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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

What To Do If You Get Nothing Out Of Reading The Bible

Read Bible on everystockphoto by abdcz2000Getting Nothing

Let’s say you are reading God’s Word, but getting nothing out of it.  Maybe it’s not meaning anything to you, or you are just not feeling it.  What can you do?

I’ve been there, and I’m pretty sure every believer has.  So you are not alone.

But what’s even more encouraging is that the author of Psalm 119 has also been there, and he tells us what God can do about it.

Open My Eyes

That’s what he prays in Psalm 119:18 —

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

The fact that he prays this means that he is not beholding wondrous things from God’s Law.  Which means that when he reads God’s Word, he’s not seeing anything wonderful.  He’s getting nothing out of it.

So what does he do?  He asks God to open his eyes.

What Kind Of Eyes?

He can’t be talking about the eyes in our heads, because those are always open when we read.

So he is saying we have another set of eyes, which are sometimes closed so we can’t see wondrous things in God’s Word.  And when they are closed, we can’t open them ourselves; we need to pray and have God open them.

So what kind of eyes is he talking about?  I found a clue in Ephesians 1:17-18 —

[I pray that God] may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you …

Paul prays that God will enlighten the eyes of our hearts.  This means we have two sets of eyes — eyes in our heads, eyes in our hearts.

What’s the difference?  The eyes in your head SEE the truth, and the eyes in your heart FEEL the truth.

Seeing, But Not Feeling

So when we open the Bible, the eyes of our heads can see the truth about Jesus — that Jesus died on the Cross, for example.

But too often we can see the truth about Jesus, but not feel the beauty, glory, and wonder of that truth.

So we can read that Jesus died on the Cross, but instead of feeling —

  • wonder at a God who would die for sinful people
  • sorrow for my sin which deserved such punishment
  • joy that my sins have been paid for
  • love for Jesus who would do this for me

— I can feel nothing more than — Jesus died on the Cross.  OK.  I believe that.  I understand that.

Why Does That Happen?

The problem is that  sin grows like a cataract over the eyes of our hearts, clouding our ability to feel the truth of Jesus (I think I originally heard this from John Piper).

But when you first trust Christ, he supernaturally cuts the cataract of sin away from your eyes, and for the first time you not only see but also feel the truth of Jesus Christ — and love him and desire him more than anything.  Remember that day?

So if that’s what happens when we are saved, why does Paul ask God to enlighten the eyes of believers?  And why does the psalmist ask God to open his own eyes?

It’s because, even though we have been saved, we still have indwelling sin.  And this sin will keep trying to grow up over the eyes of our hearts so we won’t feel the truth of Jesus.

How can we tell if that’s happening?  It’s because when we read the Bible we see the truth, but feel nothing.

That’s why Paul prays that God will enlighten the eyes of believers, and why the psalmist prays that God will open his own eyes.  It’s because sin is constantly trying to cloud the eyes of our hearts, and because when we pray and ask God to open our eyes, he will.

Good News

This was wonderful news when I first heard it.  Because much of my Bible-reading had been dull and lifeless.

But the problem was that I didn’t understand that I had two sets of eyes.  I didn’t know that sin was clouding the eyes of my heart so I could not feel the wonder of what I was reading.  And I did not realize that if I prayed, God would cut away that sin and open those eyes so I could feel.

So now, almost every time I read God’s Word, I start by praying Psalm 119:18 — Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things from your law.

It’s also important to meaningfully confess sin, and to read God’s Word carefully, prayerfully, and thoughtfully.

Since doing this my Bible-reading has been transformed.  Some days are better than others.  But by God’s mercy I do regularly see, and feel, wondrous things from God’s Word.

Call The Surgeon

When you read God’s Word and feel nothing, it’s because cataracts of sin are blinding you.

But God is a perfectly skilled eye-surgeon who specializes in cutting away these cataracts.

So when you are reading and feel nothing, don’t give up; don’t close the Bible; don’t keep reading just so you can say you did it; and don’t be discouraged.

Instead, understand that the surgeon is ready to go to work.

And call upon the surgeon.

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(Picture is from everystockphoto.com and was taken by namida-k.)

Category: Help with Bible-Reading

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5 Responses

  1. Eric says:

    Excellent article and perspective. My wife and I are recovering from a season like this and are re-learning to enjoy the goodness of the Lord. However I hope that this article isn’t mistaken as being all-encompassing. I think there are other, biblical reasons that perhaps we may not experience the deep-seeded joy we once found in the Lord and Hist word.

    For this past season, the Scripture I have been (and continue to) cling to is Psalm 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” The joy and wonder of salvation brings about a completely infatuation with the One who saved.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Well said, Eric. There surely are other factors that can keep us from experiencing the joy in Christ that God promises.

      And thank you for sharing your encouraging story!

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  2. Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

    Steve, you are absolutely right that it is necessary to have our eyes of the heart opened before we are able to delight in reading the Bible. And calling upon the surgeon is good advice, indeed.

    What I find so comforting is the fact that we need not struggle with forcing ourselves to read the Bible at all. I would even go so far as to say, “If you do not feel anything for a certain time and you do not gain some deeper knowledge by Bible reading, then you should drop it for a while.”
    If your reaction to my last sentence has been something like that, “???” then I will proceed to explain it in more detail. ;)

    Let’s just consider a man who has been looking for a wife. One day, reading marriage advertisements, he was suddenly struck by lightning. Here’s the ad he might have been reading then.

    “Beautiful woman, well qualified Prof (2 PhDs), financially independent, tall (5’9″), slim, athletic, celebrity status, housewifely, gentle, good listener, would love to receive an email from you who feel that she is the woman you have been searching for. If you are interested, you can send a letter along with those personal details you want her to know to the following address : ……………………………….. Phone : 00000000 Mobile 00000000000 E-mail : xxxxxxxxxxx@gmail.com.”

    Wow! But almost too good to be true, right? :)

    Let’s say the man couldn’t help but writing to her. For a few days he was nervously waiting for her response. And eventually, after one long week, he received her letter in which she described how glad she had been about his very response. And the man realized that he had fallen head over heels in love with the woman whom he wants to marry [that’s love at first read, one might say, since he didn’t see her yet].
    The woman feels the same about him but there are several obstacles they must meet. One of those hindrances is that she lives somewhere else and cannot move for certain reasons. Thus the two lovers are compelled to live for years in a distant relationship maintained by letters only. Maybe, they must wait a very long time until she can finally tell him, ” Let’s make a happy home where I will follow you!”

    What would you think about his or her reaction whenever they get another email from their beloved spouse-to-be? Will they ever be bored with reading the letter as long as they have love for each other in their hearts?

    Well, breaking the whole thing down to a biblical level, we can read that the psalmist said in the beginning of Ps 119,

    “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Ps 119:10-11)

    Aha! Seeking the Lord with our whole heart (through prayer by telling Him everything secretly) will change our hearts because only then the Lord pours His love (Rom 5:5) into them, so that they – our hearts – more and more “see” the many love letters written by God to us, which are also called the Bible.

    I realize that it is particularly a problem and pressure for clergymen and all professional ministers of the Word that they are somehow “forced” to read and know the Bible. If not, how could they ever give helpful advice or even prepare their sermons?
    Nonetheless, if faith which comes from hearing (Rom 10:17) does NOT grow while reading the Bible, and, if weariness or even aversion against His word arises, then it is high time to seek Him first in our Bible-free closet (heart) until we feel His love IN us which automatically enables us to love the Bible too [I am just thinking of the short video you posted recently, Steve. Obviously, those Chinese believers have been loving Jesus before they enthusiastically received their Bibles].

    I remember that Teresa of Ávila once wrote in her diary about her experience of an ecstasy which taught her more than thousand sermons could have ever done. (*) I admit that such things happen rarely, yet we need not struggle anymore with squeezing the Bible dry in order to get some spiritual juice out of it.

    God loves us unconditionally and He longs for sharing His both tender and passionate love with us. Prayer is the means, love is the outcome, and knowledge is the blessing God bestows on us whenever He wishes. The more we seek Him, the more knowledge of Him – His Word (Christ) – and of His word (the Bible) – we will have acquired, when the passion of His fire spontaneously takes full control of our brains and the very being of our existence…

    **************************************************

    “My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.” (Ps 119:20)

    “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” (Ps 119:24)

    “When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!” (Ps 119:26)

    **************************************************

    (*) Teresa had been afflicted for not having been well-educated and for the fact of being a woman who – at that time – was completely dependent on priests who had that Biblical knowledge she didn’t have. However, our gracious Lord set her free by teaching her from His very heart through His Spirit until she saw how many clergymen devoid of His Spirit were in the Roman Catholic Church. Afterwards she even taught them in courageous letters how they could improve their teaching and preaching.

    • Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

      Oh, my goodness! :shock: This email address has turned into a link!! Forget it, it doesn’t exist, I hope.

      • Steve Fuller says:

        Hi Susanne,

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

        I’m wondering whether it’s really helpful to urge people who are bored with their Bibles to close them and just seek the Lord.

        I can envision situations in which that might be helpful, and obviously you have had times when this helped you.

        But my question is that there are so many promises in God’s Word of how God uses his Word to give us faith (Romans 10:17), change our hearts (Psalm 19:7), provide the Spirit (Galatians 3:5), overcome sin (Mark 8:31-32), and function as a sword to kill sin (Ephesians 6:17).

        I’m thinking it might be best to encourage people to seek God earnestly in and through the Word.

        And may the Lord continue to bless you with outpourings of his grace,

        Steve Fuller

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