It’s ok not to understand the bible

Just putting it out there- I don’t understand the bible.

By that I mean I haven’t fully got my head around it. I couldn’t confidently say ‘I’ve got it’. I enjoy the stories, I find most of them can be applied to my life in some way or another and am blessed to have brilliant pastors that really make the Word come alive but as soon as I sit and do bible study on my own I feel confronted by contradictions and unfamiliar phrases. The first few times I did bible study alone I’d skip past the bits I didn’t understand and just got a general feel for the story. And this was ok. I went to sleep feeling that I’d read some bible and got the narrative of whichever book I’d been reading from.

This all changed when I heard a talk by Priscilla Shirer (haven’t heard of her? Google her. Now. Seriously. You won’t regret it.). She spoke about Elijah and instead of simply telling his story she translated some of the original Hebrew and suddenly the words came to life like never before. Don’t shy away from words you don’t recognise or historical context, the customs and traditions that seem alien from what today we would deem ‘normal’. If you intentionally skip over these aspects you’ll miss out on a new layer of depth to the bible that really makes it feel more relevant. The worst thing you can do is give up on private bible reading so just accept that you won’t get it all straight away. Here’s the thing- Not understanding the bible is ok.

Perhaps you could look online for some guidance or follow a devotional that provides some help. (If you are feeling particularly uninspired I suggest giving Sam Eaton’s ’10 Ways to Fall in Love With Your Bible’ a read) If you are part of a youth ministry I really recommend chatting to a youth leader and asking for their opinion on whichever bit of scripture you’re stuck with to see if you can work it out together. If there’s a verse that you just can’t unpick, perhaps there are several, and they really bother you, unsettle you, confuse you, the best possible thing to do is pray that God would give you the wisdom and guidance to get something useful from those words, even if at first the idea that they could apply somehow to your life seems ridiculous.

‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding’ Proverbs 1:5

My perspective of the bible really changed when I accepted that I might not ever fully understand every word, verse or even story but that I was going try and most importantly enjoy trying. I now love researching up unfamiliar phrases online and looking for commentary to aid my bible study. There’s loads of great resources out there so don’t give up, rather than being put off by a lack of understanding, embrace it.

Ever since I’ve realised the Bible for the complex, beautiful, intricate book it is I’ve seen it as something to be explored. As a young person exploring the bible is the greatest challenge you can embark on so find a translation you feel comfortable with and get stuck in.

‘Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.’ Psalm 119:105

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2 thoughts on “It’s ok not to understand the bible

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! I absolutely love your blog and I’m so inspired by it. I actually sent you an email yesterday (I used the online form and I wasn’t entirely sure it sent properly though!). x

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