When Bible Reading Feels Guilty

Every Christian wants to read the Bible. That desire is something God places in your heart upon conversion. We are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and inside that new kingdom the Lord speaks to us, and we long to listen in. But our flesh hates the word of God. How many times have you made a resolution to read the Bible in a year, or a little each day, or a personal Bible study for a season? And how many times have you failed to accomplish the task? There must be something going on.

We know we should read the Bible, and we even want to read the Bible, but we don’t read the Bible – at least not like we wish we did.

Just reading that can cause guilt to creep into your heart. That may actually be conviction from the Holy Spirit, and we should listen to that. But if it’s just a general feeling of guilt that leads to the thought, “I’m a lousy Christian. God can’t love me. How could he? I don’t even read his word. He might love me because he has to, but he doesn’t like me. He just can’t.” That feeling is not guilt. It’s accusation. But it can drive us to God anyway.

We think that until we feel wooed by the grace of God in an irresistible way we can’t read the Bible honestly. We think we’re just going to it under guilt, and because of that nothing good came come from it. I’m not sure that’s true.

Sometimes I do things for my wife that I do only because I feel guilty about something. Let’s pretend I was short with her because I was under stress at work. I snapped off a snarky answer to a real question she had about one of our children. She didn’t deserve to bear the brunt of my stress. And so hours later, after my head has cleared and the stress has melted a little, I notice that the laundry hasn’t been folded. She’s in with the baby, putting him gently back to sleep, and I pick up the laundry and fold it and put it away. The entire time I’m doing this, I’m thinking about what a miserable husband I am, and how it’s amazing she even loves me at all. I am under such a sense of guilt that I’m only folding and putting away the laundry because I see this as one way I can keep my stay in the house.

Then my wife walks back into the room and sees the bed clear of laundry. She looks in the basket and see it empty and realizes that I put the laundry away. She walks over with a smile on her face and gives me a hug followed by a kiss and whispers, “I love you.”

I went to laundry under guilt and came out under grace.

We can approach the Bible with such a wonderful sense of God’s love for us that we can’t imagine a time we wouldn’t read his word. But those moments aren’t constant. We can also approach the Bible under such guilt that we can’t believe he could ever love us.

What we need in times of guilt before our lack of Bible reading is not a better plan, or a better drive, or a better accountability system. What we need most is to just pick up and read. Because even if we approach the Bible under guilt, we are met with a God full of grace. Like my wife coming in with a hug and words of love, the God of the Bible is there to meet with you and speak of his love to you when you open the Bible, and the message doesn’t change depending on how you feel. It’s the same all the times because the word of God does not change.

We need to realize that on the other side of the pages of the Bible is a person. A person who loves us so much that he died for us. He’s paid for our sins, and he’s not holding them against us anymore.

So next time you open your Bible wondering how God could love such a lackluster Christian, hear the words you read and receive the hug of your Father.