Expect Something Beautiful with Laura Booz Podcast

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Bible Study and Bumper Boats

Laura Booz: One time when I was a kid, we went to an amusement park that had bumper boats. They were all lined up around this man-made pond, and it looked really fun. I waited in line and finally got my very own bumper boat. I got inside and the attendant blew his whistle, indicating that we could all start, bumping away. I realized pretty quickly that I had no idea what I was doing. 

Everyone else just zipped around, making waves, maneuvering surprising bumps into other boats, and throwing their heads back in triumph. They were having so much fun. But there I was, a little girl stuck in a boat I couldn’t drive, being splashed about by all these happy strangers. My boat bobbed over to the opposite side of the pond, nudged up against a guard rail and just sat there. 

A couple minutes later the attendant blew his whistle and beckoned all of the boats back into the dock. The other boaters collectively sighed that the fun was over. They easily turned their boats in the direction of the dock and zipped back obediently. But I was still sitting on the opposite side of the pond, trying to figure out how to run the engine—not to mention the lofty task of steering the boat back to shore.

It was abundantly clear, I was stuck. With wild desperation in my eyes, I looked up at the attendant. “You’re supposed to bring the boat in,” someone yelled from the shore. “I know.” That unleashed an explosion of instruction from the eager boaters waiting in line. “Put your foot on the right pedal.” “Turn the wheel to the left.” “Now turn it to the right.” Ugh . . . the pedals, buttons, and steering mechanisms were puzzles I could not solve. 

I tried to steer left but the boat moved right. I tried to reverse but the boat went forward. I tried to listen to the instructions, hurdling over the water, but to no avail. It didn’t matter how well the people on the shore yelled, I was completely unable to operate that boat and drive it to the dock. I was so embarrassed. Why couldn’t I figure this out? What was wrong with me?

I remember just giving up and raising my hands in helpless surrender. That’s when the attendant effortlessly jumped into a docked boat, zipped across the pond and towed me to shore. 

Hi there. You’re listening to Expect Something Beautiful with Laura Booz. Today, I want to talk about those times when Bible study feels impossible, uninteresting, and overwhelming, even in those moments, we can expect God to come to our rescue. 

Not too long ago I was joyfully teaching two women’s Bible studies. One in the morning and one in the evening. I was daily studying Scriptures, loving every word. The Holy Spirit carried me from precept to precept. I loved sharing what I was learning. The connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament, the meanings of complicated words, the excellencies of theological truths, and all the helpful applications to everyday life.

Until I entered a season of life that demanded everything I had. And to be honest, I had to set that rigorous time of intensive Bible study to the side and live off a diet of Bible reading that looked a little like those cups a marathon runner will take and quickly swish down and keep on running in that race. 

What’s interesting, as time passed, Bible study started to feel more and more impossible. It’s odd, right? The same woman who used to underline and highlight and rejoice in God’s Word would suddenly feel like the Bible is a foreign language. A foreign skill, even a foreign interest. Instead of feeling as natural as my own heartbeat as it used to feel, it now felt like well, being in a bumper boat, and having no idea how to drive it. 

And quite honestly if you were to sign me up for a Bible study at that time, that required a workbook and a pile of multi-colored highlighters, I would have cried, because I was sure I just couldn’t do it. I felt confused and overwhelmed and incompetent.

Meanwhile, women everywhere were studying the Bible and loving it. They were doing their homework, learning, discussing, and thriving while I felt like I was just sitting at the sidelines, stalled out. And I wondered, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do Bible study?

Well, one day I realized I just didn’t want to sit there anymore. Maybe you happen to feel like I did, a bit overwhelmed or intimidated by Bible study. I want you to know, you’re not alone. I also want to assure you that when you and I feel that way, we’re normal. 

I know that, because Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, and it is a celebration of God’s Word and how it’s perfect and right. The Psalmist is saying this is so much fun to meditate on Your Word, to know Your Word, to have it in my heart. But after 175 verses of celebrating God’s Word, do you know how the Psalmist wraps things up? In verse 176 he says, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.” What an honest, humble ending. 

This same writer who in one season was saying, “Oh, how I love Your Word, look at that precept and that one” is now saying, “Oh help! I’ve wandered far away. But I remember that Your Word is wonderful, please come and get me.” Oh, how I can relate. Can’t you?

Now, if you’ve never tried to study the Bible, you may not grasp how much it will benefit your life. You may not know how the Holy Spirit will use it to heal, encourage, equip, and correct you in ways you never dreamed possible. Or how you will be acquainted with Jesus more intimately than ever before. I’m telling you all these things are true. Whenever I diligently study the Bible, I reap blessing upon blessing, and I know you will too. 

You know what? I’m asking God to give us more ability, more confidence, and more joy in Bible study. So, if you happen to feel stuck on the sidelines, I have a plan. Do you want to join me? There are three things that we can do to get unstuck and to get back into our Bibles. 

The first step is to take a deep breath, that’s right, and remember that Bible study is not meant to be a ball and chain around your ankle. Nor is it an optional recreation or a lark for bookish people. You and I need God’s Word. It’s our daily bread. It’s there to pay attention to the depths of our souls—to correct and train and encourage and prepare us. Too often we enter seasons of life where we feel like we’re on a ship that’s going down. And everything that’s unnecessary has to go overboard. 

Well, reading the Bible is not one of those things. That’s the thing we must cherish and hold dear. That’s the very thing that will keep us afloat. So, take a deep breath and let yourself remember how wonderful and how necessary God’s Word really is. 

And then the second step is to watch someone else do it. Do you happen to know someone who is enjoying Bible study right now? Ask if you can sit by her side while you read a few verses together and just sit back and listen as she wonders aloud. Watch her highlight. Watch her take notes. And when she looks up a word in her concordance, look over her shoulder. Listen as she carefully applies the verse to her own life. Let her enthusiasm inspire you. I think if you make a weekly date of this apprenticeship, you’ll start to acquire some skills and grow in your understanding and interest.

Then the third and final step is to get in the boat and practice. The younger me could have learned how to drive boats. Of course, I would have needed hours of instruction and practice in order to forge pathways in my brain that were not there before. But I could have mastered it eventually. The experts say that anyone can learn anything if she practices consistently with high quality instruction. 

It’s natural to practice the things that kind of come easily to you, but in this case, you and I might need to practice the things that feel awkward and bulky and difficult. But if we practice Bible study, say for ten focused minutes a day, we will rattle the walls of impossibility. You and I will improve! We’ll get our bearings, we’ll get our vocabulary, and we’ll gradually discover the everlasting pleasures tucked within those pages.

When it comes to facing the impossible, the secret is to begin. God knows best that with Him all things are possible. So, we may be sitting there feeling confounded and overwhelmed, stuck on the side of the Bible study pond. Maybe we can’t even get the engine going to start to get unstuck. If even my three-step plan sounds impossible, I’ll tell you what we can do. We can lift our hands in helpless surrender, and our attendant, God Himself, will come to our aid. And as we trust Him and walk by faith and apply our hearts and minds to work of learning how to study the Bible, we will soon join the Psalmist in saying, “I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” (119:48)

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