How to Dig In: Stefanie McGowan

For the month of November, we get to hear from a handful of women as they discuss, practically, what it looks like to seek God through his Word, daily. As they share some of the tips and tools they have implemented in light of their own situations and seasons, the hope is that God would meet you, powerfully, in your own.

By Stefanie McGowan

I wish you and I could sit down over coffee today, and dig into our bibles together. I learn better that way; through face-to-face, one-on-one kind of visits. And if we were to meet up, I’d tell you that some days I struggle more than others to be in my bible. I get distracted or tired. I’d tell you how yesterday I set my alarm for 5:30 am, enough time to read and study, and take a shower while the house was still asleep. I’d tell you how ironic it was that my little one woke up just 30 minutes later, and the time set apart for my bible study dwindled. You might tell me about seasons, and how life is crazy for you… How God is good and He is faithful, but you feel tired too. Would our conversation continue like that? Would we share the things that aren’t working well and the struggle we feel? Would we leave feeling empty? Or would you direct my heart to truth? Would you remind me that bible study can include a oneyearold and lots of noise? Would you reset our conversation to praise and say: “Have you prayed about it? Let’s pray right now.” Or maybe you’d bust out your bible and read aloud, and speak life and truth over our conversation, and our day.  Is that how our coffee date would go? It’s surely not how mine used to go. Because I have a confession: It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I actually started reading my bible everyday. Life looked a lot different then.

Reading God’s Word everyday was a completely novel concept for me until I was almost 30. I felt like I needed an interpreter, because the bible seemed confusing, long, and boring. My bible often lived in my car or on a shelf. But there came a day, when the Spirit nudged my heart to go deeper, to know the Father in a real and intimate way. It started with a reading plan to guide me through the Bible in a year. I wanted to make my faith my own. I wanted to believe Jesus, know Him, trust Him, and not just believe in Him. (You can read more about that here.) But where do you start?

When I first started reading, I had no idea what I was doing. And the beauty is, it doesn’t matter, because it’s our heart the Lord is after. He promises, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). So I started with prayer. I was present and sincere, and surrendered my whole heart, and asked God to give me a hunger for His word. I opened my Bible to the very first page. I started right at the beginning, and I prayed my way through every verse, every chapter, every book. And every time I felt bored, or confused, or unsure – I prayed. I prayed when I wanted to stop reading, and I prayed when I felt like my head was going to explode. Each day, I pray hard for the Word to penetrate down deep, and grow my faith. And the promise of the Word is this – your faith will grow when you hear the Word, “Because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). You cannot read The Bible and remain unchanged. Why? “Because the word of God is living and active, sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, piercing between soul and spirit, between joint and of marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12). The Word is Jesus. He is the Word made flesh, that dwelt among us (John 1:14). He is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We cannot spend time with Jesus and remain unchanged. So our job is to show up, to believe, and plant the seeds of the Word in our hearts.  God’s job is to grow that seed (1 Corinthians 3:7).

How?  Start with giving Jesus your time: the first of your day, your energy, your effort.  My reading comes first thing in the morning, when I can be alone, and read, and pray with fewer distractions. The time may look different for you, but for me, the end of the day looks more like leftovers than firstfruits. However you can, whenever you can, set aside time to simply be in the Word.

Start with your heart, start with prayer because what good is reading if your heart’s not in it? My prayers are not fancy, but they are sincere, and that’s what the Lord is after. They might sound something like: “Good morning, Father, thank you for this day. Thank you for waking me up. Would you be with me as I read? Would you teach me what you want me to know? Help me make it make sense, Lord. Would you reveal your character to me as I read? In Jesus’ name, Amen.”  Everyday looks different. But because His mercy is new every morning (Lamentations 3:23), we get a chance to draw close to God everyday. We get to sacrifice and tithe our time, asking God to use it and draw us close. It’s food for our souls, and it’s Jesus who is the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35), The One who sustains us, offering an open invitation to “Taste and see that The Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). It’s been almost five years now of reading through the Bible in a year.  I miss days, lots of days.  Some days I only get through a few verses or paragraphs before I stop and look up words and pray for understanding. That’s as far as I get… and that’s okay.  Some years, it takes months longer to complete the reading plan. And it doesn’t matter, because it’s about time spent with the Father, about heart change, and putting Jesus first.

There may be days when reading your bible feels hard. And on the days when I don’t read when I sleep through my alarm, when I choose something else, when I have an opportunity to read the bible out loud from an app on my phone during chores, but simply skipped spending time with Jesus altogether… it’s those days that are exceptionally hard for me. Those are the days where I’m lacking love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22). Those are the days where the battle feels heavy, and I feel illprepared to fight.

Friend, everyday, put on the whole armor of God, that you may withstand the enemy who seeks to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). Put on the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:11-18). Pray! Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you, to teach you, and guide you in all things as your Advocate. This is why Jesus ascended, so that the Helper would come (John 16:7), that we might know that the same power that rose Jesus from the dead, is the same power that lives in us (Romans 8:11). You will never regret spending time unplugging from the world, to plug into Jesus.

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