What to Do When the Bible Seems Confusing

open bible and lady with a questioning face

Last week we discussed how to  make sense of a confusing situation. But sometimes the Bible itself is confusing!

There are many passages in the Bible that are quite baffling. We think…

What in the world is God saying here?
What does it mean?
Did God really say…? (like love my enemy!)
How can this verse be true when it conflicts with what I see all around me?!

Sometimes we get so consumed with what we don’t know or understand that we forget what we do know! There are many things in the Bible in which God has made very clear with no ambiguity. Things like…

  • His unfathomable love, power, mercy, grace, faithfulness, holiness…
  • Jesus is the only way to heaven (Jn 14:6) link
  • All men except Jesus are sinners (Rom 3:10)
  • God resists the proud (1Pet 5:5)
  • His ways and thoughts are above our ways (Is 55:8-9)

Plus many, many more freeing truths.

God has revealed much about who He is and how He works, but we will never know and understand everything about God (Rom 11:33). However…

We can rest in the fact that God does want us to gain knowledge and understanding.

…If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Pr 2:3-6)

We can rest in the fact that the Holy Spirit will give us whatever we need at this point in our walk with Him to live a godly life (2 Pet 1:3).

That includes knowledge, understanding, and wisdom or simply His enabling grace to submit when we don’t understand and even the faith to step out into the unknown.

We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:12-16)

So what can you do when the Bible seems confusing?
Here are 6 tips:

1. Commit to reading the entire Bible. If you have never read the entire Word of God, then there will be many things that will be confusing. Just keep reading. Don’t get hung up on the details.

2. Don’t take verses out of context (See last week’s blog). Read what comes before and after. The Bible will often answer the questions we have if we just keep reading.

3. Read and reread the passage, thoughtfully.
Make observations as to what it is saying before trying to decipher its meaning. Meditate, read different translations and commentaries.   

4. Ask God for the wisdom and understanding. (Jas 1:5)

5. Ask your pastor or someone who has studied Scripture and is walking in its truth.

6. Don’t get frustrated if you still lack comprehension; keep seeking. You may have to put it on the back burner for now. In the future the Lord will give you understanding if and when you need it.
Think of it as trying to learn calculus without first learning arithmetic. God is the BEST Teacher. He knows exactly what you need to know at this stage to progress further.

So my friend, don’t stress out over things you don’t understand—like I used to do! Keep seeking and trusting that the Holy Spirit Himself will guide you into all the truth you need to know and act upon to please Him (Jn 16:13). Do your part by reading, studying, applying, and stepping out in faith. He will do His.

Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. (Ps 131:1-2 NLT)

Helpful Resources
God Wants to be Known
Are You Hungry for God’s Word?
Going Deeper with God: Books and Resources to Help You
Understanding God’s Ways
How to Read The Bible: 5 Memorable Steps to Transformation (Chip Ingram)

Except where indicated all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV. ® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

(NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.