What to Do if You Get Nothing Out of Reading the Bible?
Let’s say you are reading God’s Word, but getting nothing out of it. Maybe it’s not meaning anything to you, or you are just not feeling it. What can you do?
I’ve been there, and I’m pretty sure every believer has. So you are not alone.
But what’s even more encouraging is that the author of Psalm 119 has also been there, and he tells us what God can do about it.
Open My Eyes
That’s what he prays in Psalm 119:18 –
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
The fact that he prays this means that he is not beholding wondrous things from God’s Law. Which means that when he reads God’s Word, he’s not seeing anything wonderful. He’s getting nothing out of it.
So what does he do? He asks God to open his eyes.
What Kind Of Eyes?
He can’t be talking about the eyes in our heads, because those are always open when we read.
So he is saying we have another set of eyes, which are sometimes closed so we can’t see wondrous things in God’s Word. And when they are closed, we can’t open them ourselves; we need to pray and have God open them.
So what kind of eyes is he talking about? I found a clue in Ephesians 1:17-18 –
[I pray that God] may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you …
Paul prays that God will enlighten the eyes of our hearts. This means we have two sets of eyes — eyes in our heads, eyes in our hearts.
What’s the difference? The eyes in your head SEE the truth, and the eyes in your heart FEEL the truth.
Seeing, But Not Feeling
So when we open the Bible, the eyes of our heads can see the truth about Jesus — that Jesus died on the Cross, for example.
But too often we can see the truth about Jesus, but not feel the beauty, glory, and wonder of that truth.
So we can read that Jesus died on the Cross, but instead of feeling –
- wonder at a God who would die for sinful people
- sorrow for my sin which deserved such punishment
- joy that my sins have been paid for
- love for Jesus who would do this for me
– I can feel nothing more than – Jesus died on the Cross. OK. I believe that. I understand that.
Why Does That Happen?
The problem is that sin grows like a cataract over the eyes of our hearts, clouding our ability to feel the truth of Jesus (I think I originally heard this from John Piper).
But when you first trust Christ, he supernaturally cuts the cataract of sin away from your eyes, and for the first time you not only see but also feel the truth of Jesus Christ — and love him and desire him more than anything. Remember that day?
So if that’s what happens when we are saved, why does Paul ask God to enlighten the eyes of believers? And why does the psalmist ask God to open his own eyes?
It’s because, even though we have been saved, we still have indwelling sin. And this sin will keep trying to grow up over the eyes of our hearts so we won’t feel the truth of Jesus. How can we tell if that’s happening? It’s because when we read the Bible we see the truth, but feel nothing.
That’s why Paul prays that God will enlighten the eyes of believers, and why the psalmist prays that God will open his own eyes. It’s because sin is constantly trying to cloud the eyes of our hearts, and because when we pray and ask God to open our eyes, he will.
This was wonderful news when I first heard it. Because much of my Bible-reading had been dull and lifeless.
But the problem was that I didn’t understand that I had two sets of eyes. I didn’t know that sin was clouding the eyes of my heart so I could not feel the wonder of what I was reading. And I did not realize that if I prayed, God would cut away that sin and open those eyes so I could feel.
So now, almost every time I read God’s Word, I start by praying Psalm 119:18 – Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things from your law.
It’s also important to meaningfully confess sin, and to read God’s Word carefully, prayerfully, and thoughtfully.
Since doing this my Bible-reading has been transformed. Some days are better than others. But by God’s mercy I do regularly see, and feel, wondrous things from God’s Word.
Call The Surgeon
When you read God’s Word and feel nothing, it’s because cataracts of sin are blinding you.
But God is a perfectly skilled eye-surgeon who specializes in cutting away these cataracts.
So when you are reading and feel nothing, don’t give up; don’t close the Bible; don’t keep reading just so you can say you did it; and don’t be discouraged.
Instead, understand that the surgeon is ready to go to work.
And call upon the surgeon.
Written by: Steve Fuller