At the start of a new year, most of us find ourselves making goals and plans — among them, Bible reading plans. Why be chained to a plan? Why not just dip in and out of Scripture wherever you feel like reading from day to day? Various important arguments have been made elsewhere; in addition to the objective reasons, my own conviction was solidified through a particular experience of trials.
It was three years ago during this early winter season: January found me reeling from one set of circumstances, and then February threw me into a whole different trial altogether. But in the midst of those challenges and sorrows, God provided grace. And one of the most notable sources of that grace was my Bible reading plan.
It sounds counter-intuitive, a bit odd. Often we pit the two against each other: “having a rigid plan” vs. “letting the Spirit lead.” But I found that in the wisdom and sovereignty of God, our plans for obedience can be used powerfully as means for God to comfort our souls.
When I selected a plan to follow — a starting point — I had no way of knowing what was coming in just a few weeks, or what Scriptures would be most appropriate to read in the midst of my trials. But God knew. He had me in the Psalms each day. He had me begin Job at the beginning of February. On the morning of the 14th, just hours before I would receive shocking and difficult news, He had me in Psalm 35, reflecting on how He delights in my welfare.
I’m convinced that a large part of why I was able to weather those trials and cling to Christ was because I was in the Word consistently. And I attribute that to having had a concrete plan to follow. Would I have turned to Scripture in my fear and my pain anyway, without having a daily reading to complete? Probably, at least some of the time. But I suspect it would have been hit-or-miss, haphazard at best — flipping listlessly through the pages, trying to think what to read that might be helpful, defaulting perhaps to a handful of familiar verses.
Of course, there is comfort and value in favorite passages of Scripture, and I turned to those, too. But there was something beautiful about opening to my bookmark, reading the prescribed chapter for the day, and finding Christ right there, ready to apply the balm of His Word to my pain and my fears.
My plan usually isn’t particularly ambitious. Most days I read just one chapter. I build in catch-up days, and I still fall behind sometimes. But I love the frequent reminder and demonstration of God’s sovereign care: He has ordained what I will read each day, and He has ordained what I will face each day. Again and again, He meets me in these pre-planned selections. Is it little more than an item to check off a list, some days? Yes. But it is more than worth it to persevere through the less-exciting chapters and the readings that don’t really grab me, when God meets me in the pages of His Word.
I encourage you today to make a plan (or to get your plan back out and keep trying). Who says January is the only time to begin? Let today be your day to print off a schedule and start reading regularly. Pick something that works for you; go at your own pace. Find a friend to read along with you. “Read the entire Bible in a year” certainly doesn’t have to be the goal. The goal is to get ourselves in God’s Word, so that God’s Word gets in us, and changes us. And that’s not a one-shot, New-Year’s-Resolution kind of goal. That’s something He delights to do for you and in you any day of the year.
Resources for Bible-reading plan ideas and tips:
[A version of this post was originally published on my blog here.]