So, somewhere around December 31 or January 1, you renewed your resolve to read God’s Word daily. Or maybe you set a goal to complete a new study plan or stick with a specific reading schedule.
You pictured yourself with a steaming cup of coffee, a new journal with freshly-filled pages, and the first hints of sunrise streaming in your window onto your open Bible lighting your already glowing face.
This, you decided, will be the year I really read all the way through. Or, This will be the year I study XYZ topic.
Then January 2nd happened.
Or maybe it was January 10th. In any case, you overslept, couldn’t find your journal under the mess you had meant to clean up the night before, and didn’t feel much like reading anyway.
Oh well, you told yourself. I’m not going to let one off day stop me. I’ll catch up tomorrow.
But tomorrow went down even worse. And the next day. And the next.
And here it is almost the end of January and you’re wondering if your fading “habit” is even worth pursuing. Maybe it’s time to set it aside until next January. Or maybe you’re always going to fail at it. Maybe Bible reading just doesn’t work for you.
Before you give up, I want to give you a word of encouragement:
I mean it. So you missed a day. Or a week. Or three.
So it’s not as easy as you pictured on January 1.
So your new journal has coffee stains on the outside and nothing on the inside.
So what? Don’t give up.
The Bible can change your life.
I mean it. It changed (and continues to change) mine.
If the New Year’s habit you were struggling with was reading ten books a week or writing every day or walking the dog before noon or never going to bed with dishes in the sink or any number of other great ideas, I can see how it might be time to say, You know, there’s always another starting place down the road. I’m not going to keep pursuing this goal right now. But we’re not talking about something optional or superficial.
We’re talking about the powerful, living Word of God.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.—Hebrews 4:12
We’re talking about the only book God ever wrote that He preserved and made available to you so you could know Him.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:—2 Peter 1:19
It may take a few weeks or months—or tries—to develop a habit of daily Scripture intake. But it is a habit worth developing.
Don’t give up.
If I could offer a few suggestions—really just tips of encouragement—to help you continue, it would be these:
1. Recognize that something is better than nothing.
If your unrealized goal of spending thirty minutes in God’s Word is keeping you from spending ten minutes in it, you need to reshape that goal. It would be better to spend ten minutes in God’s Word than zero. It is better to plan to read one chapter per day and do it than to plan to read the Bible through in a year and not read anything.
Do not think of reshaping an unrealized goal as failure or a regression. Think of it as a realistic step toward a future goal. God blesses our steps of faith, no matter how small they may be. So take that baby step.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.—James 4:8
2. Don’t expect perfection.
None of us really believes the sunrise is going to stream in on our glowing face as we read God’s Word…exactly. But we might expect that we’ll always feel like reading our Bibles or that one day of Scripture reading will immediately transform that stubborn habit we’ve been struggling with. If we begin with unrealistic expectations—of ourselves or of the results—we’ll become disappointed and quit.
But what if on the morning when you overslept and couldn’t find your journal for the mess, instead of telling yourself that you failed, you told yourself, This isn’t how I pictured it, but I’m determined to read one chapter sometime today anyway! And then you pushed the piles of papers over, opened your Bible, and read Matthew 1?
If you set a realistic goal and allow for imperfection, you give yourself room to reach that goal on rough days. And perhaps even more importantly, you are able to focus on the purpose of the goal. You aren’t reading your Bible simply because it is a habit “good Christians” have. You are reading it to know God! And God desires to reveal Himself to you just as much on the days when everything goes wrong as on the days when it all goes the way you pictured. Persevering through obstacles is an action showing you believe that God will reward your faith, not your perfection.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.—Hebrews 11:6
Satan will try to tell you that it’s not worth it or you can’t do it. Your own flesh will tell you that you need a few more minutes of scrolling through Facebook. Believe neither.
Ask the Lord for insight on where the obstacles lie and how to overcome them. But whatever you do, don’t give up.
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.—Psalm 27:8
I know it’s almost the end of January. But it’s not too late—today is the perfect day to restart your goal.