For Christians struggling with their faith, other Christians often try to offer the best advice they can, but how do you feel about Christians who keep telling those who are struggling to just “read their Bible?” In my “struggling” years when I was becoming serious with my relationship with Christ, I have often come across that advice countless times, and every time, I have always felt that there was a problem with that advice. Not that it was “wrong” but it almost never felt “right.”
Dear friend: any time someone tells you, “Just read your Bible,” they’re saying it because —
1) They’re not really sure what else to say, or
2) They’re not willing to invest their time to hear you out.
To be fair, I can completely understand when someone falls back on easy advice: because giving advice is hard and it sounds right to throw the Bible at something. It’s a one-size-fits-all trump-card that sounds very spiritual.
But for the most part, this is such a cold, distant, snobby, self-absorbed way to say, “I don’t really care about your problem, so you figure it out for yourself.”
See: I believe the Bible tells us that we’re designed to work through our issues together, both personally and intellectually. (Isaiah 1:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 5:21, 1 Peter 3:15, Acts 17:11-12, 1 John 4:1). So the Bible more than anything opens the way to thoughtful nuanced conversation that covers the entire human spectrum of intellect and emotion.
Instead, a lot of people use the Bible as a protective shield to say, “The answer is probably in there somewhere” — because people are not willing to get messy and dig deep into the issues that plague us.
Please know: God completely understands our struggle. Since He became one of us, He understands us even more profoundly than we could understand ourselves. The Big Secret of every single Christian is that we all struggle, we all have doubts and tough questions and idolatrous tendencies, and that’s simply a part of our human experience. God preempted that, which is why He enacted the sending of His Son before the very creation of the universe.
You got the first step right: you’re approaching with the honesty that somehow, our tiny prepackaged church answers won’t be enough for this.
While some of us have really been gifted with a huge victorious faith (Ephesians 4:7), others will be barely hanging on: and that’s okay. When Moses parted the Red Sea, both the super-spiritual and highly skeptical walked through — because our faith is not based on its own amount, but on the object of our faith Himself.
The best thing I can tell you is to find a trustworthy mentor who will work through these issues with you and will actually pour out their time for you.
There will be many times in life where there are no pat answers or quick solutions, but just the need for a daily presence who will struggle alongside you. We have Jesus, who roots for you every step of the way, and God has given us good people who are more than willing to hear you out and walk the walk with you.
That kind of trustworthy person bleeds the Bible, and they will point to the Word in a way that isn’t trite, easy, or simplistic: because they get the struggle, too. They will tell you not just the what, but the how from the Bible and pull it all together, all the while encouraging you to think for yourself. Their advice won’t be so many cliches, but a visceral pulsating everyday intimacy who picks up a hammer and gets to work on this faith-thing together.