Breaking Down Our Resistance to Scripture

Reading the BibleRecently, a friend asked me for some tips on how to begin reading the Bible together with his wife. This is precisely the kind of question that immediately brings with it a burst of joy, some powerful encouragement and a real need to be thankful and praise God. The mere fact that my friend and his wife sincerely desire to begin reading together is in and of itself a huge victory. Add to it the fact that both of them are sincere seekers – not merely trying to come off as “good Christians” or whatever – and my delight in responding to him was multiplied several times over.

The following list is in no way offered as “complete” or “definitive” by any stretch of the imagination, it is simply a record of what seems to have worked best for my wife and me. What works for us may not work for you, but the formula below is what helped us “crack the ice” on our willingness to submit our marriage to the lordship of Christ. Like many Christians, we were fairly half-hearted creatures when it came to the disciplined, regular reading of God’s Word together. We needed structure to get started, but once our hearts caught fire, we could comfortably step away from legalistic routine, confident that our hearts would begin to ache for Truth soon enough.

Today, I can confidently say that the single greatest thing my wife and I ever did together was begin to regularly read the Bible (Matthew 6:33). Here are some suggestions based on our own experiences, humbly offered for your consideration; use whatever truly helps and feel free to discard the rest:

  • Don’t wait for things to “calm down” around the house before you begin. If you wait for the perfect time to start reading the Bible together as man and wife, I can guarantee you that time will never come. The world, the flesh and the devil (1 John 2:16) will see to it that you are kept “just busy enough” that the days will continue to fly by without either of you making any real progress. Begin today.
  • Start small and build. One common mistake is to start off by setting aside an unreasonable amount of time to begin reading. “Let’s get up an hour early” or something like that. Try instead to find a repeatable pocket of time where you and your spouse are both normally available, something that you can reasonably expect will occur every day. Maybe it’s just 10 minutes – or maybe even just five – but the key to getting some initial traction is not necessarily the amount of time, but the repeatability of the event.
  • If you have never read the Bible before, start by reading Luke and follow that up with Acts. Both were written by Luke the physician, and they present an “orderly account” of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the first few years of the early church after Christ’s ascension. As you read together, highlight those passages that seem strange or cause any sort of doubt or confusion. Maybe it’s a word, an ancient agrarian practice or something else that seems entirely alien to our modern world, but simply highlight the word or phrase and keep going. Read at a brisk pace so that you do not, for example, get bogged down trying to figure out how much a denarius is worth in today’s dollars.
  • Be honest about your doubts. You will have them, rest assured (Matthew 28:16-17). I sure did. Don’t try to pretend that your heart automatically accepts the veracity of everything you read together. Better by far to be entirely forthcoming about your reservations so that you can seek, as a couple, to pursue the answers needed to satisfy your hearts, not to mention bringing those doubts to God in prayer.
  • The first time you read together, you may feel a little weird, like you are both trying to be hyper-religious or something like that. Expect to feel a bit awkward at first, and make plans to ignore that feeling. The last thing the enemy of your soul wants is for you and your spouse to be reading Scripture together, so if you anticipate that getting started will feel a bit weird, it will be that much easier to blow past it.
  • Reading the BiblePray before you begin, pray afterward, or maybe both, if you are comfortable doing so. Again, this does not need to be a big deal, just simply asking God to open the eyes of your heart (Ephesians 1:18) and use His Word to mediate His presence in your marriage is sufficient. Gratitude is a huge key to discipleship, so maybe just pause and thank God for the blessings in your life and affirm your desire to want to trust Him with those things that have been withheld. Something simple like that is enough; don’t try to mimic anyone else in your prayers or use super-spiritual language. (Again, try not to get bogged down at any step in the process.)
  • Use two identical Bibles, if possible. Whatever translation works for the two of you, buy two copies of it and plan to wear these books out. Write in them, highlight in them, dog-ear the pages or do whatever helps you keep track of where you are, what questions you have and so forth.
  • Read aloud. One person reads, the other person follows along. My wife and I take turns reading aloud and this seems to work for us. The key is to speak aloud the Word of God and respond together as man and wife.
  • Be on guard that “something will come up” magically every time you try to read the Bible together. The refrigerator dies. The child has a bad stomach ache. The biscuits are burned and taste terrible. The neighbor’s dog refuses to shut up. Whatever most annoys you or keeps your mind distracted and preoccupied is likely to happen when you finally sit down to read together. Again, anticipating this sort of demonic nonsense is your best weapon for fighting back. Move to another room of the house, make another batch of biscuits, comfort the child while the other one reads…do whatever you must do to not allow your time together to be stolen.
  • Lastly, I would simply encourage you to not shoot too high – “Let’s read the entire Pentateuch at one sitting!” – and then allow yourselves to get discouraged when it doesn’t work out that way. Set modest, attainable goals. Five minutes every day is (in my opinion) better than two hours one day and nothing for another week. Be realistic about what you can achieve together with all of the demands of daily life that tend to pile up, and don’t allow any sense of urgency or pressure to cause you to regard Bible reading as a “chore” or merely as something to cross off your list.

Reading together is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. Scripture never records Jesus as having run from one place to another; His pace was always deliberate, intentional and effective.

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