What often keeps us from engaging with Scripture? See how many of these five hindrances apply to you.
We are living in an age of unparalleled opportunities and unrelenting stimulation, when the influence of technology has greatly affected our desire and ability to receive God’s word. The digital hubbub has rewired our brains, making us obsessed with noise and newness, addicted to instant gratification, and unable to focus, all of which can make hearing and reading God’s word—a practice that is helped by concentration, commitment, and quiet—difficult.
You know the scenario. You’re thinking about a Bible passage or a recent sermon, only to find your thoughts wandering about that work project you have to finish or that recent debate you heard online (which causes you to check your phone again). Hello, distraction.
How have you seen technology’s influence become dangerous to your walk with God? How have you seen the enemy use it to keep you from God and his life-giving word (Mark 4:15)? Distraction is one pervasive hindrance we’ll want to be aware of as we seek to grow.
Technological and cultural advances have lavished us with an abundance of Bible resources. These are gifts from God that can stir our hunger for him. But sometimes they have the opposite effect: we take them for granted and become bored with what feels over-familiar. As pastor and author J. C. Ryle says, “We hardly know the value of the air we breathe, and the sun which shines on us, because we have never known what it is to be without them.” Dullness of heart can especially affect those who have become well-acquainted with the Bible, like pastors, seminary students, and Bible teachers. I’m talking about myself here.
What might this look like? Perhaps it becomes easy for us to approach our Bibles as a mere duty rather than as communion with the living God (John 5:39–40). Dullness may cause us to forget that we don’t actually deserve to hear from God at all, and it might tempt us to look for extrabiblical revelation, as if hearing from God directly through Scripture isn’t enough for us. We need to be on guard for hearts that have become dull to the word of life.
Our hearts can also be deceived into believing lies about God and his word. This is one of Satan’s greatest tactics as the father of lies (John 8:44). Even for believers in Jesus whose hearts have been set free by his truth (John 8:32), the temptation toward deceit is real.
That said, we can ask God to make us aware of untrue thoughts that distract us from God’s word and dull our hearts to his beauty, authority, and power. What might these lies sound like? Rather than believe that God is loving us well through his words, we suspect the Bible contains only rules and restraints that limit and condemn us. Rather than trust what God says, distrusting our own fallen wisdom in favor of his perfection, we question and doubt him. Rather than hunger for eternal realities and love what God loves, we are deceived into settling for worldly values and ideals, thinking they will make us happy.
We are at war. The Christian life is a great battle for the heart as we put off deceit and let the truth set us free from it—which is why we need the word.
What has made it hard for you to endure, or what has sent you into seasons of spiritual dryness? Maybe you haven’t opened your Bible for months because your newborn has kept you up all night for equally as long. Maybe your aging parents need you constantly, draining your tank of whatever might have been left for the Lord. Or maybe Bible reading feels more like a chore to complete than a blessing to enjoy.
Perhaps you’re in the midst of a kind of suffering you never saw coming: illness, chronic pain, depression, grief, and other trials that make it hard to get out of bed in the morning, let alone invest energy in God’s word. Our pain fills our heads, weighs on our hearts, and tempts us toward discouragement and apathy.
Jesus also notes persecution “on account of the word” (Mark 4:17). When we choose to follow him, there are uncomfortable costs (Mark 8:38), whether we are sacrificing our reputations or finding our very lives in danger. People of the world will think we are crazy for being people of the book.
We will be discouraged from walking with God in this fallen world. The question is, Will we allow these discouragements to drive us to his word or away from it?
We don’t always want what’s good for us (vegetables and exercise, anyone?). Wrong desires can also hinder us from hungering for God’s word—and not only that, they can kill us slowly as our hearts shrivel under their influence. If we are outrightly living in sinful practices (1 John 2:16), there will be no room in our hearts for God and his word (James 4:4).
But what about those of us who desire to love and please God, but don’t always want what’s good for our souls? We no longer live in sinful practices, but we still war against sin’s presence and wrong desires (Rom. 7:21–25). This fight can affect our hunger for the word.
Sometimes good things can replace God, as they take priority over him and become the pattern for our days. What “good-desires-turned-idols” have hindered you from enjoying God in his word? That extra hour of sleep that becomes a habit, leaving no time to read the Bible? The desire to make more money, which leads to working more hours, which leaves you too exhausted for anything else? The ease of regularly opening Netflix or social media, rather than seeking a better rest in the words of life?
This isn’t to say that extra sleep, working hard, and entertainment are necessarily wrong (although they could be). But we want closeness with God to be the priority and pattern of our days, rather than the cares of the world and the desires of our flesh.
This is an excerpt of Help for the Hungry Soul: Eight Encouragements to Grow Your Appetite for God’s Word by Kristen Wetherell.