It is my pleasure to introduce Gretchen George as a guest contributor. A friend told me of Gretchen’s story almost two years ago. Through that indirect contact Gretchen very graciously sent me a summary of her Bible reading experience. Here is her story. May it encourage you as much as it encouraged me.
Those of you who have followed the posts on this website for any length of time know that Ron regularly challenges readers to read the Bible “boldly and relationally.” Over the years, Ron has directly and indirectly challenged many people to begin reading the Bible in this way. I am one of those people. So when Ron asked if I would share a bit about my experience in reading through the Bible cover to cover, I was thrilled for the opportunity!
About 10 years ago, I went through a painful divorce. I suddenly found myself a single parent of two children, then 4 and 5 years old. As I was searching through the Scriptures for hope and encouragement, I was profoundly impacted by the words of Deuteronomy 6:5-9:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.
Although I have been a Christian since I was a small child, read the Bible regularly, attended Bible studies, etc., I was confronted with the fact that I didn’t know the Bible nearly well enough to teach my children the way these verses describe. I began to pray that the Lord would show me how I could begin to know the Scriptures—and Him—in that intimate kind of way. About six months later, I got a call from a former coworker, telling me about the Bible read-through, and inviting me to join her and her daughter in reading through the Bible. I knew instantly that this was the Lord’s answer to my prayers. I was excited! We have been reading through the Bible together twice a year ever since.
The impact that this kind of Bible reading has had on my life has been profound. For one, I have a greater understanding of God’s personal love for me and my children, and His active involvement in our lives. For example, early on in the healing process, I told a friend that I felt like I was standing in quicksand. Shortly thereafter, I opened my Bible and saw these words from Psalm 40:2, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
Another time I was telling God that I felt vulnerable and unprotected. He responded with Psalm 91:4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Time after time I have opened God’s Word and been enveloped in my Heavenly Father’s loving arms. It’s a marvelous experience!
I have barely begun to touch the edge of who God is—-His glory, power, holiness, and wisdom—and it compels me to know Him more. Take the time to read through the last few chapters of Job. The God Job encounters—my God—is awesome! Reading the Bible in large portions at a time gives you a picture of how this awesome God has worked through the generations and carried out His plan for salvation in a way that you don’t see when you pick out chapters and verses here and there.
Reading through the Bible has helped me to understand the sinfulness of my own heart. It has deepened my love for Christ and given me such thankfulness for my salvation. Because I became a Christian at such a young age, I don’t think I grasped the depth my sinfulness. Luke 7:47 says. “But he who has been forgiven little loves little.“ It is our understanding of the deceitfulness and wickedness inside of us that causes us to love our Savior so much. Our deep love for our Lord results in a desire to please Him and to want to avoid anything that doesn’t bring glory to Him. And, when confronted with the temptation to sin, we can fight back with the Sword of the Spirit. Even Jesus did that!
Each time Satan tempted Him in the desert, He responded with God’s Word!
Seeing the holiness of God and my own sinfulness in a fresh way played a vital role in my being able to forgive my former husband for the incredible grief he caused me and my children by his choices. Early on following the divorce, I received what may be the best advice I have ever gotten in my life. The person said to me, “Gretchen, whenever the pain hits, whenever the anger comes, get down on your knees and ask God to give you a heart of forgiveness, and keep doing it until the sting is gone.”
As I did that, the Lord was so faithful and gracious to meet me right where I was. The pinnacle of those experiences occurred one day as I was crying out to God and telling Him that I wanted to forgive, but I didn’t know how. I then opened my Bible and saw the words of Psalm 130:4, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sin, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.” It suddenly dawned on me that the grief I felt over my former husband’s offenses was but a small taste of the grief that my Lord feels over my sin. How could I not forgive?! It was the turning point for me in healing. Oh, the blessing of God’s Word!
The Bible tells us to seek wisdom, to cry out for it, to search for it as for a treasure. The thread of God’s wisdom is woven throughout the pages of Scripture. It’s there for the taking, and yet we so often ignore it. Having more of the Bible in my heart has helped me to access this wisdom more readily in my daily life.
My children, now ages 14 and 15, are able to take in and accept my decisions and discipline more easily than many of their peers because they know that the Bible is the foundation of my parenting. As a nurse on a cancer surgery unit and the leader of a single parents’ ministry, I regularly encounter people who are hurting, discouraged, and frightened. To be able to share God’s wisdom and love as expressed in Scripture is such a blessing. Ten years ago, I would have stood by and wished I could help but would have had little to offer.
Over these past 10 years of reading the Bible in this way, I have developed a love for it, and for the Lord, that I never had in all my years as a Christian previously. I recall reading in I Chronicles and being bogged down with what seemed to be an endless list of unpronounceable names. Then the Holy Spirit reminded me, “I know you by name, just as I know these people by name.” Those lists of names no longer seemed tedious!
I so enjoy books of the Bible that I’m sure I hadn’t opened previously in years. When was the last time you read Zephaniah? Look at the message of love you’re missing in Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” God is waiting to pour out His love to you on every page of the book He has written!
There is much more I could say, but this has already gotten longer than intended. The bottom line, though, is this: You have a God who loves you so much. He desires a deep, intimate love relationship with you. His love is etched into His Word. I urge to open it up and begin reading as you never have before.