Elisabeth Elliot is one of my favorite women, writers, missionaries, speakers, people in general. I’ve read almost all of her books. I received her newsletter for many years.
I was able to hear her speak in person twice. On one of those occasions, we had an opportunity to have her sign one of our books written by her. I had several of her books, but couldn’t quite work up the nerve to ask her to sign it. Then when my pastor heard I was going to hear her speak, he asked me to have her sign one of his books.
I stood in a long line waiting for my turn at just a few minutes with Elisabeth. And what did I say in those precious few moments?
“How do you find time to write so many books?”
In her practical, no-nonsense way, she said, “You don’t find time. You make time.”
I’ve told this story here before, but it illustrates an important truth. We have so many things that can fill our time these days. We have to make time for what’s most important.
I’ve never seen a poll on this subject, but I would guess if we asked a large group of Christians why they don’t read the Bible, most of them would say lack of time. They know they need to, and they feel guilty for not reading Scripture regularly. But somehow the day is gone before they know it. They might read a verse or two or a short devotional before they go to bed, but their brains are too fried for much more.
But Jesus said spending time with Him is the one needful thing in our lives. So rather than waiting for time for Bible reading to magically open up, we need to make time in our schedules for it. We need to prioritize it.
Here are a few ideas for making time to read the Bible:
Pray about it. God says to ask Him for wisdom. One of the hardest times for me to make time for Bible reading was when my second child was born. With my first child, I could read while he napped. But when my second child napped, I now had a preschooler. I could tell I wasn’t getting spiritually nourished. I’d whimper to the Lord at the end of the day that I didn’t know when I could have set aside time for Bible reading that day.
He gave me the idea to ask Him at the beginning of the day to help me be alert to time to read. And He did. Normally I like more of a schedule routine, but I had to learn to grab what moments I could some days.
Don’t make too big a production of it. I think we often sabotage our devotional time because we feel we can’t have it unless we read so many minutes or chapters, consult a commentary or two, sing or read a hymn, draw something pretty in the margins of our Bible, journal for fifteen minutes afterward. Those are all great practices, and often we can employ several of them at certain seasons in life. But if we feel we haven’t actually had devotions unless we’ve done all that, no wonder we don’t get to it some days. The essential thing is to spend some amount of time in the Bible itself.
Have a plan. If we have to decide every day what part of the Bible we’re going to read from, that takes up valuable time. Early in my Christian life, I was urged to read the whole Bible through, and I think that grounded me more than anything else. I don’t do it in a year any more: that felt too rushed to me. There are multitudes of Bible reading plans available, from one year to two years to five years to a chronological reading. Don’t feel you have to read all of the planned reading for that day. But knowing where to go next makes it a lot easier to pick up and read rather than flipping through trying to find somewhere to start.
You might think that having a plan is stifling, and you’d rather read as the Spirit leads. The Bible was meant to be read in context. We get more from a particular book of the Bible when we read it in progression from start to finish. We wouldn’t read a letter from anyone else by reading the second paragraph on page two one day and the third paragraph on page one another day.
I can testify that God does speak to people through regular planned reading. I can’t tell you how many times my Bible reading for the day has been exactly what I needed. Of course, we can take a break in the plan if we feel a need to study some other part of the Bible at some point or have some kind of special need.
Know why. Any time I read about starting a new habit or making a major change, the writer will advise readers to know our “why.” When obstacles come up, when we’re tired, when it’s not convenient to do what we need to do, remembering why we do it can carry through when we don’t “feel” like it. I wrote last week about reasons I still read the Bible. I started a list years ago of reasons to read the Bible, and have been adding to it ever since until now I have over fourteen typed pages of reasons. But in a sense, I don’t need that list to keep me going. I’ve experienced the benefits of reading the Bible so much that I don’t want to go without it.
Lay other things aside. I confess that if I pick up a book or magazine or turn on the TV or open Facebook and then realize I haven’t read the Bible that day yet, I sometimes feel a little resentful at having to stop what I am doing. Even knowing all the benefits of reading the Bible, I feel that petty irritation at being interrupted and having to stop something I enjoy. But that only lasts for a moment. Once I do start reading, I’m glad I did.
Listen. Personally, I get more out of my Bible from reading rather than listening. But there are ways to hear the Bible being read if that’s the best option for others.
Plan for Bible reading after a natural break in the day. It can be hard to change gears in the middle of the afternoon to stop and read the Bible. It’s easier if we plan for it in conjunction with something else: after breakfast, after showering, after the kids go to school or take a nap, etc.
Keep the Bible handy. This is easy to do now with Bible apps for the phone. Years ago, my neighbor with three little stair-step girls kept her Bible open in the kitchen. That’s where she spent much of her time, and she could read a little while waiting for water to boil, etc.
Anything is better than nothing. For years I have been reading Daily Light on the Daily Path. It ‘s composed of just Scripture, usually on a particular topic for the day or in a progression of thought. I like to use it to begin my devotional time. But on Sundays, that’s all I read. Likewise, if I have an early medical appointment or obligation, or we’re traveling, that might be all I read for the day.
Normally I like having a good amount of open-ended time in the Word. But the days I truly only had time for a few verses, God gave me what I needed.
How about you? What tips have you found for making time to read the Bible?
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