When the Bible is Hard to Understand- How to Power Through
I don't know about you, but sometimes the Bible is hard to understand.
I blame it on the microwave.
The microwave has ruined us.
I’m showing a little of my age right now, but stay with me.
When my mom was growing up, my grandmother, with seven children, washed the laundry over a wash basin. And, she cooked. From scratch.
By the time I was a kid, from scratch cooking wasn’t really a ‘thing.’ The microwave cooked waaaaaaaay faster and was waaaaaaay easier.
That line of thinking, faster and easier, permeated the thought process of society. And it has done nothing but gotten worse.
If a website doesn’t load in less than two seconds, it’s considered slow.
Raise your hand if you’ve clicked on a link, and when it didn’t open instantly, you clicked away and were off to the next one.
Raising my hand.
We’re all guilty.
We live in an INSTANT society.
And when we don’t get or ‘get’ something instantly, we’re frustrated.
So what does this have to do with reading the Bible?
After taking a very scientific poll on Facebook, the top 2 reasons people gave for not reading the Bible were:
Lack of time.
Lack of understanding.
I have another post about the time issue, so this one will be dedicated to the “lack of understanding” issue.
Why the Bible is hard to understand
I’ll concede the Bible can, at times, be hard to understand. There are definitive time and culture differences. The difference is wide when comparing the cultural norms during biblical times to today.
The Bible also contains different types of literature, and the way you read historical narrative is vastly different from reading apocalyptic writings.
So, let’s just say the Bible is hard to understand.
Why we should dig in when the Bible is hard to understand
Do we just avoid reading and studying the Bible because it frustrates us?
While the Sunday school answer might be, of course not. The reality is that’s exactly what many of us are doing.
But the truth.
The Word of God is too important to let our frustration keep us away.
Let's look a few Scriptures.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says,
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
I co-teach a discipleship class on Sunday nights with a small group of women. I love them. Hard. We don’t play church. There is an authenticity in the group that I have to believe makes Jesus smile.
One of the ladies was very candid about our study. She said she wasn’t getting much from it. Another woman said that she was struggling too. They both admitted had they bought the book and tried to do it at home, they would have both quit.
It took courage to publicly admit their struggle when everyone else in the group, including a fifteen-year-old, spoke every week of how they were getting more from this study than any they had done.
For the record, we’re using a study I created.
Our study is a not video driven, and there is no fill-in-the-blank outline. It’s mainly blank lines.
Each day we examine a prophecy of Jesus in the Old Testament followed by His fulfillment of it in the New Testament.
It is hard.
The understanding isn’t instant. But, when you dig in, that's when it gets good.
As we talked more about their frustration, I got more and more excited. You see, frustration that leads to digging deeper into the Word and pressing into God is a great thing.
It is a needed component for spiritual growth.
Fast forward three weeks.
We’re in the middle of class discussing the various Scriptures when one of the ladies shared profound insight and background on one of the verses. She went on to say she didn’t understand the verse when she first read it. Then she added, she made up her mind she wouldn’t quit, and she dug in.
What treasures we gain from God’s Word when we dig in.
Patience and perseverance can’t be learned instantly.
So, what can you do when the Bible is hard to understand?
How to dig in when the Bible is hard to understand
Decide you’re not giving up
“By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.” Charles Spurgeon
Seems simple enough, but frustration is real; however, when you view your frustration as an integral part of growing in the Lord, it’s much easier to keep going.
"And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:4 (emphasis mine).
That initial lack of understanding leads to lacking in nothing.
“Little learning and much pride come from hasty reading.” Spurgeon
Because the Bible is not a regular book, we must approach it differently. The Bible is the holy, living Word breathed out by God.
When we put it in the right perspective, it seems almost crazy to think we could read it quickly.
"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." Hebrews 4:12
Arm Yourself with Resources
“He who will not use the thoughts of other’s men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.” Spurgeon
The Holy Spirit is alive and well and living in the heart of every believer. As you read the Bible, the Holy Spirit will help you understand, but that is not to say you have to start reading the Bible all by itself.
"What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
One of the benefits of our instant society is the availability of biblical resources. Free resources accessible in 1.2 seconds. If you’re not sure where these resources live on the web, I have a whole list for you with links.
These resources along with a good study Bible will help you understand the culture and context of what you’re reading.
Accept You Won’t Understand Everything
“Study the Word, that your faith may not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God!” Charles H. Spurgeon
There must be a humility as we approach reading the Bible. As finite beings, we cannot fully understand an infinite God.
There are times when you will read a passage of Scripture you don’t comprehend despite digging deep, only for God to reveal the meaning at a later time. And then there are those things we won’t understand this side of heaven.
For many years, my Bible sat collecting dust. Looking back, I see my soul was dry along with it. There is nothing more transformative than being in the Word of God, even when the Bible is hard to understand.
Dig in my friends! Dig in!