I found it a lot easier before kids to have a great devotional life (ie to spend time reading the Bible, praying, trying to listen to God) than after I had kids. With kids, life just seems to always be busy. I have usually found it easy to pray and communicate with God, just the Bible reading has been a bit lacking at some stages of my life. But let me tell you, if you don’t make time to read the Bible and let it become a good habit in your life before having kids, don’t expect it to be easy after having kids. I must confess, I still struggled with making time for Bible reading before kids and it is still something I wrestle with but I have found a few tips along the way that help me develop the discipline and love for reading the Bible.
1. Recognise which season of life you are in.
Life changes. Seasons change. When I had babies, it was an intense time of just trying to get some sleep at odd times of the day and night (& I had babies that were in strict routines and slept 10-12 hours through the night at 4-8 weeks of age). When I was breastfeeding, I soon realised that there was nothing helpful on television during the period 12 midnight to 5am. Thus, when I breastfeed at that time, I would read the Bible out aloud. I figured it achieved a couple of things at once. I was reading my Bible, my child was hearing my voice, and my child was hearing the Word of God. My kids were huge feeders so I could be there for 30-45 minutes so I would also pray out aloud as well. One tip I relished was to keep my Bible next to the chair I used for breastfeeding. Thus, I would sit down, attach my baby and look around. The very first thing my eyes saw was my Bible. It was a prompt to help me develop that habit in my life.
When my children were toddlers and pre-schoolers, we read a Bible story every day and did a craft that related to it. This helped me accomplish several things at once which helped me feel like we had accomplished something for the day. We used a book for toddler girls – devotional and craft so that I didn’t have to think up the craft or which Bible story because I had so much happening around me that to think of something else was asking too much at that time. Hubby also started reading out aloud a devotional book at dinner time that was suitable for the kids. It was a book by Anne Graham Lotz (Billy Graham’s daughter and it was fantastic at that time).
Please try not to compare yourself to someone else or to yourself when you were in a different season of parenthood. Life has seasons and your role is to work out the most appropriate thing for you to do in this season of your life and this season of parenthood.
2. Have prompts that help you remember to read the Bible.
When I was breast feeding, the prompt for reading the Bible was having only my Bible next to that chair. Nothing else. I couldn’t turn on the television (without getting up to grab the remote) so I automatically turned to the Bible. Now it is when I snuggle back in bed of a morning after making hubby’s sandwiches for the day. Before I turn to Facebook or check the emails, I turn to the Bible. When the kids were toddlers, it was reading a toddler Bible and craft book where I read a Bible passage to them and then we did a craft related to it. Now it is also when we start home schooling for the day. We will take it in turns to read out aloud 1/3 of a chapter each. I figure that we are all hearing the Bible plus I am helping my kids develop their reading out aloud skills. Is it when you have your first coffee for the day? If it is, then keep your Bible in that place, and use your coffee to help you turn to the Bible as you sit down to savour both the coffee and God’s Word. There has been a time when I had the Bible next to the toilet as that was the only time I could guarantee a quiet five minutes of time to myself unless I got up ultra early of a morning.
3. Vary it.
Have you tried using an audio version? This is a great method for in the car or around the house when doing housework. It is also a fantastic idea for those who catch public transport to work if you have ear phones. Even a soothing version playing whilst you have babies and try to catch a bit here and there. Have you tried different versions of the Bible eg New International Version, The Message, The Passion translation, etc? Is the Bible in a version that you understand and that your children understand? Have you tried reading just one verse and thinking about that verse for some time? Don’t feel you have to read a full chapter or stop at one chapter. Have you spent an hour or two on a quiet day reading the book of Mark – that’s all it takes. Less than one to two hours, depending on your speed, from start to finish. For the first time in my life, I am currently using a short devotional alongside my own time of reading the Bible. It is a brief page each day but it gives me a new perspective, mainly on joy. In the past, whenever I tried to use a devotional book to help me with reading the Bible, I didn’t seem to find it helpful, thus quickly ‘ditched’ it. At the moment, I am finding this one is giving me a new perspective on joy.
4. Don’t be legalistic
Have you ever realised that some days or weeks may go past and you have forgotten and not made time to read the Bible. Sure, it is great praying and soaking/meditating, but nothing can replace reading the Bible and treasuring God speaking to you that way. Try to develop a love for reading the Bible and you will begin to look forward to it. Is there a habit you have daily eg checking social media. Try and spend time before you check social media reading the Bible. I tend to discover the people whom I see as wise and discerning have a regular habit of reading the Bible and devouring its contents and then applying it to their life.
5. Children are imitators of our life.
Do you want your children to develop a hunger for God’s Word? They will more likely if they see you reading the Bible daily. A 12 year old girl I know reads the Bible daily and journals. Every night she would see her mother sit on her own bed and read the Bible and then journal after she had put the kids to bed. Thus whenever the girl ever got out of bed, her mum was in her own bedroom reading the Bible and journalling. That girl now has incorporated it into her daily life as the norm.
6. Do what you have to do
When the kids were primary school age, I relished going for a twenty minute walk first thing of a morning. Whilst they were still asleep, I would get up, get dressed and slip out of the house. The kids knew if they woke up that I would be on my walk and I would be back soon. I knew they were safe as they loved reading and they knew not to touch anything in the kitchen etc. That walk was my concentrated prayer time. The answers that God revealed to me during that time was amazing. It then evolved as one particular child loved coming with me and riding their bike beside me. That was fine except I loved praying out aloud and this child loved chatting the whole way. Thus, I needed to change the walk as it wasn’t working as a dedicated prayer time.
7. Review your purpose for reading the Bible
At times I have tried to convince myself that as long as I am praying and communicating with God, perhaps soaking/meditating on Him, then it was fine not to read the Bible. I would then discover that I was ‘short changing’ myself. I was leaving myself open to having less discernment and relying more on myself. I was finding that my love for reading the Bible also diminished and I didn’t want to read the Bible. I was filling my time with social media and incidentals that weren’t helpful. I also realised that I didn’t know what God, through the Bible, had to say about various issues. I realised too that my character was not growing as fast during this time. I also realised that I was ‘short changing’ my relationship with God and losing a ‘richness’ that develops from reading words that are sacred and then applying them to my life.
Do you need a time of peace and quiet each day. Perhaps get the kids to lie on the floor and close their eyes. Read a relevant Bible passage and all spend a few minutes focusing on what was read. Look for creative ways of incorporating your Bible reading into daily life.
I would love to hear your thoughts and what ideas you implement in your life to enable you to carve out time to read the Bible and grow in your relationship with God. Please feel free to comment below.