Astonishingly, I have said before and I say it again, the Bible nowhere insists that you read it. Despite our frequent insistence to the contrary, the Bible simply doesn’t command you to read it (whether every day or any other amount).
Now, the reasons for that are obvious enough. Most Christians, throughout most of history, weren’t able to read the Bible. Every one of them would be forced into sin if they were commanded to read it. Instead, the Bible tends to say things like, ‘meditate on’, ‘treasure’ or ‘hide in your heart.’ We are to think about it, dwell upon it (and let it dwell within us) and order our lives in relation to it. This obviously necessitates knowing it.
But what if you can’t read? What if, though you can read, you find reading exceptionally difficult? What if you come from a culture that doesn’t value or encourage reading? What if you’re ill and find reading a real strain? The Bible doesn’t suggest you don’t need to know it, dwell and meditate upon it. So how do you treasure the word and dwell upon it when you struggle to read? Here are a few ways you can let the word dwell in you richly and mediate upon it nonetheless.
Get an audio Bible
If you can’t read, get an audio Bible. Nowadays, you can download the YouVersion Bible App onto your phone which has an audio option for most English versions of the Bible it carries. You can similarly use Amazon Echo or Google Home to read out the Bible to you. The internet is awash with options for doing this. You might find reading a real strain but if you can listen, try listening to an audio version of the Bible.
Press into your church
Most Christians, for most of history, got their Bible teaching direct from the church. They couldn’t read the Bible themselves but they could listen to it being read out on a Sunday and then taught from the pulpit. If you struggle with your reading, at least press into your church. Go on a Sunday and hear a portion of scripture read and listen to it being taught. As you seek to recall it to mind throughout the week, most churches nowadays put their sermons up online. If you can’t retain everything that was said for the rest of the week, you can usually go back and listen again.
These days, we have other opportunities to hear the Word preached in the week too. If you struggle to read, go and hear a passage read out in your home group or at the church prayer meeting. You can find the other opportunities your church affords to hear the Word read and then explained. It’s not just a case of Sunday morning but any time your church may read and explain the Bible is another opportunity to engage with scripture.
Listen to a podcast or online sermon
I appreciate not all Christian podcasts and things contain that much scripture in them. But many of them do. And, most importantly, they are usually looking to apply Biblical principles to whatever area happens to be under discussion. If the principle of scripture is to let scripture dwell in your richly, to renew your mind through the Word, listen to people applying the word in a podcast (or something similar) and dwell upon the applications of the word that you hear. Think about how the things that are discussed apply to you in your day to day life.
The great thing about this is that you can put them on in your car, when you’re out walking or doing jobs around the house. You can sit listening whilst you are doing other things. If concentration is a problem, even letting some of the things discussed to sink into your mind can be beneficial. If you find it too hard to sit and read your Bible for half and hour, go for a walk and listen to a scripture-based podcast and pray through the things that are discussed.
You might not feel able to read big chunks of the Bible, but if you are able to memorize verses as you are able, you will be able to call it to mind even when you aren’t able to read. Having scripture that you can recall – whether it has been learnt throughout your youth or you have committed to memorising it with people in your church – give you portions of God’s Word you can think over even as you don’t feel able to pick up the Bible and read. Knowing the Word, recalling it and dwelling upon it is helped if it is firmly in your memory.
Dwell on a small portion at a time
If you can read at all, even if it doesn’t come naturally and it is very hard for one reason or another, why not dwell on a verse or two at a time. You don’t have to read whole books or chapters all in one go. Instead, read a verse or two and spend some time thinking about it and praying through it. There is no need to beat yourself up for failing to read through the entire book of Psalms in one sitting when it is perfectly acceptable to read a few verses and think about them.
Sing some hymns to yourself
There are lots of songs that incorporate bits of scripture into them. Other times, even if it is not quoting the Bible directly, they are putting Biblical ideas and principles into song that you can dwell upon. If you aren’t able to pick up your Bible and read, then why not sing some songs to yourself and dwell upon the truths they contain. You can dwell on the Word by singing its truths as expressed in good hymns.