The Study With Friends community includes a team of bloggers who bless us with authentic and honest musings about how their faith informs their life, and how life informs their faith. These blogs offer insights and advice from the heart. They are experiential. For instructional insights, visit our bible study page.
Bible Study Tips and Tools: Old Testament
Sure, Numbers can be a little dry and Hosea can be tough to understand (he married who?!?) but staying away from the Old Testament robs you of a deeper understanding of the Lord. After all, most of the Bible is Old Testament, so at some point we’re really going to have to buck up and give it a shot.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I had this friend. We met in photography class, and then again in guitar class. Our souls were kindred spirits. Among other commonalities, we shared a love of painting. Over the course of the school year, we would show each other our paintings, and critique them accordingly. She was so much better than I was. She went on to get a scholarship, for her talent, to the local university, and still to this day, continues to have a career in painting. After I moved, we kept in touch a little bit. During one of our conversations, we were reminiscing about our crazy high school days, and I mentioned how jealous I had always been of her painting skills. She scoffed and said, “You shouldn’t have been, I was crazy. I was just painting what I saw in my head.” After an awkward laugh, I asked what she meant, and she went on to say that she had been diagnosed with a few different mental illnesses over the last few years, and was on medication. I was shocked, but didn’t show it. I told her I was proud she had the courage to get help, and humorously asked if her painting had diminished since she had begun medication. After that conversation, I began to wonder: if my brain worked like hers, would I be a stellar artist? Would I really wish that upon myself?
Recently after band practice I listened to our kids’ conversation on the car ride home. Although they are enthusiastically committed, they typically vent out their complaints: the repetition and monotony, harsh conditions, tough messages from teachers with high expectations, unclear directions, difficult personalities, evolving and unforeseen changes, lack of progress. As I listened it crossed my mind that they could actually be describing my faith walk. I’m committed but complaining about similar things, just plodding along, uncomfortable, frustrated, discouraged by the cares of this world. There are seasons where this is generally the norm more than the exception. God never promised we would live pain-free.
Seasons of Change
My identity as a mom has indeed changed as my kids have grown. Now that I am raising 2 teenagers and one tween, I am no longer perceived as the wonder woman-mom they idolized in infancy and toddler hood. Mothering used to be sweetly characterized by singing songs in the rocking chair, playground swings and glittery art projects; now it involves chauffeuring, arguments, whining and drama.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you go to your bank, give them your account number and ask for 500 Euros. Let’s also imagine that you have never been to Europe and you have done no research whatsoever on what a euro looks like. You are flying blind, trusting the bank to give you the correct amount and the correct currency. The cheerful teller hands you a stack of wrinkled, written on, used post-it notes. The topmost of these has the word ‘euro’ scribbled on it. The teller says, ‘Here you go, that’s 500 euros. Have a great day!’ How would you respond?
The U S Department of Labor has written in reference to Labor Day, “The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, the American worker.”
Ouch! That bothers me. Yes, workers, as opposed to slouchers, have helped build a great nation, but let’s rather pay tribute to God, the Creator of all things, the One to whom all tribute is due. After all, God even invented work. In Genesis 1 and 2 the Bible tells of God’s work of creation, that it was good, and that God rested when He was done. God told His people that they, likewise, should rest from their work, one day out of every seven (Exodus 20:8ff).
Initially, not much changed. I was able to keep up with my usual routine and commitments but that could only last so long. Like most transitions, this required some adjustment. I kept up with my Bible studies but my quiet time in the morning took the hit. Typically I am an early riser, you know like 4:30 or 5 am. I like a quiet, slow ease into the day. This was the time when I would read my bible, pray, reflect and listen. This new season in my life required me to get up and ready for work early, not leaving a whole lot of time for my usual routine. It was a subtle shift initially, starting with missing one or two days a week of quiet time with God, to going whole weeks without ever taking the time in the morning to be with Him.
Our life has been a whirlwind of excitement lately. As I write this, I am currently 20 weeks pregnant with identical twin boys. (!!) There are certain challenges and blessings that come along with this news, but that’s not what I’m going to delve into today. Instead, God has been challenging me in the past few weeks with the concept of rest. I figured as an exhausted 28-year-old balancing a full time job, marriage, a social life, regular exercise, and now growing two tiny humans—this is particularly appropriate.
“Jane” examined me closely and then asked, “What if they only came to rob you and not because of your preaching … does it still count?” Whaaaat? It’s amazing what comes out of people when someone is suffering!
Jane said this to me at our kids’ school in the Central Asian city where we were serving with different Christian agencies. I was still suffering from the injuries I had sustained when we were attacked in our home a year earlier. She was trying to do the reward calculus on my suffering. Was I suffering for Jesus? Or was I just suffering? In her mind, there was a big difference and it seemed important to her to nail down which was which. Kind of appalling, right?
This was not what I had signed up for. I had moved to Central Asia to change the world, not to clean and cook and wash dishes! If I had to be in this hard place I wanted to make a difference, do something significant for a change. I secretly wished I could lead somebody else’s life!