Dustin Walker is the Families & Community Pastor at City Church.
What do you do when you don’t know how to find something?
We’ve all been there. You experience a moment of slight (or major) panic when you can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps followed by guilt, embarrassment, or even helplessness. Think through each of the following scenarios.
You’re at the grocery store and can’t find the cans of diced tomatoes. Five, then ten minutes pass by as you pace the aisles and think, “Where are they hiding these things? I’m such a moron!” Or maybe you’re running 15 minutes late to an unfamiliar address and you CANNOT find the building. The whole time your heart pounds as you think, “Why can’t I find this place! They are going to be so upset with me for being late. This meeting was so important and I’m blowing it!”
Similarly, I can feel this way when I’m reading scripture, and I’m just not understanding it. There has to be some meaning to unearth but it seems as elusive as that can of diced tomatoes or office complex.
Maybe you’ve been there. If reading scripture is new to you or not, you may be familiar with that sinking feeling of not knowing what to do to understand a passage you’re reading. You’ve got questions but you don’t even know where to go to get answers.
You may have quick responses for each of these scenarios I listed above. And perhaps your mind doesn’t always go immediately to thinking these panicky thoughts. But we’ve all been there at one time or another. It is frustrating to not find what you’re looking for. The truth is that you probably have some quick ways that normally help you get past these moments with a little help.
As you begin to begin journaling using the HEAR method you will inevitably come across passages in which you’ll need some extra resources to help answer your questions. Some passages are more difficult than others to explain and grasp their meaning. And this will be crucial to help you apply it. Here are some helpful tips as you venture ahead:
Ask someone for help
This is probably the #1 overlooked thing to do. Just like we might wander around a store for 15 minutes without asking an associate, we may neglect to ask the people around us for help. This is why reading scripture in a community of people is important. Ask someone in your community group. Send them a text or give them a call.
The go-to method for most of us when finding an address is to type it into our GPS. Many times this gives us just enough immediate information to help us find our way. Likewise, it is good to have some quick bible references that you can find with ease.
Here are a few suggestions:
Study bibles and commentaries can be helpful in giving context and background information for a particular text.
For example, if you’re wanting to know more about the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 you might search for this topic of passage among their articles.
The Road Atlas
Sometimes the trusted, old-school things work just as well. That’s why I would ultimately suggest that over time you begin to invest in some of these other bible tools. They aren’t free and they don’t lend themselves to quick search engine style responses. But they do deliver an overall understanding of scripture and the big story of the gospel God has painted throughout. Here are some of those atlas-like bible resources for you:
There are a lot of versions of study bibles out there that go along with several translations of scripture. I have personally found the ESV Study Bible and NKJV Study Bible to be helpful. Ask your community group leader what they recommend.
Commentaries are typically written by pastors and theologians and are chocked full of information. Since they’re expensive, I wouldn’t suggest buying a whole set. I would suggest you ask someone with formal theological training or a pastoral staff member for his input.
All in all, when we read scripture, we are looking for more than just cans of diced tomatoes or an address. We are trying to understand the heart and character of God. The goal of studying the bible is not knowledge and information. It is a person. We want to know and love the person of Jesus Christ.
Hopefully these resources will lead you to do just that.