My kitchen was a mess. I'd dug through every drawer and cupboard, searching for the only thing that would satisfy me . . . chocolate! I was in the middle of a full-blown craving. You know the feeling: that insatiable, overwhelming desire for ice cream, chips, chocolate, or pizza.
Only a few days after I'd torn my kitchen apart in search of chocolate, I came across a Bible verse that drew me up short: "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk" (1 Peter 2:2). The New American Standard Version puts it this way: "long for the . . . word" (both emphases mine). As I thought about my desire for God's Word, I had to admit "craving" or "longing" didn't define my feelings about my current Bible reading. Yes, I tried to do it daily, but some days reading God's Word was more mechanical than marvelous, more out of duty than desire.
Looking back over my life, I realized my desire for God's Word had fluctuated between the following degrees:
Having an insatiable appetite. I'd eagerly anticipate reading God's Word daily, and make time for it no matter what else was going on. I couldn't get to sleep at night if I missed it.
Eating my veggies. This is the mode in which I most often found myself. I'd read the Bible because I knew it's right, I wanted to obey God, I knew it's good for me, and I was always glad I did it.
Being "force-fed." In this mode, I'd hear God's Word at church, and would read the Bible every now and then—but usually not until I felt extremely guilty about my lack of time with him.
Starving. These have been the dry spells, thankfully few, when I've gone weeks without opening my Bible except at church. I've let busyness, distractions, or unconfessed sin get in the way.
Do you see yourself in the above descriptions? If you're like me, you've experienced each of these stages over the course of your walk with God. But you also wish that you genuinely and consistently craved God's Word.
If my cravings for Scripture were anything like my cravings for chocolate, I would just have to have it. I wanted to wake up in the morning and not be able to focus on anything else until I'd spent time in God's Word. I wanted to dig in voraciously, instead of doing a half-hearted devotional.
To discover how to develop a craving for Scripture, I looked back at the high points of my spiritual life—the times when I couldn't get enough of God's Word—and took note of the things I did, the habits I made, and the factors that contributed to the craving. Then I asked other women what helped them develop a craving for God's Word. Here are six things I discovered that can help you rekindle or strengthen your desire for time in Scripture:
1. Remember the Bible's benefits.
After my son's birth, I experienced a prolonged case of "baby blues." Although I found some solace in talking to other moms, journaling, and scheduling "me-time," I found the most significant source of peace and comfort in God's Word. I found particular reassurance in reading the Psalms—seeing how David cried out in fear, confusion, and even despair, but consistently returned to acknowledge God as his refuge and strength.
At other times, I've turned to Scripture to find direction, wisdom, and encouragement. The Bible holds all this for us, and much more! Scripture tells us God's Word is "a lamp to [our] feet and a light for [our] path" (Psalm 119:105). Psalm 111:10 also reminds us "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding."
Just as satisfying physical craving releases feel-good chemicals in our brains, satisfying a hunger for Scripture releases all kinds of spiritual benefits and blessings in our lives, such as increased wisdom, comfort, and peace.
2. Ask God to give you desire for his Word.
What better way to obtain a desire for God's Word than from God himself? Each day, ask God to give you a deep-rooted desire to spend time reading and studying the Bible. Then be alert for those inner promptings and reminders to open his Word and dive in. I find that when I consistently ask God to give me a desire to spend time with him, he always comes through. I can't walk past the shelf where I keep my Bible and devotional book without feeling as though I should pull it out and dig in!
3. Make daily Bible reading instinctual.
Experts say it takes 21 days to develop a habit. I've applied this principle to exercise, drinking water, and even making my bed—so why not use it with Bible reading? Decide on a reading or study plan and commit yourself to spending time in God's Word every day, whether you feel like it or not. One thing that helps me is to use a daily devotional aid. After following that plan for a few weeks, I find I can't skip a day in God's Word without feeling like I'm missing out on something.
4. Keep a spiritual journal.
One of the best ways to strengthen and maintain a desire for God's Word is to keep a record of how Scripture has impacted your life. I kept journals throughout my college years. Looking back over them reminds me of how God has worked in my life and gives me the motivation to continue serious Bible study. Your journal doesn't have to be a special leather-bound volume; it can be a spiral notebook, or simply notes taken directly in your Bible. The point is to take note of how various Scripture passages have touched your heart, motivated change in your life, or given you insight into life's circumstances. When you've filled up a journal, notebook, or Bible, keep it as a record and reminder —one you can turn to time and time again to see how powerful God's Word truly is.
5. Customize your Bible study to fit your personality.
For years I struggled with the inability to follow a "read through the Bible in a year" program. I've known friends and family members who have done this year after year, and I always felt I should be able to do this too. But I always gave up by March. Finally, I realized the Bible-in-a-year plan just didn't fit my personality. As a detail-oriented person, when I try to absorb four or five chapters of the Bible each day, I feel as though I'm going too fast. I get frustrated and give up. Now I tailor my study to my personality—more in-depth studies and careful reading of shorter passages.
My friend Kathy also has found that customizing her Bible reading to fit her personality has led to more productive, effective, and consistent times in God's Word. "One of the most important things for me is variety," she says. "If I find my devotional time getting stale, I try to change it. Also, I occasionally set aside large chunks of time to really 'dig into' the Word by doing in-depth study that can't be completed in short bites of time."
6. Customize your Bible study to fit your circumstances.
Just as we all have different personalities that may require different approaches to reading the Bible, we all go through different life stages that demand a change in our Bible reading. A mother of three preschoolers might not be able to devote the same amount of time and energy to reading God's Word as she will when all her children are in school. Lori, a wife and mom from Nebraska, has been able to customize her time in the Bible throughout her adult life to fit whatever circumstances she finds herself in. During college, she carved out enough time to read through the Bible twice. In the early years of her marriage, while working full-time as a teacher, she fit in shorter reading times whenever she had the opportunity, such as reading some Scripture while stopped at traffic lights during her long commute. Now as a busy stay-at-home-mom, she does most of her Bible study late at night or when her children are in the tub.
Take a look at your roles and responsibilities. Make sure you're not trying to do too much (and definitely not too little!) for your circumstances. Finding the method of study and reading that works for where you are right now will keep you from giving up in frustration.
I know there still will be times when I don't "feel" the craving for Scripture I want to have. But I also know the important thing is for each of us to be aware of our desire for God's Word and always to be working to increase it.
And another benefit is—satisfying our craving for Scripture will never make us fat! Now . . . where did I hide that chocolate?
Katrina Baker, a freelance writer, lives with her family in Pennsylvania.
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