Have you seen those cute ads for the “2020 Christmas ornament”? They pop up on my social media feed and always catch my eye. One side lists the really rough times of 2020, from COVID-19 and social distancing to financial woes and school and business closures. The other side lists the positives, like appreciation for home, more time with children, time to read more books, and long walks in nature.
As a society, we might not be able to agree on some things (I’m looking at you, Election Day!). But we can certainly all agree 2020 was a monster year. While I haven’t yet put up my Christmas decorations, there’s a big part of me that’s eager to get that tree up and hasten the season along so we can put this year behind us and ring in a fresh, hopeful 2021.
And that brings me to this week’s blog post, as we continue our series on reasons to read the Bible with another key reason: It offers encouragement and praise in dark times.
(If you missed any of our previous blogs on reasons for reading the Bible, you can click on these links to find them: The Bible points us toward the truth, it strengthens our relationship with God, and it helps us grow in our faith.)
While the Bible does contain sad stories, not to mention lots of violence, more than anything it is a book of hope and love. From the beginning to the end, we see how God created this world and the people in it and continues to offer us love, grace, and gobs of second chances, including the opportunity for us to spend eternity with Him if we choose.
But the devil, our adversary, is a trickster, liar, and sower of doubt. He’s always chasing us down trying to undermine our self-esteem, isolate us, and make us feel alone and unlovable.
That’s why reading the Bible can help drown out the noisy, rambunctious blaring of the devil and help us focus on God. The encouragement, love, hope, and compassion contained within the 66 chapters of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, show us our path, our ticket to salvation in our savior, Jesus Christ. Even the Old Testament books, written hundreds of centuries before Christ, point to Him.
God loves every one of us no matter what. This includes you, in case you’re wondering. You, no matter how “bad” of a thing you’ve done. You, no matter the worries and doubts buried within your heart.
Consider the Parable of the Lost Sheep. In Matthew 18:12-14, Jesus reminds us that God loves each of us. Like a shepherd who considers every one of his sheep precious, if one of us wanders off, God will leave the others and chase down that one wandering “sheep” to bring us back into the fold.
There are a great many other Scriptures that offer encouragement.
As Paul writes to the early church in Romans 15:4-5, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had” (NIV).
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus told His disciples, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).
In Matthew 6, Jesus reassures them again:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25-33).
In the Old Testament, God bolsters Joshua, saying, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
And in Psalm 119:50, the psalmist tells us, “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”
These are just a few examples of nuggets of positivity, comfort, encouragement, hope, and love throughout the Bible. If you are struggling in this dark time, or if you could use some extra “armor” to stand strong against the devil’s lies (can’t we all?!), try reading the Bible.
Join us next week as we take a look at the next reason: to help us learn to live in the “now.”