When I left the safety of college and the world of bearing little actual responsibility for my life, I felt ill-prepared for adulthood and what I could be walking into in the future. I was not necessarily worried about paying bills or renting an apartment — I wanted to focus on building good relationships, being smart with my money, and making wise life choices.
I needed a life guide of some sort — a book to teach me not just how to save money, but what I should be saving and using money for. I needed wisdom about how to deal with someone with a bad attitude, how to handle not being heard, how to have a happy marriage, how to raise children, how to figure out my purpose, and simply how to be motivated to start my day.
The desire for this guide grew stronger after undergoing emotionally-draining life changes shortly after graduation. I needed relief and answers, and I had been told that the Bible had reliable wisdom. So, in my quest to see if God could help me figure my life out, I dedicated time to reading the Bible.
I used to think the Bible was just a history book telling me what events happened more than 2,000 years ago. My mindset then switched to thinking the Bible was just a rulebook with a list of sins I shouldn’t commit in order to avoid punishment. But once I began taking the questions of my life to the stories there, I learned that the text could speak to me.
In fact, I learned that the text of the Bible isn’t just a text — it’s a living thing, a person. The Bible is a book that reveals God’s presence to us, and that’s not just something that happens in our minds. It’s an opportunity to meet God heart-to-heart. When I finally opened up that dialogue with God through the words and stories of the Bible, I found the life-guide for which I had been hoping.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
- I learned that David’s pleas to God for peace and comfort could be my pleas as I cry to God about my fears of the future.
- I learned that the advice in Proverbs — seeking wise counsel, accepting criticism for when you are wrong, working hard to gain success, being honest, and avoiding gossip — could teach me how to build a successful career and lasting friendships.
- I learned that Abraham’s patience in waiting for a son could be my patience in waiting for the right job or healing from an injury — that like Abraham, I could trust God to deliver. And when Abraham makes a mistake, God’s faithfulness in His promise could help me remember that God will come through for me, even when I mess up, because He is faithful and merciful.
- I learned that Jesus’ weeping after Lazarus’ death, even knowing He would raise Lazarus from the dead, could mean that Jesus weeps when I mourn as well, showing His immense love for me.
The Bible tells me who God is, how He’s there for me, the best way to live my life, and how to maintain peace and hope even in the midst of struggles. It not only tells me historical events from more than 2,000 years ago, or the law of Moses that helps me discern right from wrong. It also tells me what true love looks like, what grace means, how to discover purpose, and the meaning of life.
It still surprises me that, every time I read a passage in the Bible, I can somehow see how that passage can solve a problem in my life or revive joy where I was lacking or encourage others when they are lost. It holds the wisest, most heart-wrenching, inspiring words that I have ever read (and I have read a lot of books), and I am so happy I decided to dedicate time to reading it to see what it was all about.
I know some people who want to read the Bible start at the beginning and approach it like a novel or a textbook. The problem is that it isn’t like any other book. There are some great stories in the first books of Genesis and Exodus, but after that, the stories go away and the text carries a list of laws that were fundamental for the way Jews understood their relationship with God. Most of the people who try to plow through the whole thing, front-to-back, get bogged down there and give up.
My advice would be to start reading based on what you are seeking. If you are seeking wisdom, start with Proverbs. If you are seeking love, start with one of the four Gospels (either Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John). If you are seeking direction, go to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians; relief from guilt, his letter to the Romans; stories and testimonies, Genesis; purpose, Acts of the Apostles.
You don’t have to read the whole Bible or even an entire book, but give it a try and see how it could apply to your life in order to find the answers that you are seeking.
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:16-17