This is a guest post by Jen Wilkin and is part of Women of the Word Month, a free 31-day campaign designed to encourage and equip women for transformative Bible study. Learn more or sign up at crossway.org/women.
As women, we must often find creative ways to work “time in the Word” into our schedules. Depending on our life stage, we may find ourselves squeezing in fifteen minutes in the morning before the baby wakes, taking two hours on a Wednesday evening that suddenly opens up because of a cancelled meeting, or stealing a few minutes before bedtime when the day’s tasks are finally put to rest.
I’m often asked by women for tips on how to make the most of the time we have to spend in the Word. Here are five ways to make the time you have count:
1. Distinguish between devotional reading and Bible study.
It can be tempting to want our personal study time to fill our emotional tank for the day. We may rush to find an application point we can act on in whatever time we have. This may mean we limit our time in the Word to devotional reading—meditating on a passage and looking for a way to put it to immediate use.
Devotional reading is beneficial, but it is not foundational, and its benefit actually increases exponentially as we grow in our foundational understanding of the Bible. Draw a distinction between devotional time and study time. Then decide how much time you will allocate to each, based on their relative merits. Dedicate your study time to building a foundational knowledge of Scripture.
2. Remember who the Bible is about.
It is tempting to read the Bible as a road map for our lives or a guide for abundant living. But the Bible, strictly speaking, is not a book about us. It is a book about God. From Genesis to Revelation, it reveals and celebrates the character and work of God. We do gain self-knowledge, but only as we gain God-knowledge, learning to see our own character in relation to His.
Read asking “What does this passage teach me about God?” Then see yourself in relation to Him: “Knowing that God is longsuffering causes me to reflect on how impatient I am. How then should I live?” Allow application of a passage to flow from seeing God in a particular light.
3. Take a long-term view.
Think of Bible study as a savings account rather than a debit card. Rather than viewing it as a declining balance you draw on to fill an immediate need, allow it to have a cumulative effect over weeks, months, years. You may not reach understanding of a passage or be able to apply it well after one day’s exposure to it. That’s okay. Keep making deposits into your account, trusting that in God’s perfect timing he will illuminate the meaning and usefulness of what you’ve studied, compounding its worth.
What if the passage you study today is preparing you for a trial ten years from now? Study faithfully now, trusting that nothing is wasted, whether your study time resolves neatly in thirty minutes or not.
4. Stay put.
Rather than reading passages pulled from different parts of the Bible each day, choose a book and stay there. Jumping around from passage to passage can leave us with spot knowledge of Scripture. We may grow very familiar with certain passages, but we might never learn their context.
Reading a book of the Bible from start to finish helps us connect the dots of our spot knowledge into a cohesive understanding of the text. Be sure to learn the background information for the book (the who/what/when/why/where) before you dive in so that you can place it in its proper historical and cultural context as you read.
We lack wisdom. Never are we more aware of this fact than when we embark on becoming students of the Bible. Pray before, during, and after your study time. Ask God to give you ears to hear. Like the psalmist, pray: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Acknowledge your limitations, and humbly ask Him to grant you wisdom and insight as you study.
He will never refuse your request.
Jen Wilkin is a speaker, writer, and teacher of women’s Bible studies. During her thirteen years of teaching, she has organized and led studies for women in home, church, and parachurch contexts. Jen and her family are members of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. She is the author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.