How much do you read? Depending upon your stage in life and your love of the written or spoken word, our answers will vary greatly.
Back when my three were little, I remember days when a shower by myself met the goal for the day. Reading was a luxury I didn’t know how to fit into our routines. Because of all that was going on in our lives, some days I barely functioned well enough to make sure everyone in the house got a bath, brushed their teeth, and had clean clothes for the next day. As I look back, I see how many things changed when I started to purposely read.
Some of the attitudes of the last year or so got me wondering. Does reading make a difference? And how much does what we’re reading matter?
Reading Is Good for You
Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all. ~
In my research, I found several fascinating articles, including one by Healthline.com. Through various studies, the writers confirmed the following benefits:
- Brain health. Whether subjects read nonfiction or fiction, MRI scans prove that reading not only works the brain, but its network gets stronger and more sophisticated.
- Empathy. Here, fiction shines! The Healthline article cited literary fiction research, however other studies show other fiction genres also work to build empathetic muscles. As we read stories, we gain a better understanding of the beliefs and feelings of others.
- Lower stress. A study done at Seton Hall University demonstrated that reading was just as effective as yoga and humor at reducing blood pressure and heart rate.
- Live longer. Research indicates “that people who read more than 3-1/2 hours every week were 23 percent likely to live longer than those who didn’t read at all.”
What about genres or topics?
The science says that reading reduces depression, but have you ever considered how you feel after you spend time in a book?
Lots of readers admit that a sad book brings their mood down while a funny book improves their outlook. Some readers will not pick up a scary book after dark, and many love to read a light-hearted Christmas story in December to add joy to their season.
While a lot of the beliefs in this area may be more anecdotal than scientific, the Bible actually talks about this. Curious? Keep reading.
Your Reading Is Showing
Some of you may not like this but remember I’m just the messenger. Buried in the longest chapter of the longest book of the Bible is a verse that doesn’t get a lot of air time. The New International Version offers a gentle translation of Psalm 119:165.
Great peace have those who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.
Before you breeze through that too quickly, let me show you the King James Version.
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
See that last part? Nothing shall offend them. Does it make you pause?
How much of your social media feed and national news reports were filled with people offended about something. The topics cover a wide gamut of social ills and woes. Tell me, when was the last time you were offended by a friend or family member? By something on social media or in the news?
Does reading the Bible make a difference?
Digging a little deeper.
According to the Dictionary of Biblical Languages, the word translated “stumble” or “offend” means:
- stumbling block, obstacle, i.e., an object which can be tripped over, of any shape or size;
- stumbling block, i.e., a cause of failure of an event, as an extension of an object which can trip, note: in many contexts can refer to an event or persons which can cause failure;
- stumbling, downfall, i.e., an occasion or event in which someone fails, as an extension of falling down to the ground in a random, potentially hurtful manner.
Did you see that? An object of any shape or size. . . . An event or person which can cause failure. . . . An event in which someone fails.
Oh, that’s a lot of potential stumbling.
But the anecdote is simple.
Consider the surrounding words in verses 163-168 from the New International Version.
I love your law. Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, Lord, and I follow your commands. I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly. I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you.
Loving God’s Word would cause us to spend more time in it. And spending more time in the Bible includes numerous benefits that aren’t so different from the benefits we acquire from other reading.
Our mind gets stronger, growing more sophisticated connections as we read. Not only does this aid our critical thinking, but as we see God’s plan revealed and worked out, we trust Him more with the details of life. We don’t worry so much over what’s going on around us.
But that’s not all.
We gain greater empathy as we read the stories of Noah and Abraham, Moses and Esther, Peter and Paul. We see their struggles and battles, realizing we’re not alone in our uncertainty and doubts. And that we probably don’t know the whole story but can trust the One who does.
As we gain brain strength and empathy, we grow in faith and trust, which lowers stress levels, heart rates, and blood pressure. Taking the advice of Scripture to take care of our bodies, to pray instead of worry, and to share our burdens with others increases our quality of life, which frequently includes quantity of years.
I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this Book that you can by reason and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man. It is the best Book which God has given to man. ~Abraham Lincoln, lawyer and American President
Lots of ugly thoughts made their way onto social media and in the news in 2020. Thousands of offended people. The good news is that you can choose to not participate. No, you don’t have to leave social media like so many threaten. Instead, make sure you are getting a healthy diet of God’s Word.
Want to improve your health? The science is clear: read. Want a more positive outlook? Read happy things, or at least things with an uplifting outlook. Want more peace and less worry? Read the Bible.
Trust me. For those who pay attention, your reading is showing.
Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) 1997: n. pag. Print.
What do you do when you feel like your life is a tragedy, one bad thing after another. Are you doomed to live in misery? No, not if you don’t want to. The journey takes work, but living a positive life is possible even when you are surrounded by less than happy circumstances.
Does God have a purpose for the turmoil or tragedy you are experiencing? Does a good God allow loss and send pain? How can that lurking feeling of dread for tomorrow be part of abundant life with Christ?
Grief hits us unexpectedly. A job loss, a failed relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected move, a rebellious teen, and other difficult circumstances force themselves upon us, demanding our attention. Fear, insecurity, and loneliness intimidate us into quiet submission and attempt to dictate our choices.
But what if we could shove them out our front door?
With loving concern and unyielding devotion for those facing a loss they never imagined, Carrie opens up her heart to reveal the biblical truths she’s learned through the heart-wrenching turbulence in her own life. She answers questions many Christians struggle with but dare not admit:
- Is God really good?
- Does the presence of pain and loss cancel out the abundant life promised to us?
- How can we follow God when life seems to only bring heartache?
- Is He even trustworthy?
If these are your questions, take heart! Within these pages, Carrie shares some of her very unchristian-like doubts and how she developed an intense faith and abiding trust even while Living in the Shadow of Death.
And don’t forget the companion journal so you can write down your thoughts as you read!