Bible Reading Blues? Study Your Stop

If you were sitting across from me right now, I’d want to know what you don’t like. Tell me: 

  • The foods you won’t eat
  • The movies that put you to sleep
  • The conversation topics that don’t hold your attention

I want to know your dating deal-breakers, the songs you can’t stand, and all the little things that get under your skin. Why? Because sometimes knowing what someone doesn’t enjoy gives us greater awareness about what they do enjoy: knowing the opposite gives insight.

The same can be true when talking about our habits. If you were sitting across from me and you mentioned that you’d abandoned your Bible reading plan, I wouldn’t ask you about what went well. We’d talk about what didn’t work. We’d start with what made you stop because understanding the reasons you didn’t finish could be the key to helping you begin again.

The Beginning and the End

Most of us are great at getting started. The particular hobby or habit doesn’t matter much. We buy the outfit, order the supplies, and set off with all the enthusiasm in the world. Sound familiar? A few months ago, you started the year strong. You began reading the Bible, but then you lost momentum. You lost focus. And somewhere along the way, you literally lost the printed copy of your reading plan. Who wants to dig through the trash for a piece of paper buried under raw meat and a banana peel?

It’s hard to start again when the first (or fiftieth) round of Bible reading didn’t go like you thought it would. It’s extra frustrating because you know the Bible isn’t like a library book you can slip back into the book return bin unfinished because you lost interest. Scripture contains the words of eternal life. So why in the world can’t you seem to keep reading them?

One of the most important questions a Bible reader can ask is what made her stop and walk away midway through. Think back to the last time you abandoned your Bible reading plan—it may have been as recently as this morning. Find your Bible and open to the page where you stopped reading; let’s figure out what went wrong. 

Why Did You Stop?

When it comes to troubleshooting any problem, it’s much harder to figure out a solution when you don’t know what’s wrong. The more specifically you can diagnose an issue, the easier it will be to fix. As you read these questions, take time to consider which ones apply to you. 

The last time you were reading the Bible, why did you stop?

  • I didn’t know what was happening. 
    • As you read Scripture, did it feel like you were reading another language?
    • Did you find it hard to keep up with the characters or the places mentioned?
    • Did you lose track of the storyline?
    • Were you confused by the historical context?
  • I couldn’t focus. 
    • Was your body in need of something? Food, rest, water, movement?
    • Were you distracted by your phone or the people around you? 
    • Did you start off strong during the first few minutes but then feel as though you didn’t have the ability to maintain focus?
  • was bored.
    • Did you struggle to care about what you were reading? 
    • Did you feel like you couldn’t connect with anything on the page? 
    • Did you forget why you started reading in the first place?

By thinking about these questions, you may already have an idea of what needs to change moving forward. You may need to consider these possibilities: 

  • Read mid-morning during a break in your schedule instead of when you first wake up, because that’s when you feel most focused or when your house is most quiet. 
  • Build stamina over time by reading for a few minutes a day and adding time gradually.
  • Try changing to a different translation of the Bible (like the CSB) to help get a better grasp on the actual words you’re reading, or even reading a children’s Bible to help you wrap your mind around the themes and people and places of Scripture. 
  • Use a resource like the videos from Bible Project to provide an overview of the book you’re reading—if you’ve lost track of the story. Their short clips can act as a map showing where you currently are and providing the path of where to go next.

But what if your problem is boredom? 

First, ask God for help. Even the psalmist, known for his love for God’s commands, asked Him for help to delight in it:

  • “Teach me, LORD, the meaning of your statutes” (Psalm 119:33).  
  • “Help me understand your instruction” (Psalm 119:34).
  • “Help me stay on the path of your commands” (Psalm 119:35).
  • “Turn my heart to Your decrees” (Psalm 119:36).

Second, find a new way in. Who says you have to read the Bible cover to cover? What if, instead, you found another approach to get into God’s Word, a way that makes you excited about getting back into it the next day? 

A New Way In 

  • Follow one person.

Are you familiar with Mephibosheth? You may have heard part of his story in a Sunday school class, but have you ever followed the rest of his mentions throughout Scripture? When he’s introduced, he’s the grandson to King Saul, the son of Jonathan, King David’s dear friend. When Mephibosheth was just five years old, his nanny picked him up and fled, and in the process, he fell and his feet became crippled. But that’s not his only plot line: he meets King David again (2 Sam. 19), and their story concludes in a way only God could write (2 Sam. 21).

My point is that the biographies of Scripture are rich. Pick someone like Moses or Solomon, Hannah or Mary, Peter or James. (Or someone from the Women of the Bible series!) Search for every verse that mentions them, and then read the surrounding chapters. You’ll learn more about the God they served as you trace the twists and turns of their lives. 

  • Follow two people. 

Have you ever found that similar themes from Scripture seem to show up in multiple areas of your life? Around the time I began studying the life of Joseph in my personal devotional time, my pastor began a sermon series on David. Both men moved into high government positions at age thirty, but they handled their power differently. Until then, I’d never thought to spend time looking at the two of them together.

Break out the Venn diagram you used to draw in school: it’s time to compare and contrast. Try putting a hero and villain side by side: Moses and Pharaoh, Elijah and Jezebel, or Mordecai and Haman. You could place an individual from the Old Testament beside someone from the New Testament, or compare any person in Scripture to Christ.

  • Follow the numbers. 

If you’re less of a people person but find numbers fascinating, follow them. Figure out some of the reasons why God may have included them in Scripture. Even if you’re not a numbers person, you could still make it your personal mission to dig deep when you see a paragraph you’re tempted to skim through. Uncovering buried treasure is often worth the extra effort.

Look up Numbers 2:3–9. On first read, does it bore you? Press in for a minute. In this passage, military division numbers are given for the tribe of Judah. The military divisions camped on the east side toward the sunrise, and their leader was Nahshon son of Amminadab. Why do those details matter?

Here’s what Tony Evans wrote in his commentary: “The east was the direction in which the tabernacle faced. This meant that the tribe of Judah led the way when the nation traveled. It was the appropriate position for the tribe from which kings would come. Judah’s leader, Nahshon son of Amminadab (Num. 2:3), is named in the genealogy of David (Ruth 4:20) and the genealogy of Christ (Matt. 1:4).”1 How cool is that?

  • Unroll a scroll.

Most Bible reading plans start in Genesis, which can be a tough read for a number of reasons—one of which is its length. When arranging the books of the Bible from longest to shortest, Genesis is second. What if you started with something shorter?

At Revive ’21, the speakers dove headfirst into Colossians, which only contains four chapters. In one of her messages, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth went through Colossians and listed descriptions of Christ. You could do the same with any book of the Bible, but Colossians is a great place to start.

Now sprinkle in a little fun. If you have a roll of paper lying around, whether it’s a roll of craft paper your kids color on or a tube of wrapping paper you’ve never liked, unroll it across your table or floor, and then plop your Bible open beside it. That’s your scroll. Now here’s your challenge: as you read through Colossians (or the book of your choice), see how many details about Christ you can write down. 

When you get to the end of the book, you get to choose your next adventure: will you linger in those same pages, start back at chapter 1, and keep adding to your list? Will you keep the same scroll but try a new book? Or will you fold it up and start something new? The decision is yours—just keep diving in.

Think about the End

Are you ready to begin reading the Bible again? Consider how you want to finish. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:8 that “the end of a matter is better than its beginning.” Imagine today how your life would be different if you never stopped reading the Bible. 

You will. There will be days when you get off track. Study what made you stop, and start again and again—because as exciting as it is to begin, ending well is even better.

1Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2019).

About the Author

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep was working as a hospital teacher when God called her to join Revive Our Hearts as a staff writer. She serves remotely from Houston, Texas, where God sustains her through saltwater beaches, Scripture, and her local church. Katie's … read more …

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