Becoming a Biblically Literate Young Woman
Young ladies, how often do you study God’s word? How much time do you spend personally engaging with the actual text of the Bible? It is easy to come up with excuses for not prioritizing personal Bible study. Between work, school, church activities, family commitments, dating, and spending time with friends, it may seem like you are rarely at home. After a long, tiring day at work or an intense study session that lasts late into the night, you feel like you do not have enough energy to keep your eyes open, much less open your Bible. Or perhaps the real reason that you do not open your Bible as often as you should is not that you lack the time, but simply because it is hard. You may get discouraged by the struggle to understand unfamiliar language and the time that you must sacrifice in order to do so. It is easier just to give up and think, “I’ll read the Bible when I get older.”
Another excuse you might give yourself is that theology, biblical literacy, and the ability to apply the gospel to our lives is something that should be reserved for ministers and seminary professors. You may think, “I’m a girl; I will never be a pastor. Do I really have to be able to study the Bible on my own?” But the truth is that whether you are male or female, young or old, you are a theologian. You have knowledge about God that impacts the way you live out your everyday life. Is your knowledge of God coming directly from his word, or only from secondhand sources? The Bible is God’s special revelation to his people about himself. Biblical literacy, the ability to read and understand the Bible, is essential to knowing God. When you develop firsthand knowledge of God through careful study of his word, you will grow in your love for him and fellowship with him.
Building biblical literacy is not an easy task. We often open our Bibles and hope that they will function like our social media feed. We want to flip through quickly until we find an inspiring quote that makes us feel good and then go about our day. We get disappointed when we do not immediately understand what we are reading or do not see a direct application to our daily life. The Bible can seem out of date and disconnected from our modern lives, so we put it back on the shelf and open up our favorite devotional or Christian living book instead. (While these books can be edifying and worthwhile, we must be careful not to let books about the Bible become a substitute for reading the Bible.) Or worse yet, we seek to find our hope and comfort in something else entirely.
There are two main ways to study the Bible, which are both important for building your biblical literacy. First, when you read larger sections of scripture at a more rapid pace, it assists in developing your understanding of the big picture of the gospel and how all of the Bible fits together. Second, when you study a specific book more slowly verse by verse, it helps you to discern the individual truths found in that portion of scripture. If you have never tried to do an in-depth, verse by verse study of the Bible on your own before, it can be extremely intimidating. I have found that a helpful tool for this type of personal Bible study is something called the inductive study method. The three main components of the inductive study method are comprehension (What does the text say?), interpretation (What does the text mean?), and application (How should this truth change me?). I will not go into the specifics of the inductive study method here, but two worthwhile reads that do go into great detail on this subject are Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin and Transformed by Truth: Why and How to Study the Bible for Yourself as a Teen by Katherine Forster.
Developing biblical literacy is a slow, challenging process of hiding God’s word in your heart. When studying the Bible is difficult and you do not understand as much as you would like to, it is easy to become discouraged. But if you are consistent, over time you will start to notice that you are growing. You may be able to make a connection between the section of scripture you are reading and something else you have studied. You may become more comfortable explaining a Bible passage to a friend. You may begin to recognize unbiblical half-truths found in the squares of your Instagram feed or popular “Christian” books. And you may even begin to see that the Old Testament is not quite as difficult to understand as you thought. Although we will never be able fully to understand the Bible in this life, it should be the earnest endeavor of every Christian to learn as much about God as possible by studying his word. The truth of scripture will teach, comfort, and amaze you year after year.
Growing in biblical literacy requires process, patience, and prayer. No reading of the Bible should be done without prayer. Take the time to pray before and after you study scripture. Ask God to increase your love and desire for his word. Ask him to use his Spirit to reveal the true meaning of the text to you. And ask him to work transformation in you by the application of this truth.
What excuses have you been making for not spending time in personal Bible study? How can you increase your own biblical literacy with the time and resources that are available to you?
Abby VanSolkema is a wife and mother and attends Trinity PRC with her husband Tedd. She is also a devotionals writer for Beacon Lights.
Originally published April 2020, Vol 79 No 4