The Frustrations of Bible Reading

The average American household has four Bibles or more. We are a long way from the times before the invention of the printing press when Bibles were expensive and rare. But having access to a Bible doesn’t necessarily mean Americans are Bible readers. A recent press release from Logos Bible Software provides these statistics about Bible reading among church attenders.1

  • 18–34% Rarely or never read the Bible
  • 12% Felt confused the last time they read the Bible
  • 11% Felt overwhelmed
  • 40% Felt an “unfavorable emotion”

Survey respondents also indicated their top frustrations with Bible reading.

  • 32% “I never have enough time”
  • 12% “The language is difficult to relate to”
  • 11% “I don’t feel excited about reading it”

Is reading the Bible frustrating? The answer is yes — at least initially. Everyone who develops the habit of regular Bible reading struggles to find time to read. It becomes easier, but I still go through busy times in my life when I play catch up on my reading guide. We also need to keep things in perspective. None of the books of the Bible are very long. Most are pamphlet size if they were printed by themselves. Each of the gospels could be read aloud in about two hours. In comparison, one of the most recent John Grisham novels would take nearly 13 hours read aloud — the entire New Testament could be done in about 16 hours.

I think most new Bible readers do feel confused and struggle to understand. I liken my first time reading through the Bible with fishing with a net with holes six inches wide. You can catch a big fish with it — some of the big ideas in the text, but many things will pass right through. Fishing with such a net would obviously be frustrating. Each time through the Bible your net becomes finer, and you “catch” more of what is in the text.

I suspect that talking about the frustration of Bible reading seems a bit sacrilegious. After all, the Bible is God’s word. How can we complain about God’s word? Yet, I know of few things in life that don’t entail a learning curve especially if they are worth doing. Admitting our frustrations is the first step in moving beyond them. Knowing that others have felt the same way in their journey can help us work through our own frustrations. Believe me when I say the journey is worth it.

1 Note that the press release is about a free ESV Bible for iOS, Android, or Kindle Fire mobile devices. The free offer is good through August 10th. Use the press release link to find the offer. Logos is one of the Bible apps that I personally use on my iPad, and free is hard to beat.

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