in his Word.
This should encourage us; God is indeed at work among and within his people! When I’m discouraged by my time in the Bible, and I hear how God is growing the faith and love of my sisters and brothers through his Word, I’m encouraged to press on, trust him, and rest in his grace. This is one reason why the local church and its small group ministries are so vital.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
There’s a reason Bible reading is called a “means of grace.” We engage with God’s Word not to earn his favor but because we already have his favor, not to work for our salvation but because Christ has finished the work on our behalf. We dive into the Bible’s depths to remember and enjoy what’s already ours in Christ.
We can pray before we start and confess our sin to remember how God gives grace to help us in time of need. And we grasp this grace freshly when nothing seems to jump off the page at us: Our standing before God isn’t dependent on this, but on Jesus Christ, who never changes and is always at work.
Believer, if reading God’s Word has felt like a struggle lately, rest in his gospel. God’s grace abounds even in this.