What If I’ve Already Fallen Behind On My Readings?
About 47% people who start a Bible reading plan on January 1st have already fallen behind by January 7th. I didn’t make that number up, that number comes from our own tracking information courtesy of Google Analytics. It also comes from talking to busy people and guilty congregants year after year after year.
If you’ve been struggling to stay on top of your Bible readings this year the good news is, you are not alone! You are not deficient or unusually depraved - you are a human being and human beings are naturally allergic to anything hard and most things good. Many have stumbled at exactly this point in the process but thanks be to God, many have got up, dusted themselves off and carried on – and you can too. Here is a little advice I have collected over the years from some of those resilient folks.
1. Don’t try and “catch up” – just carry on!
Getting back on track is not about getting caught up. Just like you can never go back and do that workout you missed on Friday, neither can you ever go back and make up yesterday’s missed devotion. That is water under the bridge and if you try and catch up you will become frustrated and discouraged. Just start again tomorrow.
Try to remember why you are reading through the Bible in the first place – it isn’t to tick off each little box so that you can spike your Bible on the ground and moon walk your way into 2018 – the goal is to know God and to enjoy his transforming presence every day. Therefore, if you missed it yesterday, then you missed it. Just use that to build up your appetite for next time.
2. Stay with your group
One of the biggest mistakes folks make when they fall behind on their reading plans is disengaging from their community supports. If you are part of a Facebook group made up of ladies all using the same Bible reading plan – do not disengage just because you’ve fallen a few days behind! Remember that 47% of them have as well! Get back on the page and let your next post be an honest one: “Hey ladies, I’m a couple of days behind, what did I miss?” Let them fill you in. Then move on.
The group is there for a reason: to encourage you. Let them do their job.
3. Modify your routine
Most of us create habits and fall into patterns that more or less fill the 24 hours of each day. Therefore if you are finding it hard to find the 20 minutes or so it takes to read through the Bible in a year it may simply mean that you already have preexisting habits that account for all the available time in the day. That’s perfectly normal and it simply means that you will need to edit your default allocations. For example, according to Business Insider, Americans spend 40 minutes a day using Facebook. Most of us would protest and deny this outrageous figure, but it comes from Facebook’s own internal investigation. The average North American user checks Facebook 13.8 times a day. Putting those two numbers together it seems that most of us are spending less than 3 minutes on Facebook each time we check it, which is why it seems hard to believe that we are using this platform for 40 minutes a day, but the numbers don’t lie, even if we tend to lie to ourselves.
My suggestion is simple: if you are struggling to find 20 minutes a day to read your Bible make an ancillary resolution. Resolve to check Facebook no more than 6 times a day. That should buy you 22 minutes for Bible reading.
There are other things you could try as well – try showering before you read the Bible, or try doing it at a different time of day. Figure out how best to carve out the space you need to do the things you have resolved to do. You can’t just throw a new “big rock” into your already full bucket; something is going to have to give. Figure out what is in your way and move it.
4. Make good use of the Lord's Day
Sunday afternoon can be a good time to go back and see what you missed on those days when you didn't get to your readings. This isn't a contradiction of suggestion #1 - you can never "make up" the missed work out or the missed devotion and you shouldn't try, but Sunday afternoon can be a good time to skim back and fill in some gaps. As long as you can follow the storyline then you should be able to understand and track with each new day's reading. You could even use Sunday afternoon to read a day ahead in order to generate a bit of a buffer in case things get crazy during the rest of the week.
Do you have a 5th suggestion? If so, pass it along to your group and send a copy of it to me as well. I'm guessing I'll be needing this post again next year in 2018!
Wishing you all the best in your pursuit of God in the year ahead! If you don't have a reading community please join us over at www.intotheword.ca or find us on Facebook.
And may God alone be glorified!