Finding truth in the Bible
By Jessica Brodie I was raised as a Christian, I baptized my children in the Christian church, and I profess to be a Christian. But other than a brief, blurry phase of speed-reading most of the Bible (if I’m brutally honest, probably to say I’d done it), I hadn’t been a devoted Reader of the Word until last year’s Lent.
See, over the past couple of years, I’d gotten to the point where The Truth felt slippery. I went to church weekly, participated in a small group, and read a devotional each day. But with so much change in the world, and so many competing voices, I was unsteady. What was right? What was “sin”? I knew not to violate the Ten Commandments, but beyond that, how was I truly supposed to live? Was I walking the way Jesus would have me walk? I hoped so, but I truly didn’t know. I wondered whether the Christian upbringing I’d received was, indeed, rooted in the Word or rooted in good intentions (which is most definitely not the same thing).
And so, during Lent 2016, I started reading the Bible again—this time with a goal to find the Real Truth. What is real? What is right? Many times those answers are dictated by other voices: Hollywood, our parents, our friends, self-help books, women’s magazines, all well-meaning and steeped in kindness, certainly.
But God is the one authority. I was tired of hoping I was doing the right thing. As a woman of faith and a child of God, and as a Christian writer, I needed to know how to live right, to live in a Godly way.
And so I sought out the real answers in the one place I knew it would be revealed: the Bible. I’d spent too many years searching for truth in all the good but second-tier places, when all along it was sitting on my bookshelf: God’s holy word.
“Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character,” reads 2 Timothy 3:16. And in John 8:31-32, “Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, ‘You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”
And so I began reading the Bible again in earnest in February 2016. I struggled at first; while I have a master’s in English, reciting and retaining exact verbiage has always been a huge struggle for me, and it wasn’t sinking in. And while I have always been a voracious reader, the Bible didn’t exactly read like the novels I was accustomed to. I forced myself to dig in, to persist.
But then in September of that year, it hit me: I needed to journal what I was reading, just as I did as a student years ago. Only when I wrote down my “lessons learned” did I really begin to understand—and remember, and retain—what I was reading.
It was also around that time that I began reading the New Testament simultaneously with the Old. While the Old Testament is important, I was feeling bogged down by the constant striving of the people to do good, and the punishment they received when they were disobedient—over and over again. (it was starting to get a little depressing).
Between journaling and reading the Old and New Testaments together, I finally got “hooked” on the Word the way I needed to. I began to crave the Word. Instead of a habit I was trying to force myself to adopt, it transformed into a true hunger. For the first time in my life, I really, truly, honestly began to crave God’s word. I began to understand it! It became relevant, and I became fully open to it.
My world changed, just like that.
Today, I read the Bible daily. I’ve finished the New Testament, and I’m this close to finishing the Old. And then I’m excited about starting over, rereading it, listening to it on audiobook, however I can get it. Personally, I like the Common English Bible, which is I find to be a great and readable new translation, and I encourage you to find a translation that is the most readable to you (but they all work!). I’ve found favorite books (Ephesians, John) and books I didn’t much enjoy (Psalms) and am wondering now how my next reading might change all that.
All my life, I heard Christians talk about how much they got out of reading the Bible, and I could never relate. Now I do. It took discipline, creating a habit, forcing myself out of my comfort zone, yes.
But I’m thankful I did. And I can’t imagine life any other way.
Jessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach.