5 Tips for Studying Difficult Bible PassagesJun 13, 2019
This is a guest post by Cyndee Ownbey. Cyndee writes at her site Women’s Ministry Toolbox, and is passionate about pointing women to Christ and teaching them how to dig into the Word of God.
Have you ever blown anything out of proportion? Made something harder than it really was?
Several years ago, we visited Stone Mountain in Georgia. There is a high-speed Swiss cable car that “provides a stunning view of the Confederate Memorial Carving as it transports guests more than 825 feet above ground to the top of Stone Mountain.” Our boys could not wait to ride it!
That sounds like great fun unless you’re terrified of heights! The longer we stood in line, the more nervous I became. I worked myself into such a panic that I felt like I was going to pass out before we even got in the cable car. I purposefully positioned myself in the middle, held on for dear life to the handrail, closed my eyes tight, and prayed. My heart raced. My legs shook, and my hands were so sweaty I almost lost my death grip on the handrail.
When we finally exited the top, I wanted to celebrate and kiss the ground! We made it! As my heart rate began to slow to its normal pace, I was able to admit that it was not quite as terrifying as I had feared. On the way back down in the cable car, I even managed to open my eyes and look, admittedly still with a firm grasp on the handrail.
I almost allowed my worries and fears to keep me from experiencing the beauty that could only be viewed from the top of the mountain. Not to mention the ribbing I would have gotten from our boys had I stayed on the ground down below!
I think many of us do the same thing with Bible study sometimes.
There are certain passages we skip over or avoid because they are too hard.
This doesn’t make any sense.
I can’t possibly understand this passage.
I don’t know what this means.
When we decide to skip over a passage because it’s too hard, we miss out on the beauty and knowledge God wants us to experience.
Unfortunately closing our eyes to overcome tough Bible passages doesn’t work! But I do have some tips and tricks to share that may help you push through difficult Bible passages when you encounter them.
5 Tips for Studying Difficult Bible Passages
EXAMINE THE CONTEXT.
What do we know that can help provide some clarity? Who wrote the passage? Who was it written to? Why did they write it? When did they write it? What was the purpose of this passage? Once you’ve answered those questions, try and read it again with fresh eyes and understanding.
DIAL OUT AND LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE.
That passage on its own may not make a bit of sense, but when you zoom out and look at the verses or chapters before and after, things just might click! What is the topic the writer is talking about in this chapter? Does my interpretation line up with the surrounding verses? Where are other places in scripture that communicate the same message or truth? What does this passage say about God?
CONSULT A TRUSTED COMMENTARY.
I am thankful for men and women who have dedicated years of their lives to the study of the Bible. Commentaries, books written by Biblical scholars, provide snapshots of historical and cultural facts that can dramatically affect our interpretation of a Bible passage. If you use a study Bible, those notes at the bottom or in the margin are a commentary. If not, you can access many free commentaries online. Or you may find it worthwhile to invest in a set of commentaries. I use The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (2 volume edition), they make a great Christmas or birthday gift!
TEXT OR PHONE A FRIEND.
Stop for a moment and think of a godly, wise friend that may be able to get you unstuck. God’s given us brothers and sisters in Christ to spur one another on. Small group leaders, present and former, can be great resources.
PRAY AND LET IT GO.
Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Some things are just beyond our understanding. Rather than get permanently stuck, we can pray, listen to the Holy Spirit, wrestle with it a bit, and move on.
Don’t let a difficult Bible passage sideline your time in the Word. Work through it if you can using the tips listed above. Revisit those passages in the future and trust God’s timing.
Cyndee Ownbey serves as a mentor to thousands of women’s ministry leaders through her website Women’s Ministry Toolbox. Providing practical tips, encouragement, and resources gleaned from 20 years of ministry experience, she assists leaders in creating relevant events and activities that meet the changing needs of the women in their church and community. Cyndee is passionate about pointing women to Christ and teaching them how to dig into the Word of God.