One of the disciplines my parents instilled in me as a young girl was studying and reading my Bible. During my childhood, studying the Bible took the form of simplified Sunday school lessons and discussion of biblical themes. I understood foundational Christian concepts like brotherly love, forgiveness, redemption, and obedience because those ideas were taught in my home, using Scripture as a reference. I carried this elementary form of Bible study into my adult life. This meant that when reading Scripture, I typically understood significant themes but often overlooked the minutia of the text. I took everything at face value and, as a result, missed out on a lot of the depth and context the verses offered.
Then, in what felt like a bit of a whirlwind romance, I met and married a seminary-student-would-be-pastor. My husband, who is quite the theologian, grew up an atheist. Sweet Sunday school stories and basic knowledge of Scripture aren’t what inspired his conversion. Instead, it was a radical experience with God and the undeniable conviction in the resurrected Christ.
Needless to say, the way that we approached studying our Bibles was completely different. I related to Scripture in the themes and how the “story” made me feel. Conversely, he related to Scripture by digging into its cultural context, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the radical life-changing truth of the gospel. The first time we sat down to read our Bibles together, I felt overwhelmed and frustrated. Our individualized approach to Bible study nearly became a source of conflict as we tried harder and harder to study together.
Ultimately, we realized that perhaps our approach wasn’t the best; we had to change how we connected spiritually to each other. Here are a few things to keep in mind when determining if studying the Bible together is best for your relationship with each other and with God.
1. We are Individually Responsible for Our Spiritual Growth
For our first few years of marriage, I took a backseat in most spiritual matters in our home. My husband was the Pastor, and I viewed my role as solely a supporting one. I desperately wanted my husband to be the spiritual leader of our marriage, and when he didn’t step into that role immediately, I found myself sorely disappointed.
What I failed to understand at the time was that each of us, as individuals, is responsible for our own spiritual growth. To be fair, my husband is now the spiritual leader of our home. However, that was a role that he had to grow into. Likewise, I had to remember my upbringing and take responsibility for my spiritual formation.
We each must develop our personal relationship with Christ. A natural part of building this relationship means spending time in the Word as an individual. For this very reason, when we approach our Bible study time—in our home—we tend to do this individually. My husband is often up late having quiet time with God, whereas I typically have my Bible study and devotional time in the morning. This works for our marriage and our current season of life; however, in other seasons, dedicated Bible study time together has been a real blessing.
2. Two Can Be Better than One
While, more often than not, our Bible study time is individualized, one of my favorite forms of connecting spiritually with my husband is discussing what I’m currently learning through my time in the Word. I especially love when my husband and I are studying completely different books and yet are drawing out similar themes and conclusions.
Spending time with your spouse and discussing what you’re learning can help develop a more robust understanding of the text you’re studying. It’s incredible to have two sets of eyes reading over the same text. Often we will individually pull themes that are particularly relevant to our own season of life.
It can be a fun exercise to discuss a text with your spouse and find what parallels you’re drawing out and what details you each individually pick up on. Little practices like this can bring to life—or illuminate—Scripture for each of you in entirely new ways. As it is written in Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
The Bible is God’s living Word; though the text never changes, the way that we experience and receive the message on these sacred pages are unique to each of us. With that in mind, consider allowing space for you and your spouse to discuss what you’re studying. Take time together to share how it’s impacting you personally and spiritually.
3. Appreciate Your Unique Season of Life
Each of us is uniquely made, has unique needs, and goes through unique seasons of life. While, as husband and wife, we are bound together by marriage, the reality is that we will have individual spiritual needs. I have gone through seasons of spiritual dryness while my husband thrived in his relationship with Christ. Likewise, we’ve experienced seasons where my faith was deeper and stronger than my husband’s.
It’s a beautiful thing to be able to build up our spouses in faith when they are struggling spiritually. It’s been one of the greatest gifts of my married life to have a husband who cares about my walk with Christ, and I know that he values the ways that I care for him spiritually just as much as I care for him physically. While that caring has taken us well over a decade to develop, the truth is that initially, we didn’t know how to care for each other’s unique spiritual needs.
As a young married couple, we both attempted—and failed—to approach each other’s spiritual needs like they were our own. This resulted in us missing each other entirely, which ultimately led to bitterness and even a bit of contempt. When we finally slowed ourselves down and saw each other as unique individuals needing an individualized approach to studying our Bibles, we experienced freedom and finally joy in our time discussing the Bible and our faith as a whole.
At the end of the day, there are probably just as many reasons to study the Bible together as there are reasons to study separately. I find it valuable to be realistic as we determine whether or not studying the Bible together is best for this particular season of life. There may be seasons where waking up early in the morning and having prayer and Bible study time is perfect for your marriage; however, there may also be seasons where studying separately is more appropriate.
Whatever season you are in, keep in mind that we are each individually responsible for our spiritual formation, but that one of the great blessings of marriage is that we have an opportunity to build each other up in faith. If in this current season, you are the only one developing spiritually—whether that be through prayer, Bible study, or connecting to the body of Christ—I encourage you to hold the line for your spouse, to cover them in prayer daily, and to be an example of God’s love within the walls of your home. These seemingly small acts might just be the examples that lead your spouse to faith in Christ.
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Ben White
Rachel Baker is the author of Deconstructed, a bible study guide for anyone who feels overwhelmed or ill-equipped to study the word of God. She is a pastor’s wife and director of women’s ministries, who believes in leading through vulnerability and authenticity. She is a cheerleader, encourager, and sometimes drill-sergeant. She serves the local church alongside her husband, Kile, in Northern Nevada. They have two amazing kiddos and three dogs. Rachel is fueled by coffee, tacos and copious amounts of cheese. For more on her and her resources to build your marriage, see her website: www.rachelcheriebaker.com or connect with her on Instagram at @hellorachelbaker.