Don’t Feel Like Your Scripture Study is Satisfying?

July 28, 2016

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Are you getting what you need out of your scripture study? Maybe you too have felt like our reader, Elise, who said, “I don’t feel like it’s the nourishment that I need. Mostly I just read, not study. I’m not sure that I know HOW to STUDY effectively. I need to somehow make better use of that precious time. I love it. I just want to get more out of it.”

I appreciate what Elise expressed about hungering for a deeper connection to God. What she wants (what I think a lot of us want) is to feel FULL spiritually.

Nourishment is something the Lord teaches us about in our daily life experiences.  If you’re spiritually hungering, take a minute to ponder the parallels between physical nourishment and spiritual nourishment and see what comes to mind.  Where are you at? What do you instinctively feel might improve your spiritual satisfaction? (It’s my experience that, deep down, we often already know what we need to do.  However, it takes time and some introspection to recognize it.)

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Here are some thoughts to get you going:

There are laws of basic nutrition for our physical bodies.  Isn’t it the same spiritually?

If you’ll pardon a half-baked chef, I’ll share my personal experience. Sometimes, I want the quick fix of a spiritual sugar high.  It could be a popular quote or someone else’s impressively poignant story, something that makes me feel zesty inside. Other times, I feel like I’m consuming a bland diet of spiritual bran.  I force down some scripture study, but I’m not enjoying it.  I’m just going through the motions because I know it’s good for me.

What I’ve learned though, is that personal spiritual experiences are not usually sensational. Likewise, humble, consistent, nourishing meals don’t need a lot of fanfare, their worth is felt internally.  When we eat a healthy meal, we’re not necessarily blown away by how good it is (unless we’re really hungry).  The worth of a healthy diet dawns slowly. Later, when you have more energy, less pain and a better quality of life, you feel the benefits of your choice.  Could it be the same with scripture study?

As with most things in life, we need a generous helping of patience. Spiritual work is still work.  The best advice I’ve gotten about frustrating or unsatisfying scripture study is simple: KEEP AT IT. Like proper diet helping to build strong bodies, we’re trying to develop spiritual strength we can rely on in times of strain when heavy lifting is required. Consistency and self control build up the foundational brawn we need. Like a healthy diet, lasting spiritual health comes from basic consistent habits and a lot of self control.

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As for wanting to add more spice to our study, HOW we study seems to matter less than what we bring to the table. I heard an analogy on this topic that has stayed with me for years.

Imagine my close friend has invited me to a delightful meal, abundance akin to Thanksgiving dinner.  My host welcomes me to a table laden with fine china, candle light, and deep armchairs.  As I’m about to sit, I bounce up again, realizing that I can’t stay!  As I explain to my friend about the various appointments and responsibilities I need to fulfill urgently, an idea strikes. I pull a blender in the from the kitchen and start scraping food from a china platter into the blender cup. It’s alright I tell myself, I’ll just take the meal to go. Entrees and sides slide down into the mix, along with the beverage and dessert.  I flip the blender on, explaining that I can just drink this on my way to my next obligation.  As the motor blares I ask how my friend is doing.  Is there anything I can do for them, I inquire? Seconds later, I grab my smoothie and I head for the door while thanking my friend for the delicious meal.

Now, in real life, I would never dream of being so rude.  But, this mental image has helped me imagine myself as a guest at the Lord’s abundant table.  He offers us a spiritual feast through His scriptures.  With what attitude do we come to the table?  I have to say that my attitude has sometimes been alarmingly like the analogy above.

How much better to be like our reader Elise, and come to the table hungry for a spiritual meal.  I love the thought of relaxing, drinking deeply, savoring and enjoying all the Lord has offered. For He says, “Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3) Likewise, “Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

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Scripture study is a personal thing. Like a favorite food, no one else can tell you what you’ll like best or what will be the most satisfying for you.  That’s why we all like to try new recipes.  And, we all have some comfort foods we keep coming back to.

That being said, here’s one scripture study recipe that works for me. I consider it a satisfying, every-day spiritual meal. It’s a three-part sequence.

  1. Beginning with a prayer, I ask the Lord for His spirit to teach me as I dedicate some time to scripture study.  I review the things I have asked for in prayer recently. I ask for help discerning the Lord’s answers to my prayers through my scripture study.
  2. I like to start with a modern perspective on faith.  I consistently find nourishment from the talks given in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints General Conferences. For me, it helps to spiritually “prime the pump”, The modern perspectives and topics are easy to digest, not as challenging to understand as ancient scripture can sometimes be.  It helps put me in a thankful, open-hearted frame of mind.
  3. Once I’ve invited the spirit, it is easier to understand God’s word. I feel like my daily study is most satisfying when I also read canonized scripture.  Spending time in the Bible, especially the new testament accounts of Christ’s life, and the Book of Mormon, fills my soul with the hearty nuggets of spiritual truth I crave.

FEAST.  Eat. Dine. Inhale. Nourish. Ingest. Swallow. I love the symbolism of feasting on the words of the Lord.  When we eat, the nourishment strengthens us, satisfies us, literally becomes a part of us.  I want the words of Christ to become part of me in the same way.

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  • Reply Heather July 28, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Oh I love this so much! I love the image of sitting down with God to feast– or at least eat a bowl of cereal on those days when I don’t have as much time 🙂

  • Reply Elise July 28, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    Me again. 🙂 Thank you so much for your wonderful posts on how to more effectively study!! Since your last post, I have bought a scripture journal and started ASKING QUESTIONS and trying to FEAST more. It had been slow-going. I feel like a baby learning to walk. Or, a better analogy, a baby learning to chew and ingest new textures, meatier fare than the “baby food” I have always been used to. It’s training my brain to think differently than “I need to finish this chapter.” When I myself slipping back into those habits, I have keep thinking what you suggested above, KEEP AT IT. I am confident that with time and work, the Lord will TEACH ME how to FEAST more abundantly upon His words. Thanks for your inspiring, encouraging words!!

    • Reply Kim July 29, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      Can I just say what an inspiration you are! love this comment!

    • Reply Johanna August 11, 2016 at 9:57 am

      Elise! I feel like we’re friends even though we’ve never met. Thank you for your comments and insight. I love this thought about baby food. So true and the perfect comparison. You’re inspiring us all. I love talking about real growth and our personal experiences with discipleship, it helps me feel excited about the scriptures anew. <3

  • Reply Becky July 29, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Loved this article! Thank you so much for sharing it!! I would love more information on the first picture provided and some detail on the color coding with the scriptures.

    • Reply Johanna August 11, 2016 at 9:50 am

      Hey Becky,
      Thanks for your comment. The color code is from one phase of my study years ago. My method was to assign colors to different topics from the Preach My Gospel manual. For example, all the red tabs highlight scriptures about faith. I’m a fan of using a scripture color code. It’s a visual way to create a topical study. If you make one, we’d love to see it 🙂

  • Reply Kim July 29, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    This was so thought provoking and even more inspiring. I love “chewing” on the symbolism here. Thank you! xoxo

  • Reply Brooke August 1, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Fantastic article, thank you!

  • Reply Ashley Ziegler October 4, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Johanna, this post is just beautiful. An absolute answer to my prayers. I won’t go into detail (my comment could be 43298493205848500183849 words long) but I’m so happy I stumbled across this post.. thank you.

  • Reply Johanna Wagstaff October 10, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Ashley! I am so glad you shared with us! That just made my day. Pure joy. Isn’t the gospel wonderful? I love getting to learn together at The Small Seed and hear about real faith in action. It reminds me that the world is full of wonderful, faithful people and that God is aware of us each individually. We’d love to hear about your experience with scripture study. If it’s too long for this setting, I’d love to hear about it via email. God Bless!

  • Reply Douglas Brown February 3, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    This is a wonderful analogy. Something that occurred to me is that it’s not just the food, but the experience of dining with Him that is most precious. That would surely be something to remember!

    • Reply Johanna Wagstaff February 7, 2017 at 6:25 am

      Thanks Douglas, for adding that thought. I appreciate your reminder that being near the Lord is far more important than what is on the table. Dining with the Savior makes a wonderful mental image, doesn’t it? I have often thought of how it would feel to approach the throne of God when seeking guidance. However, dining with God suggests a familiarity that is comforting. It reminds me of the lyric, “No more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home”. Thanks for adding to our discussion!

  • Reply Corina Sorensen February 28, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Love this post. Just stumbled upon it after a little searching through the archives. Thanks for sharing your advice and suggestions on how to better feast upon the words of Christ. Love the Thanksgiving analogy. I’m excited to give these tips a try.

    • Reply Johanna Wagstaff March 1, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      Thanks Corina! It is so hopeful and heartwarming to know that we’re all looking for a closer connection to our Savior. I love how TSS unites us in this way. Thank you for adding your faith to the discussion. xoxo

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