Believers who read the Bible often discover verses that for some reasons appeal to them or — disgust them. These memorable verses maybe positive (about love) or negative (about rape) but they stir up our souls and impact us. Some people never recover from influence of difficult verses and leave faith. Others cling to hope-giving texts and live in light of positive verses.
We Christians often pick and choose positive verses without reading the whole Bible. Often favorite verses of an individual come from select group of biblical texts that the individual hears in church or reads online. However, in churches and in media we see only certain verses — texts appealing to large masses for whatever reason. Think of verses about love, mercy, cuddly things or texts that resemble self-help fluff or verses that sound non-sensical and seem to encourage brutality (if you read atheist websites). Of course, in churches you have chance to hear more diverse verses but even there certain parts of the Bible are often silenced for dogmatic or political reasons. So unless a Christian reads the whole Bible she often misses silenced verses and does not know that she misses part of the scripture.
Moreover, if we choose our favorite verses based on only what we read in media or hear in church, our choices are inherently flawed. Someone chooses those verses for your consumption based on their criteria and ideology that may not necessarily agree with your beliefs. By limiting yourself to what you receive in media or church you would miss hidden gems of the scripture.
So the first and indispensable rule of discovering your verse through which the Lord speaks to the depths of your soul is to…
1. Read the whole Bible
This rule is so important that it is worth repeating: to discover those few verses through which the Spirit will engrave deep insights into your psyche, you need to read the Bible, the whole Scripture, without omitting a single letter or iota.
Sorry, but there is no shortcut. This isn’t some fast-and-easy, here-and-now emotional hoopla or marketing technique to find a shallow stirring to forget later. Reading the whole scripture is the only way to open your heart to every single verse in the sacred text — and hope and pray and seek and wait in patience for the Spirit to prompt an inkling of connection to the most precious verses.
So grab your dusty Bible, crack it open, pray earnestly, and read. Take a deep breath and take your time. You just started an adventure filled with ups and downs that will transform your faith.
2. Converse prayerfully with the Lord as you read
In order to discover the verse that will become a riverbank for you to jump and dive into the mysteries of Christ, you need to read the Bible with a specific mindset and attitude. This is a prayerful mindset and the attitude of surrender. As you read, converse with God as a friend, who in His grace and love for you stoops down to your level to listen patiently and guide you.
You can converse about anything you want to, but my advice would be to read and occasionally speak to God about the topic of the verses you read. Don’t be afraid to let your imagination fly into the deeper recesses of your soul; granted, your imaginative flights will revolve around the verses just as the earth revolves around the sun.
3. Examine your life, attitudes, and habits earnestly
Reading the Bible is not just about the text or God’s will. It’s also about you in the sense that you bring whatever you have to the reading experience, and your whole personality, worldview, and education affect the way you read and perceive the text. It’s possible for one person to apply what I’m writing and discover a deeply touching verse while someone else do the same thing and still feel the dryness of the text in his heart. There could be so many reasons for that reaction like our background, faith, troubles, emotions, hidden motifs, education, and attitude.
The Bible is the mirror of believer’s souls (James 1:23). Examining your heart as you read or before you start reading will increase your awareness of yourself. The more you do this, the more the scripture will be like a spiritual mirror that shows you your deeper self in God’s presence. And the more you see yourself in that mirror, the more you will know what it is that you are looking for and what verse God wants to guide you to.
4. Write down the verses that appeal to you more than others or linger in your mind for whatever reason.
This is just a technique that will help you down the road. As you read the Bible, take notes and write down the verses — every word of them — that somehow stand out. You may not know exactly why these verses stand out, but that’s another matter. At this stage, what matters is your ability to take note of the verses that either linger in your mind or make you slow down. You may write down the verse number and other features to identify it later, but I would not advise it. When you write down the text of a verse, it reinforces your memory of that verse and increases your chance of understanding the text better, no matter how small that increase might be. So take the time to write the verse down instead of just taking the shortcut. The purpose of taking notes is to keep your reading pace from breaking by focusing on the verse too much. You will come back to that verse later. Now, let’s assume that you’ve read all of the Bible. You finished it, and all the verses that somehow attracted your attention have been written down. Here comes the fun part.
5. Go through those verses and see if you notice anything (topic, pattern) that unifies all of the texts.
Obviously they are connected through you because you as the reader chose them. Or you can say they chose you because the Spirit worked through these verses in your life. But because you were affected by these verses, there’s a higher probability that the verses may have something deeper connecting them all together. Pay attention to the themes of these verses. Do they have some commonality? In terms of subject matter? In terms of the textual context and genre (book, letter, poetry, etc.) that they come from?
After you find that pattern, you can use it as a guiding principle to understand the verses’ appeal to you. Your job then is to go through one verse every day and think about why it stood out to you. Think about your life, your experiences, and your beliefs or values. See if there is anything in your life that the verse subtly addresses. For example, you may have some good childhood memories connected to peace that verses about peace may ignite. Or you may lack that peaceful family life from childhood, and the verses about peace may bring up that deep longing. This is the phase where you especially have to be honest with yourself and with God because there is no way you can succeed without being honest. Assuming that just going through steps 1, 2, and 3 without minding what’s going on in your heart won’t help you discover the verses that are deeply moving to you.
By that time, you may be well into the discovering phase in which you understand why a particular verse appeals to you more than any other in the Bible. And once you know why it deeply moves you, that verse would gain special place in your list of appealing or favorite verses.
Now, these tips will help you a lot, but they don’t replace the Spirit’s work in your heart, and you shouldn’t treat my suggestions as a manual of instructions. Your prayer life, your habits, and your attitude towards life, others, and yourself will affect the outcome of your search. In addition, you may discover your personal or favorite verse without ever learning why it actually moves you so much.
Or you may read the whole Bible and find out that there are no verses moving you and that all the things the Bible says are just dull. If that ever happens to you, it is time to talk to your pastor and find out how your faith is deepening. To me, when a believer reads the whole Bible and can’t find anything there worthy to remember, the issue goes deeper than just the verses. You may have to examine where you stand in relation to your faith and whether you really believe the Spirit speaks in the Scripture.
That’s it. Now it is your turn, my friend. Comment and let me know what is your favorite verse and why.
Also, check the links below. You may find insights in those blog posts too.