A popular belief amongst Christians is that the bible is a how-to guide for life. It tells us what to do, what not to do, and how to do or not do it. Growing up, I thought that no matter the situation, I just needed to look in scripture, find a verse that correlated and there would be my answer on how to react.
This was especially true when I was in High School and early college struggling with depression. I thought that if I found enough encouraging and up-lifting bible verses, repeated them continually, and wrote them everywhere that I would be happier. I thought that would fix the problem.
I’ve had friends who struggled with secret sins in their lives who felt like if they just prayed more and read the bible more that they would stop sinning. They would read scriptures about lust and sexuality and try to beat it into their heads, but it never worked.
In both scenarios, we end up feeling like failures and like we’ve let God down.
The issue with this kind of self-help book mentality is that when reading scripture to find a solution to your problems, you’re making it all about you. When we read the bible as though it is about us, we will be left disappointed and empty because on our own we cannot be “good” enough.
How Should We Read the Bible?
Struggling with depression isn’t new to my life. When I was twelve, I was at my lowest low of self-esteem. I was depressed in every sense of the word. The world might not have seen it, but I felt it. It wasn’t until I encountered God at thirteen that things began to change.
I had a hunger for God for the first time in my life. I would sit in the floor of my room for hours (a luxury that I took for granted as a thirteen-year-old) reading scripture, taking notes, writing down questions, and then reading more scripture to find the answers. I longed to know God better and as I knew Him better things in my life changed.
So, what’s the difference between how I read scripture in college and how I read it in middle school? The difference was my objective. Eighteen-year-old Lauren didn’t understand something that thirteen-year-old me did. When we seek God, everything else falls into place. As a thirteen-year-old girl I knew that if I dug into scripture for the sole purpose of knowing God more, that things would work out.
Don’t misread that. I am not at all advocating that if you read your bible that God will fix all your problems and you’ll be happy, healthy, and wealthy. That, my friends, is prosperity gospel thinking and we don’t jive with that here. What I am saying is that when I started knowing God as love I started feeling more loved. When I began to get to know God as the sovereign ruler, I started to feel less anxious because I knew that He had it under control. When I got to know God as the one who has always been and always will be, I began understanding that either in this life or the next God was going to make everything new.
The Bible Isn’t About You, but it is For You
The Bible was written first and foremost about God! It is His story from beginning to end. However, it was brought to my attention that without a proper understanding of what this means for us as believers, this can be a really damaging statement for new believers. For someone who might not understand the implications of this, it could sound as though you’re unimportant to God. That is certainly not the case.
The Bible isn’t about you, but it is for you! We believe that scripture is divinely inspired and that means that every word is God-breathed. Therefore, God gave us all the information we need to have eternal life. What is eternal life you ask? It is knowing God!
So, to my brothers and sisters who might hear someone say that the bible isn’t about you and feel as though God doesn’t care about us, remember scripture isn’t about us because we don’t need more of ourselves. We need more of God! By creating a book full of stories of His wonder, glory, power, love, and character we are able to better understand Him and better know Him. What better blessing is there?