3 Bible Study Tips to Help You Understand Scripture

No need to struggle with how to understand scripture. Use these bible study tips to start retaining more from your time in the Word.

Do you struggle with reading the Bible, retaining scripture, and understanding what it is that God is trying to speak to you through his word? Recently I received a couple of questions about this very thing.

Today I’m going to share the answer that I gave to them because I know that it’s going to bless and encourage you. 

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Sometimes when you are trying to spend more time in God’s word, you come across obstacles and things that trip you up and make you frustrated. They can really cause you to lose steam and either be inconsistent or quit altogether. You don’t want that to happen.

How to Understand Scripture Tip #1: God’s Not Hiding the Ball

One of the biggest, most common struggles that I hear is that you are having trouble retaining and remembering what you’re reading, and what you’re studying. You just flat-out don’t understand it. Thankfully it’s a common problem with an easy and simple solution.

First of all, I want to say a couple of things. God’s not going to ask you to do something and then make it impossible to do that thing. He’s not cruel or out to get you to pull the rug from under you. That’s just not who he is. 

When you see the commands and admonishments to meditate on his word, read the word, say the word, walk out your faith, and apply the word to your life you have to start from a place that says, if God is asking me to do this, then it is possible. 

Notice I didn’t say that it’s easy. But it is possible. Keep that in mind because sometimes you’ll get frustrated at God as if he’s playing a practical joke on you. As if he’s saying, all the answers to everything that you need are right here in the Word.

Then he makes it impossible for you to understand it. He does not operate like that. If he asks you to do it, there is a way to make it happen. 

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How to Understand Scripture Tip #2: Check Your Translation

The other thing that comes up a lot is the need to check your bible translation. I say this a lot when it comes to scripture reading and scripture and studying in Bible intake. Sometimes the reason that you are struggling to read consistently, the reason that you don’t understand your Bible, the reason that you’re not retaining what you’re reading is because the translation that you are using is not the right translation for you.

You might need to grab a different translation than the one that you’re used to because there are some that are easier to understand than others. There are all kinds of translations of the Bible from word-for-word, thought-to-thought, and paraphrases.

Are there some translations that you should stay away from? Absolutely. There are some that are just awful, but for most of them, there’s nothing wrong with them because they’re all translations. They’re all what men, women, and scholars have put work and effort into.

If you are stuck in this thought process of only reading one specific translation of the bible I want to encourage you to reconsider. Hop on the internet and look at some different translations because there might be an easier translation for you to read than the one that you’re using.

If you have a translation that you cannot read and you cannot understand, you’re not going to spend time in your Bible and there’s no point in that. No legalism is allowed around here. If somebody tells you the only translation that’s right is XYZ, don’t listen to them. Legalism is bad. 

How to Understand Scripture Tip #3: Slow Down

What is the answer to this problem of struggling to retain scripture? When you can’t remember what you’ve read, understand what you’ve read, or apply this to your life. Slow down. You might be doing too much all at one time. 

The lady who asked this question in our community shared that she really wanted to really dig deep into God’s word. She was reading, doing cross-references, and taking notes all at the same time. It was causing her to struggle to retain and understand. Here’s why. 

Your brain can only take so much information. It can only do so many tasks before it’s going to tap out because it’s done for the day. The amount of time you have and the amount of things you can get done is going to be different for everybody.

It will be different on a day when you’re super busy or a day after you’ve not gotten a good night’s sleep than it might be on another day. I want to encourage you to slow down. There’s no race to consume all of scripture by some deadline. There’s no rule that says you have to read eight chapters a day, or else something bad’s going to happen.

That’s not the case. There is no ticking clock or timer on how long it takes you to get through the entire Bible, a book of the Bible, or a passage of the Bible. Slow down and take your time. Try reading less in each sitting. If you normally spend an entire hour digging in great!

But if you’re struggling to retain and keep things organized back off a little bit. Start with 15 minutes and do a few verses instead of an entire passage or chapter of scripture. Shortening the amount of time and the amount of scripture that you’re trying to dig in and study, read, and meditate on will give your brain the space it needs to retain what you’re studying. 

Think through it and you’ll remember more because you’re trying to put less in there. The other thing to do is to break up what you want to do. If your process is to read scripture, take notes, find all the cross-references, read all the cross-references, and take notes on all the cross-references, maybe don’t try to do that all in one day.

Maybe the first day you’re just reading the passage and looking for context to get a general impression of the passage. Then the next day maybe you find some cross-references and spend a couple of days or a week looking at and studying the different cross-references and taking notes and all those things. You don’t have to do it all in one setting. 

How to Understand Scripture Tip #4: Take Notes

My next tip is to take notes. The act of taking notes, whether it’s in a notebook,  a journal, or in your Bible itself, is going to force you to slow down all on its own. Stop when you are reading a passage of scripture, read slowly, read 1 verse at a time, and stop and jot down your thoughts and observations.

Make note of any questions that come up as you are going along. If you’re going to stop to take notes, that’s going to make you slow down a lot. The final thing that I want to encourage you to do as part of slowing down is to get comfortable with having some silence, some time to think, some time to meditate and reflect on what you’ve read.

Maybe you read for 10 minutes and then you take five minutes to just sit and be quiet. Quiet your heart, quiet your thoughts, and just listen for the voice of God. Listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to draw your attention to from what you’ve read. 

Final Thoughts on How to Understand Scripture

If you are like so many of us and you’re struggling to pay attention, you’re struggling to retain and remember what you’re doing, you’re struggling to understand what God’s word says to you, you probably need to slow down in some way.

Find a different translation, read fewer verses, and break up your routines so that you’re not trying to cram it all in at one time. Linger and soak in the word of God. God doesn’t care if you spend time with him in one verse or a whole book of the Bible. He doesn’t care. He’s not keeping track of that.

He just wants you to show up. He wants you to have ears to hear and an open heart to be able to receive whatever he wants. Sometimes you’re so busy trying to cram so much into this time that you don’t leave room for God to work and speak to you during your time with him.

The whole reason that you’re spending time in God’s word is to get to know him better. You’ve got to make room for him to speak and for him to lead and guide and direct you. Otherwise, you’re really going to miss out on a lot of good stuff. 

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These bible study tips will help you learn how to understand scripture.

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