I hear from a lot of ladies that they have struggles when it comes to Bible study. One of the biggest things that I hear is that they don’t know where to start. But I aso hear a lot of frustration and confusion about what to do while they’re studying the Bible.
“I’m trying to read and study but I can’t remember anything. I don’t know what’s important. I don’t know if I should be writing something down.”
So what do you do when you’re studying your Bible? How do you know if you’re reading the right thing? How do you know what’s important and what needs to be written down?
Studying your Bible vs. Reading your Bible
First, I want to say that there is a difference between reading your Bible and studying your Bible. They are both important; in fact, I would say they are both equally as important. But they are not the same.
A lot of times when I hear from ladies that are having a hard time with their Bible study or reading their Bible, it’s because they’re trying to do both at the same time. If you’re just reading your Bible, then it’s probably not the time to study your Bible. And if you’re studying your Bible, you don’t want to just read it.
How to Study Anything
When I was in high school, I was in a magnet program with the International Baccalaureate Program. It was a very strong, stringent academic program where I was basically doing college level work from freshman year all the way through.
During our freshman year we took a class, and while I can’t remember the name of it, the whole point of the class was to teach us how to study. We learned note-taking skills. We learned how to read a textbook and take notes. We learned how to listen to a lecture and take notes. We learned how to organize our notes and how to put together notebooks for our different classes.
We learned about time management. But the big thing that they really focused on, because most of the learning in high school was through text books, was how to read your textbook to be able to pull out the important information so that you could study it.
The first thing they taught us was to open up the section you’re supposed to be reading and skim it. Read all the bold headlines, look at all the bold words, look for definitions of the bold words, read any captions. Flip to the back where the questions are and look through them.
The reason for doing that was to have an idea of what that particular section was about. Reading all the headings and bold words, along with any captions and definitions gave us a broad understanding of what that chapter was about. After that skim, we were to go back to the beginning and actually read through one time.
Then we had to go back through a third time and highlight the important parts. The skimming was to help us understand what we were about to read. The first full read through gave you the important parts, so that by the third read those important parts just jumped out at you.
Applying the Method to Studying your Bible
Those same principles apply to your Bible study and your Bible reading. There is a big difference between going wide in your Bible study and going deep. Going wide is just reading your Bible.
You can read the entire Bible from cover to cover and you’re not going to go deep because you’re not taking the time to study and go into all the meanings and all the words and all the events. But you will have a wide and basic understanding of what the Bible is about. That’s like skimming the chapter before you read it.
When you get ready to study, you’re not going to study from Genesis to Revelation in one sitting. That’s too much. You’re going to take smaller sections, like maybe one book of the Bible or maybe just one chapter, and you’re going to really go deep when you’re studying.
The Inductive Method of Studying Your Bible
The big thing that I’ve learned with the inductive Bible study method is that they teach exactly what I was taught in high school. First, go through and read the chapter. Just read it. You’re not marking anything, you’re not trying to understand anything. You’re just reading it so that you can have an understanding or basic idea of what that book or passage is about.
Once you’ve read it, then you begin to go through and dig deeper and deeper for whatever you’re searching for. And that’s the difference between reading your Bible and studying it.
Reading your Bible is wide. Studying is deep.
Both are equally important. I want to make sure you understand that. One is not right and the other wrong. They are both important and often they both go together. But how do you know what’s important, what to highlight, what to write down, and what to focus on?
What to Focus on When Studying your Bible?
Well that depends on what the Holy Spirit prompts for you. You’ve got to have a purpose. Why are you reading? Why are you studying? Are you wanting to learn more about something you’re going through? Or do you just want to have more knowledge about something like what it means to have more peace?
Are you trying to understand more about an event like the Passover or something like that? That’s going to help frame what jumps out and is important for you to mark down as you study.
I recently reread the book of Esther. Every time that I have read the book of Esther, I have focused on Esther and the Jews; what she did, how she was able to get victory for her people, how God delivered her people, and all of those things. That’s what I’ve focused on.
But recently, I went back to the book of Esther. But this time, I didn’t focus on Esther. I focused on Haman. So when I read and studied it this time, the things that jumped out at me were not related to Esther. They were related to Haman…his character, his choices, his actions, the consequences of the choices that he made.
What Jumps Out at You?
The same thing happens when you are studying your Bible. When you’re taking the time to read through a passage of Scripture, certain things are going to jump out at you, depending on what you need.
If you’re going through a financial hard time and you’re reading the Scriptures, then the stories of God providing for His people are what’s going to jump out at you. If you are struggling with fear, then those kinds of things are going to jump out at you.
There’s really no way to determine that ahead of time. You just have to read and see where God leads you. A great way to be able to focus and know what’s going to be important is just to pray and ask God before you even start studying.
Letting God Lead
“Lord, I am reading through the Psalms because it’s what I feel like You are calling me to do.” Or, “I’m not familiar with this book of the Bible, so I’m going to spend my time digging deep into the book of Psalms. What is it that You have for me, that You want me to learn, that you want to reveal to me, while I’m reading or studying this book?”
Just ask Him!
You might not get an answer immediately, but as you continue to read and you notice certain things that are like, “Oh, that fits. Oh, that’s interesting.” Maybe there are points of conviction, where you read something like, “A soft answer turns away wrath”.
And you know you really need to work on that, so you keep reading and even more things about anger or words begin to jump out at you. You know what to focus on then.
Reading for Overall Understanding
When I decided to read through the Bible in 6 months last year, I had to force myself not to highlight and mark and dig deep and ask questions. My purpose was not to dig deep and understand the deep level things about the Bible.
My purpose was to read the whole book, from Genesis to Revelation. I wanted to see the big picture. I wanted to understand how it all connected, because I had never done that before. So when you’re reading, even if you’re just reading a small passage as you begin your quiet time, try to focus yourself so that you’re not getting distracted by all the things you want to go really deep on.
Just be there. Just read it. Just read it.
Just read it like you’re reading your newspaper or your favorite book. Just read to have an understanding of what that passage or word of Scripture is about.
Then when you’re studying it, that’s when you want to go deep. A part of your studying may be to read the same passage over and over and over again. Every time you read it, something new is going to jump out at you. Something is going to make a little more sense.
The things that jump out at you will depend on your circumstance and your situation.
So where do you start when it comes to either reading or studying your Bible?
Not knowing where to start can be especially true for new Christians or if you’re going through a hard time.
If you are a new Christian, then welcome to the family! Here’s how I would encourage you- I know it can be overwhelming to pick up your Bible and say, “I have to read this, I have to study this, and I have no idea what I’m doing!”
I get it! It’s a big book and it’s overwhelming. Until last year, I had never read the book of Revelation or a bunch of other books because I was just overwhelmed. So I want you to take a deep breath and just pick a place to start.
All of the Bible is good. No matter where you start, no matter what you’re reading, it’s going to have some very valuable lessons and some encouraging words for you. If you’ve never read your Bible before, I would caution you against starting with Numbers or Leviticus. Those are kind of hard to get through.
Reading Through an Entire Book of the Bible
But start somewhere. Read the book of Genesis. Read about how God created the world and how we began.
If you want to learn more about Jesus, pick one of the gospels. My favorite gospel is John. I love that because of the stories of the women that Jesus interacted with and the things that He’s done. Those are great places.
Romans is another great book for new Christians, because it has a lot of foundational, basic principles that are in there to read.
If you’re going through a hard time or you’ve been studying the Bible for a long time and you just want to do something new but don’t know where to start, maybe you could study the Psalms. Read one Psalm per day and really dig deep.
Or the book of Ephesians. I’m studying that right now. I’ve read it before and was familiar with some of the passages, but I’ve never studied the entire thing. I’m learning so many new things about God and about who I am, and all of those things.
Reading on Certain Topics
Now if you are completely lost and don’t know where to start, a concordance will come in handy for you. The great thing about a concordance is you can just pick a topic…joy, peace, money, parenting…look it up in the concordance and it will give you a list of verses and passages that you can read and then study and dig deeper.
Studying your Bible Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult
I hope this is helpful for you. I get at least 10 emails a week asking this same question. But please believe me, Bible study and prayer are not meant to be difficult. It’s actually very simple. It’s easy. But we have built it up in our minds into this big mountain that we can’t climb.
That’s a trick from the enemy. He doesn’t want us reading the Bible, because that’s how we learn how to find victory in every area of life. He doesn’t want that. So don’t be intimidated. It’s God’s Word. It’s there for us. It’s why He had those men write those words the way that they did and put it together the way that they did. Because He wanted it for us so that we could learn more about Him and about ourselves.