I have been slowly reading through Edward Welch’s A Small Book for the Anxious Heart. So far, I have been challenged and blessed. Welch rightly emphasizes that looking to Scripture as a means of combatting sinful anxiety and fear is one of our greatest sources of hope and strength. However, he also admits that sometimes we as Christians are not “zapped” instantaneously by the Bible. He’s right.
Sometimes it works that way and we’ll rejoice when it does. You sit down to read your Bible while you have really been battling a complaining heart. Your reading points out your sinfulness and the glorious work of Jesus (in Romans 5 for example) dying for us when we were God’s enemies. The Spirit brings this home with power to your heart and the inclination to complaining is given a strong punch. In a moment you experience both conviction for complaining and high joy for God’s love for you. Times like this are real and powerful!
But, for His own sovereign reasons, the Lord doesn’t always give us seasons just like that. Have you ever experienced a scenario like this: doubts and dark thoughts cloud your mind. “Go read your Bible” you tell yourself. “Quote that memory verse about God’s faithfulness”. You try it and the message of the passage seems really far away. You try to grab hold of it with your mind, but it feels futile.
What do we do now? Abandon Holy Scripture? Go find another god? A thousand times no! Welch says, “Our goal is to persist in listening to God’s words until we really hear them and they speak God’s comfort and healing to our souls.” Wise counsel! There is no other sufficient revelation from God than Scripture. It is God’s solid, trustworthy, freeing, cleansing, precious word for our good. So if we are reading the word or hearing a sermon or meditating on a truth and we find it dry and hard to embrace…we must keep listening to God’s word! We keep seeking to understand the message correctly and lay hold of it with our hearts. We keep attending church, attentively and prayerfully hearing God’s word preached. We keep memorizing and meditating on the word of God, knowing that Scripture is the Holy Spirit’s sword (Ephesians 6:17).
Whether it is fear, anxiety, discouragement, sadness, or being consumed by earthly things, sometimes we don’t listen very well. Welch compares it to parents who feel compelled to say, “Look at me” to their children when trying to communicate something important. Being a former little child and a present parent, I can certainly relate to this. “Look at me in the eye” I remember my mother saying to me. Like children, we are sometimes too spiritually distracted to really hear God’s word. Jesus instructs His hearers in Luke 8:18 to “take heed therefore how ye hear.” Proverbs 22:17 says, “Bow down thine ear to hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.”
The message is that we are to really listen to God’s word. It is healthy to come to even a familiar passage of Scripture and act as if it is the first time that we have ever read it. To slowly take in the message of the passage, the command, the promise, the truth about God, the encouragement or whatever else it contains.
There are many tools the Lord graciously uses to help us in times of worry or gloom. The fellowship and prayers of the saints. Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. But, we know He is committed to use His word in our lives. So, don’t be defeated if you struggle at times with the Bible. Keep prayerfully listening, reading, and thinking on it. Maybe even picture a parent saying to a child, “Look at me in the eye and listen!” And then do it!