I was a timid and oblivious gal fresh into college. I somehow got involved in a campus ministry (let me know if you want that amazing story!), and I boldly read my dad’s old-fashioned Book of Life every night in front of a roommate who I barely knew. I was that girl– reading the Bible at 9pm so I could be asleep soon, while my roommate and her friend would bake and study together, go out on the weekends.
I specifically remember sitting at my desk which faced my dorm room door, about one inch to the side of the frame, and a friend knocking one night. While still at my desk, I was able to make a slight reach to open the door. He asked what I was doing and I meekly told him I was reading the Bible. I only knew his first name and I knew nothing about Jesus or the Bible, yet I didn’t pretend to be doing homework or reading a random book. The Holy Spirit planned each and every encounter, before I even knew who He was.
I’ve been actively and willingly reading the Bible since my freshman year of college- 2017. I remember I had no idea where to start and I didn’t really know why I started except that I wanted to know who God was. We can get the basis of Him from church– He loves us, He’s powerful, He is omniscient, but the beauty of the Holy Spirit is unraveled when we have a personal foundation of His Word by reading it in our own time.
Man, God’s plans are amazing. I would’ve never thought I’d learn this much about Him or even about myself. I encourage you to take a few minutes right now and reflect on who you were three years ago and who you are today. What has changed? What sparked that change?
For the past few years, I’ve read random books of the Bible at random times, learned what a devotional was, discovered She Reads Truth and other resources, and have recently been routinely studying His Word. I couldn’t tell you what book I started with, but I will share some of my so-far-learned tips on how I actually understand what I’m reading!
1. Pray first
Even if you don’t know much about God or the Bible, a common practice is prayer. Close your eyes and lift your thoughts to the Lord. This could be statements such as, “Lord, open my heart to what I’m about to read”, “Dear Jesus, thank you for this day, even though it was a struggle, I am in need of something beyond my own strength”, or, “Lord, help me understand who You are. This time is for us right now.”
2. Prep the environment
Prepare this time almost as if it were an academic session. This time is for you to highlight phrases that jump out at you, jot down any confusions or questions, and simply reflect on how you’re feeling based on what you read. Gather your writing utensils and a notebook, and make sure you’re in a quiet and private place. Sometimes subtle tunes in the background are helpful when trying to focus, so try new things and find what chair or what music works for you!
3. Just start
Just start reading! You can research what the Bible says about certain topics or struggles that interest you, which will in turn keep you engaged to keep reading because it is relevant to you. If you’re not sure what you might need guidance with, I recommend starting in the New Testament. The New Testament starts with the book of Matthew and is focused on Jesus, who has already been revealed as the Savior of the world (whereas the Old Testament is focused on the foretelling of the Messiah). The New Testament is generally easier to understand and can be more readily applicable to our lives today in comparison to the Old Testament. (Side note: one of my favorite books of the Bible is Proverbs, which is in the Old Testament, so don’t rule out a book if you want to read it!)
I briefly mentioned this in step 2, but make sure you take the time to write out your thoughts on what you just read. For me, I could take up half a page just reflecting on one sentence! For example, I was reading James 2, and I read, “…believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism”. A question the sprung into my mind was, “Lord, am I favoring one person over another?” My immediate response was no because, in context, this verse is talking about the rich and poor. I then took a minute to think and I definitely found people that I favor over others just because of their previous actions or words towards me. I then journaled for the rest of the page because the Lord was gently convicting me of my actions. I reflected on my thoughts toward this verse and what it meant to me, and I asked the Lord to give me awareness to when I show favoritism and to help me lose my pride so I can obey His Word.
5. Be patient
After reading, consider sitting there quietly with your eyes closed. No music. Take this time to quiet your mind as you wait for the Lord to speak to you personally. This is something I have just started working on and it’s extremely hard! It has become second-nature to reach for my phone or to turn on music when it is quiet, but try driving or getting ready in the morning without any noise. You can let your thoughts process themselves out or you can gently push your thoughts aside to reduce any distractions so you can clearly discern the Lord’s voice.
First of all, I’m so stinkin’ proud of you! You are taking the time and energy to learn more about your Creator. I pray that His Holy Spirit would bless your schedule as you start to make time for Him. I pray that He would open your eyes to whatever He needs you to see. I pray that He would bless all that you do as you endure through any trials.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, says the Lord.
Let me remind you, sweet friend, that God was intentional when He designed you. The way He molded you was specific and purposeful. Don’t you have a curiosity as to what that divine purpose is? Every little thing about you can be used for His glory, and it takes knowing His Word to know how to bring Him that glory and honor.
My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.