I underestimated the word of God. Over the last several years, studying the Bible with other women, I realized I was not alone. Many have had the same experience I have.
We valued it, we talked about it, we contemplated it, we applied it, and we meant to read it more than we did. The more time I spend in the word, however, and the more time I spend with other women who are in the word, the more God has shown me how lame my estimation of his word really was. I read the Bible like someone standing at an overlook over the Grand Canyon, trying to estimate how much water it could hold: “Up to 23 or 24 cups, I imagine! It’s just so huge and amazing!”
What changed my perspective? I started reading more of the Bible, at a faster pace, with many other women. A group of us began reading the word at a fast (but not furious) pace — about six chapters a day, and thousands of women have joined the challenge. Reading more, faster, and with others has shifted our perspective in some significant ways. We want to become women of the word, not women who dabble in God’s word occasionally.
Needs Met in Unexpected Ways
First of all, reading larger portions of Scripture at a faster pace shifts our gaze. If we select passages that only appeal to us in the moment, our Bible reading will be (necessarily) self-focused. Our application of the Bible will be self-centered, because we’re so fixated on our hearts, our desires, our feelings. It’s easy to treat the word like a vending machine for particular kinds of encouragement rather than letting the word shape and change us.
When we commit to reading the whole Bible, many of our days will be unexpectedly shaped by Old Testament battles, prophetic visions, architectural details, and stories of tender mercy. Our gaze is now settled on our God, on his story, on his plans. The word takes our eyes off of our emotions and our days, and lifts them up to high hills and the things of God.
If we read more of the Bible alongside other women, it also inspires more conversation about God and his word. When something jumps out in the text, and we mention it to someone who has been reading the same text, we experience a lovely (and unusual) blessing. I remember a flurry of conversations from last fall over the beauty of David asking God to spare the people from punishment for his sin and to let it fall instead on him and his household.
“We want to become women of the word, not women who dabble in God’s word occasionally.”
David has sinned grievously by taking a census (2 Samuel 24:1–2), and deserved the judgment of God. It was the only time I could remember someone in Scripture asking for the wrath of God to be poured out on him (2 Samuel 24:17). And the angel stopped the plague (2 Samuel 24:16). Despite what he had done, David was a man after God’s own heart. And not only was God’s wrath over this sin averted, but his wrath over all sin was eventually poured out on David’s household. Christ himself was born into David’s family to die for God’s people — the Son of God, the Son of David.
I don’t think anyone would have looked at a group of busy women — carpooling, shopping for groceries, working, running out to lunch, overwhelmed with various responsibilities — and thought, You know what will really bless these women today? The plague God brought on Israel because of David’s census. Let’s get them all to see Jesus in 2 Samuel 24, and find encouragement for their busy afternoon there. And yet that is what God did.
Living and Active in Experience
When our gaze shifts this way, we begin seeing our life through the lens of the glorious story God is telling. Often, we read something that does not seem to connect with us at that moment, so we simply read it and move on. Later, sometimes weeks later, it comes burning to the front of our minds with relevance. Now we know why God had us read about complaining in the wilderness last week. Now we know why he wanted us shaped by laments in the Psalms. Now we realize he was strengthening us with some real hope that we barely even noticed while we read.
The more the word connects directly to our lives, the more we see how living and active it is. The more we see our friends strengthened in the Lord for their everyday responsibilities and burdens, the more we see the wonder in what God has given us in his word — not because we affirm a confession that says the word is invaluable, but because we know its preciousness from personal experience.
We have felt it piercing to joint and marrow, encouraging, convicting, and strengthening our souls (Hebrews 4:12). We have seen the tender hand of our God in what we have read, and how that word has equipped us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). We know firsthand that this word from God revives the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, and rewards the faithful hearer (Psalm 19:7–11).
God’s Great Portrait of God
Reading more Bible also has the effect of strengthening our spiritual immune systems. When someone offers us an untruth, we know! Many women I have been reading with, for instance, have come face to face with a Jesus they do not feel like they know.
“The Bible is a sketch of God made by the hand of God.”
Our discussions have sounded eerily similar to the mob that followed Jesus around in the Gospels. “Did he really just say that?” “That was rude!” “How could he talk like this?” “Why can’t I understand his parables?” How could a Christian not recognize Christ? It happens when we have not been listening to how he reveals himself to us, depending instead on others to tell us who our God is, what he cares about, what he is like, and what all of that means for us.
The Bible you have on your shelf is not some kind of police sketch made by some observer off in the distance. The Bible is how God himself has chosen to reveal himself to us. It is a sketch of God made by the hand of God. This well is beyond any of our capacities to drink in fully. God must grow our ability to see him while we read, and continually make us new with what we read. He must, by his word, renew our minds, enlarge our hearts, strengthen our faith, and equip his saints.
Women of the Word
When we faithfully read the word, not dabbling about but really reading it all, it will change us. We’ll be changed in the laws, and in the prophets. We’ll be changed in the mercies, and in the judgments. We’ll be changed by the passages that don’t sit right with us at first, and by those that immediately make our hearts glad.
If God has given us this incredible gift, and we stand every day on the edge of its vastness, why do we so often try to talk each other into smaller and smaller portions? Why do we stick to the passages that look good on a mountainy background? Does the size of this canyon make you sick? some ask. Try the verse of the day! That is enough! Meditate on one word, maybe ‘forgiveness,’ or ‘compassion!’ Listen to a praise song! We settle for less because we are afraid of what this canyon’s vastness says about us. It shows us our littleness in making God bigger, our brokenness in making us whole, and our weakness in making us strong.
When the size of the canyon makes you feel like you aren’t enough, the answer is not to run away, but to throw yourself into it with a prayer:
Lord, make me more like you. Let me understand more of you. Show me my weakness that I might hold on to your strength. Lord, make me into a woman of your word, and in doing so make me part of your glorious kingdom work here on earth. Equip me to see more of you every day until I am in your presence.