The following 4-step process is loosely based on the ancient Spiritual Practice called “Lectio Divina” – simply meaning, “Sacred Reading.” It is a meditative way of reading smaller passages of Scripture. This approach to reading the Bible is actually best understood as “allowing the Bible to read you.” I open my heart and life to a gracious God who can be trusted with anything that the Scriptures expose in me, particularly those things that do not mirror the life of Jesus. And then I partner with the Holy Spirit, depending on and partnering with Him to bring about changes and adjustments in my life.
The journal entry to follow below is simply a pattern and example that I encourage you to apply when you open the Bible. Focus more on the type questions each of the four steps (Read, Observe, Apply, and Depend) are asking, merely using my responses as an example and guide (albeit a rather weak one!).
Before reading a small passage of Scripture, begin by taking a few, slow breaths to center yourself. Accept God’s invitation for you to meet with Him.
Slowly read your selected passage (in my case, Job 42:1-6). Read it slowly at least two or three times, noting the word or phrase that the Holy Spirit “highlights.”
Job 42:5 – “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”
“…My eye sees…”
Observe as much contextually as you can, placing yourself in the story to better engage in all that is taking place. Consider your passage in light of the whole of the Bible, specifically the “redemptive thread” of the gospel that runs throughout all the Bible.
Job met God in a way that changed his perspective and his outlook. Seeing God was a very humbling discovery for Job (see verse 6).
This event in Job’s life points forward to the process of incarnation that is central to the gospel: God went from being heard to being seen. From being heard as a voice to being seen as a baby and eventually the man Jesus. God desires for us to have firsthand experience and to relate to Him.
Seeing God is vital. Just as earthly relationships that are limited to only phone conversations or emails can never replace or fully satisfy the need for companionship, so must we have contact with and see (with the eye of our heart) the One we love.
I am graciously invited to see Him through the Bible, creation, the faces of others, and even in the decay of this world.
Pain was the pathway that opened Job’s eyes to see. Note: the verse mentions “eye” in the singular. The plural would like be translated literally, but the singular figuratively speaks to the “eye of the heart” – to discernment and experiential knowledge.
Now begin to note the ways that your individual story either aligns – or misaligns – with the Big Story of God. Are there adjustments that need to be made? Are there gracious parallels that can be celebrated? Is your life – your thoughts, actions, motives – congruent with the heart and life of Jesus? Verbalize dissimilarities and areas of sinfulness, but without trying to “fix things” or prove your worth or sincerity. At this point, just let God love you right there where you are, as you are.
Most painful experiences in my life have led me to CLOSE my eyes and look away.
My painful experiences open my MOUTH – in the form of complaints and anger and frustrations and whining.
My painful experiences often lead me to open my HAND – extending an open, selfish hand towards anyone or anything I can receive and cling to that helps numb the pain.
Yet, amazingly and to God’s glory, Job’s pain eventually opened his eyes to see more…to see God.
Finally, conclude with a prayer of restful dependance on the Lord. Admit that, apart from God’s help, your life cannot experience true, lasting transformation. Any impending changes in your heart and life will be the result of what Christ has done, not what you can muster up the strength to do on your own. Relax and rest in the knowledge that the God who reveals your need for transformation is also the God who has the power to bring about that transformation. How can you partner with the Holy Spirit to bring about future changes in your life?
Lord, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, open the eye of my heart to see you, especially in the pain of life. Lead me to experiences and firsthand encounters with you that alter my outlook, change my perspective. I partner with Your Spirit to keep my mouth shut, and also my hands contentedly closed – doing these things in order to better open an eye of hope and discernment. Deepen my trust in Your care and love shown towards me. Grant me necessary faith as I depend on You.
Carry that God-given word or phrase with you throughout the remainder of the day. Allow it to continue to form and shape you. And, of course, remember that there is nothing magical about this 4-step process; it is merely a way to be still in God’s Presence, creating “grace space” for God to occupy in your day.