Chelsea is Campus Staff at William & Mary. After an internship with RUF at the University of Nebraska, she attended Covenant Seminary and received a Master of Divinity. Chelsea loves cooking and baking for people, reading any and every good book, watching college football, and going to art museums.
“Well, I haven’t been doing a great job of reading my Bible recently…” This is the most common response I hear from students, usually delivered with a hint of guilt in their voice, when I attempt to turn a conversation to the topic of their relationship with God or check in on how they’re doing spiritually. Most of the time, these students are highly involved in RUF; they come to large group every week, participate in at least one Bible study, and are connected to a local church, so really, they’re studying the Bible pretty frequently! But they feel a sense of obligation to an individual practice of daily Bible reading that they’re not living up to, and it leaves them feeling a sense of shame and often distance from God.
I spent a lot of my life feeling very much like this. I felt an obligation to a daily practice of personal Bible reading, but just like my students, that sense of obligation was ineffective in getting me to actually do it! Mostly it just led to guilt and a sense that God was disappointed in me. But that began to change the first time someone pointed out to me that for most of the history of the church, it was extremely rare for the average Christian to own a personal copy of the Bible. This obligation we put on ourselves would have been impossible for most Christians throughout history to meet! As this fact began to free me from my sense of duty, I started to find much greater joy in reading Scripture than I ever had before. I still sometimes go through stretches of time where my Bible reading is less regular, and occasionally that guilt starts to creep back in, but when I am able to free myself from that sense of guilt I find that now my return to Scripture is accompanied with joy instead of a feeling of shame. There are so many great benefits to a daily practice of Scripture reading, if only we could put aside our sense of obligation and find them! Here are a few that I’ve discovered:
Relationship: One of the most incredible truths of the gospel is that the Lord of all creation desires a relationship with us! He knows us deeply, and amazingly, he also invites us to know him! And Scripture is the means by which he has chosen to reveal himself to us. When we have someone we love, we cherish time with them and the opportunity to know them more deeply and be known by them. And in Scripture, we have the opportunity to practice that in our relationship with the God of the universe! What an extraordinary gift!
Remembering: Sometimes we struggle with reading the Bible because we’re not sure what we’re supposed to get out of it. We feel like we need to be discovering something new or it’s not worthwhile. But the fact is that the core of our faith is both deeply simple and incredibly hard to grasp. We may have a cognitive understanding of what the gospel teaches, but our everyday life in a broken world constantly tells us a different story: that our value is based on our success or performance, that we have to earn our approval, that we have to hide our brokenness and shame. It is so easy to lose sight of what is true of us in Christ. So a regular practice of Scripture reading is vital in keeping us grounded in the gospel even when life seems to tell us a different story.
Rest: We live in an overworked world. Obligations continue to pile up, and there is always more that we could be doing. In the midst of this, it’s no wonder that treating Bible-reading like an obligation does little to motivate us. It is yet one more thing to fit into our schedule, but unlike our other obligations, we’re not getting graded on it or paid for it. So of course it will fall through the cracks! But what if, instead of yet another obligation, time spent in Scripture is an invitation for us to rest? As we read the Bible we can put aside our productivity and our accomplishments and simply receive from the Lord and find rest for our souls.
Unlike most Christians throughout history, we have incredibly easy access to the Word of God. We can even carry around every translation that exists on a device that fits in our pockets! In mere minutes we can open the Word of God and experience relationship with him, be reminded of what is true of us in Christ, and find rest in the midst of our hectic lives. Let’s not let a sense of obligation keep us from the joy of what is on offer in God’s Word.