I have a confession to make. I’m a Christian and I often struggle with the Bible. In fact, I’m a pastor and a preacher and I often struggle with the Bible.
I struggle because at times the Bible’s words seem a million miles from my life right here and right now. I struggle because it is confusing and complicated. I struggle because there are parts that I just don’t understand. I struggle because while I know it’s written for me, I also know these words were not originally written to me, and so there are parts that feel like they’re from another time and place. Because they are.
That confession isn’t really that hard for me to make. There was a time when it wasn’t popular to say that sort of thing, but I think we’ve got to the place where most of us are pretty honest about the fact the Bible is hard.
My next confession might actually be a little less trendy to make in today’s world, though: I will never give up on the Bible. I will stake my life on it, choose to believe it and give my life to living by it.
Why? Why commit to an ancient book? Why let something like the Bible have any kind of authority in my life? Why trust it?
Well, there’s one reason. I believe it’s the way God has chosen to speak to us beyond all others. Paul reminds his friend Timothy of just that: “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV).
Scripture is breathed out by God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. But not just scripture. All scripture. The whole lot. The New and Old Testaments are a thoroughly human set of writings, but God Himself hovers over their writing and infuses them with power and authority. That means they have power to change lives, to transform communities. God’s own truth and power rest in the pages of the Bible. I want that in my life.
But I’ve become convinced of something. “I want that in my life,” is the wrong place to start. You see, we live in a world that encourages a whole load of ways to enhance the life we already have. Diet, self-help, exercise regimes, education, career progress. If you find something that helps you, add it into your life and you’ll become better.
That approach to the Bible looks something like this: when I have something in my life or in my world that I want God’s take on, I tap into the Bible. I take it off the shelf, look for a little nugget of wisdom, say: “That’s cool!” and then pop it back on the shelf where it belongs. But for so many reasons, that just doesn’t work. It isn’t just bite-sized, tweetable nuggets. It’s not something we can dip into and get what it’s on about straight away. It’s not a quick fix.
We can’t expect just to fit the Bible into our lives. Instead, I choose to fit my life, my story, into the far bigger story of the Bible. God has been crafting and telling His story of freedom and love and life since the start of time, and the Bible tells that story. It’s huge and bewildering and daunting, but it’s also beautiful and mesmerising and enchanting.
It’s a story far bigger than mine, and that excites me. I want to dive into it, choose to locate my story within its story – God’s story. At times that feels like gliding through peaceful waters. At times it feels more like wrestling and trying to keep afloat.
But God is bigger than me. He gets to tell His story the way He wants, and the Bible is the way He wants. That leaves me — and you — with a choice: keep distant and engage with the Bible on our terms, or dive in and embrace it on God’s terms.
The struggles are still there. But if I let the Bible work the way it was designed to work, it just might change my life.