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.)
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.
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).
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.