When Reading the Bible Feels Like a Chore

Do you consider yourself a “mood reader”? I didn’t even know this was a thing until I became a more prolific part of the bookish community on Instagram. All of a sudden, I found other readers like me—people who couldn’t finish a certain book because it was too light and they were in the mood for something deeper, or too deep and they needed something lighter…too reflective when they wanted something campy, too campy when they wanted to go deep…

Some books just need to be enjoyed at a certain season of life. But that’s a difficult concept to apply to Scripture! After all, it’s the perfect Word of God. That alone makes it seem like something we should approach with eagerness and joy at all times, right?

Unfortunately, that’s just not always the case. I’ve been there myself! I’ll go through seasons where I’m gobbling up new insights and understandings from the Bible, and then others where pulling up my app feels like a chore—something I’d comfortably overlook if not for the reminder on my phone or the sake of routine. Yeah, that sounds embarrassing to say as a member of a Christian team—like, what? You’re not always jazzed to read the Bible every single day? But, yeah, nope. I’ve had my fair share of struggles with this…and God knows it! I’ve talked to Him about it an awful lot. Well, maybe more like complained, if I’m being honest. I want to be that person who always approaches Bible time with eagerness and joy, but that’s not always my story.

My story tends to be more seasonal. More reading Scripture for months, then watching Bible courses expounding on one passage. More eager for a few months, then routine, then struggling.

Friend, if that’s your story, too, you’re not surprising God—trust me, if humans have thought it, felt it, experienced it, He’s seen it before! God is also not legalistic or overbearing; He is not hovering at our shoulders, timing us, scoffing out our poor performance if we only manage five minutes of reading as opposed to someone else’s hour-and-a-half. Reading Scripture for the sake of reading it, just to check off the “righteous living” box, is not accomplishing what we ultimately want to strive for here. While it is good to have the words before us regardless of our “mood”, it ultimately does far less good if we’re unable to retain and act on the things we’re reading. If they’re just words on a page to us and we’re closed off to their life-giving, life-changing power, then it’s time to try a new approach, a new tactic, a way to lift the burden of feeling like Bible-reading has become a chore.

Below are just a few things you might try to do when reading the Bible feels like a chore. For many people, these methods have helped renew their interest in reading Scripture and have even evoked an eagerness to dive deeper, read longer, and understand more! 

So, without further ado, here are some things you can do when reading the Bible feels like a chore:

This one is so vital, it stands apart from the numbered list! Whether reading the Bible feels like a chore to you or not, it’s always a great practice to pray before you read, asking God to guide you, teach you, and show you things from His word that He would like you to know. This is a wonderful habit to adopt!

  1. Switch Versions
    Do you tend to gravitate toward one version or another and stick pretty close to it? While this is a noble and logical approach, especially when you find a version you feel imports the greatest truth into the text, sometimes our minds can tend to stagnate if we read or hear the same things in the same way over and over and over again. There’s a trick novelists are taught where if you find that writing or editing a certain passage, scene, interaction etc. in one character’s perspective is bogging you down, switch to another character’s head and tell it from their perspective. This can help you gain clarity and insight into the scene that you might’ve totally missed staying in one place! The same is true of approaching the Scriptures from the exact same version time and time again; eventually it can start to feel like we’ve heard it all before, and we check out. So if you tend toward more literal translations, maybe give something like the New Living Translation, The Passion Translation, or The Message a try; or if your usual flavor is more modernistic in tone, try something on the literal side of things, like ESV, NASB, RSV, etc. 
  2. Switch the Way You Read
    Do you usually read the Bible in a certain order—like always start at the beginning and read it cover-to-cover? Or do you always hop around from spot to spot? If you have a routine, try switching it up to hopping or to linear reading! Another thing I suggest is finding a way to read the Bible chronologically, in the order (or as close as possible) that events took place. This was something I began in mid-2020 and found it brought me an entirely new perspective on what was happening when, where, and to whom. I found myself actually getting really excited to read again! You can also try things like: reading the same book over and over in multiple versions (I recommend doing this with Ephesians!); listening to the Bible on audiobook; switching to a printed Bible from an eReader or vice-versa; reading in different places, i.e. moving from your bed to the couch, from the couch to the dining room table, from the table to outside—weather permitting!—etc. Evaluate the way you approach reading and find some way, any way, to shake it up! See what comes of it! 
  3. Switch the Time You Read
    Do you find yourself struggling to get motivated to read your Bible first thing in the morning while your mind awakens for the day? Or maybe at night, after a ton of school, work, etc., it’s hard to get your mind to focus on the words and concepts and derive lasting meaning and impression from them. If you find one of these sounds like you, it might be time to switch up your routine! Try switching from morning to evening reading, or vice-versa; or maybe carve out time in the afternoon to fit some reading in. A change of routine can help quicken your mind and open it up to new and wonderful insights in the Word!
  4. Supplement with Something That Sheds New Light on Scripture
    My husband is a gigantic knowledge buff. For him, it’s difficult to get excited about the familiar passages and verses he’s heard quoted or was made to memorize from his earliest grade-school days. But throw in some Old Testament history paralleled with the world history of the times, and suddenly his enthusiasm skyrockets. He loves seeing the parallels between recorded and biblical history! I’m not quite as much of a knowledge buff—facts tend to fall out of my head like a busted sieve—but give me a well-written, quotable, poignant thought on Scripture and I’ll remember it forever. That’s why I love books like Girls with Swords by Lisa Bevere and Knowing Jesus by Matthew Kelly. They take concepts and passages of Scripture I too have known and memorized, or ones that have confused me over the years, and shed new light and insight on them in a personal, applicable way. If you find that just Bible-reading isn’t feeding your soul and energizing your walk with God, consider tapping into some resources by God’s inspired children; again, our struggle to take in scriptural knowledge is not a surprise to God, and He has imbued many of His people with the ability to articulate biblical concepts in a way that awakens and speaks directly to even the most tired and confused mind. If that sounds like you, this method may be the boost you need to get excited about the Word of God again!
  5. Bring it Back to the Basics
    Finding you’re having a difficult time retaining and focusing because reading the scriptures just feels really hard? Dial it back and slow down! Try reading just a Psalm or a Proverb every day; or maybe one parable or one chapter of a Gospel record. The point is not to be exhaustively scholarific every single time you approach the Bible; the value lies in filling your mind with God’s Word daily to help combat the constant barrage of spiritual attacks we face, and hiding it in your heart so that you are walking as righteously before Him as possible. So if all you can manage to retain, truly grasp, and properly apply in this season of life is one Psalm, one Proverb, the lessons of one parable, that’s all right! Move ahead in what you can, giving all glory to God and asking Him to teach you abundantly from what you can absorb. There is much to be learned even if you’re only reading a little bit!

I hope and pray at least one of these suggestions is relevant and helpful to your situation! Remember to keep trying, keep seeking, keep praying, and no matter what, don’t just give up and quit the Bible altogether. God wants to connect with you both personally and through His Word, and He will lead you to a path of understanding and taking joy in the Scriptures again. May today be the day you find that path! 

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1 comment

  1. Thank you Renee,

    When I turn my attentions towards God in personal prayer, He always pours into me just what I need, in just the right way, in just the right proportion. A balance of comfort, forgiveness, encouragement and challenge.
    I am once again ready to engage in reading His scriptures whether for study, contemplative absorption or uplifting enjoyment.
    So appreciate your perspectives, advice and personal experience.

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