By Sara Parker
I first attempted to read the Bible from start to finish during the summer between high school and college. To mark my place and record my journey, I jotted down the date in the margin after completing each section. The first date recorded in my Bible is July 15, 1997. I lasted a whopping four weeks at my quest, and apparently gave up after completing the reading of Numbers Chapter 22—on August 17, 1997.
I suppose I should give myself some credit. Barely 18, raised in a Christian home with four older siblings, I had begun to pursue the answer to a very big question: Did I believe simply because I had been taught to believe? I realized that, while I had professed to be a Christian for the past decade, I had not read much of the Bible at all. Did I really know what I believed? And did I truly believe it?
I gave up for a while, immersed myself in college and unhealthy relationships—searching for who I was and what I believed. At some point, I decided that I had just gotten caught up in the mere density of the Old Testament. Genesis is not so bad, and Exodus is packed full of interesting narrative. Leviticus was tough. Numbers was my downfall.
So I decided to read the Bible backwards.
Normal people, I suppose, would decide to begin in Matthew, the start of the New Testament, when things get a bit easier to read and comprehend, in contrast to endless dietary laws and records of who begot whom. I decided that starting from the end of the Bible and working backwards would be motivational, so I began in the first chapter of Revelation.
By the end of the book of Revelation, I was terrified.
Young in both life experience and faith, I had almost no understanding of what I had read. I put the Bible away for quite a while. Every few months or every couple of years I would try again to read the Bible in its entirety. Time and again I failed.
Until the summer of 2008. A friend had mentioned a plan she had found to read the Bible in 90 days. I took the 90-day challenge, and ended up completing the reading of the Bible in 180 days, splitting the readings often between two days. The day I finished the challenge came nearly 12 years after I made the first attempt. What I learned through my journey through the Bible could fill a dozen of my prayer journals. But the most powerful truth I came to understand was this: The Bible is God’s living and breathing word. I was amazed when God showed me verses in books like Numbers, or when He spoke to me through two thousand-year-old events. Sometimes I skimmed, sometimes I gritted through the readings, and sometimes I felt the undeniable presence of God as He spoke to my heart.
One particular day several weeks ago, I was gloomily reading through Exodus Chapter 14, stressed about my husband’s most recent bout with ill health and feeling completely powerless to change the situation, yet compelled to research until after midnight most nights, searching for answers. I wasn’t taking in many words, but Exodus 14:13-14 quickened my heart beat and washed over me with relief. I felt as though God was speaking directly to me.
“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’”
Exodus seemed an unlikely place for God to remind me that life is generally less complicated when I release all of my anxiety into His hands. Do you know what you believe? Do you believe what you profess to believe? I encourage you to prayerfully commit to reading the Bible from cover to cover. You don’t have to do it in 90 days (though you can get a free schedule by clicking here). You can buy devotionals and Bibles that take you through the readings in a year. Or you could set your own pace, fully committed to completing your mission. Ask God to show you His presence through your readings. Ask Him to speak to your heart. Ask Him to increase your faith and give you discernment to understand the words you read. When you finish, you will know what you believe. And you’ll probably want to read the Bible again.
As always, feel free to send me a private message or prayer request at email@example.com.