There are times when we just don’t know what to do with certain passages or topics in the Bible. What’s the best way to proceed when you feel like you don’t know where to go? In his really helpful little book The Story of Scripture, Professor Rob Plummer gives several recommendations for dealing with difficult passages in the Bible:
One: Read the Bible for yourself and don’t just listen to another person’s skeptical take on the matter. It can be easy for us to wrestle with controversial things about the Bible without ever going to the Bible for ourselves. Start with the Bible.
Two: Approach the text of the Bible with trust, not as a skeptic. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a critical thinker. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t examine why you believe what you believe. This does mean that you should begin with the foundational belief that God is trustworthy. As Hebrews says, if any one would draw near to God he must believe God exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him. Approach the Bible with that attitude.
Three: Pray about how you should understand the difficult passage or topic. The same Holy Spirit who inspired this sacred text resides in you as a believer. Jesus said he would send the Spirit to lead us into all truth. Approach the text with the assurance that the Spirit is at work in you to understand God’s Word.
Four: Get help. Seek advice from godly people you know regarding the topic. Don’t limit your counsel to only those you know either. See what other trustworthy Christian leaders think about the topic or passage. And don’t neglect the two thousand year legacy of church history. You probably aren’t the first one to think about these issues.
Five: Be willing to set a difficult passage or topic aside for some time if you feel as though you aren’t making progress. It may not be helpful to simply keep digging the rut deeper that you are stuck in. Continue to study, trust, and apply those things you do understand in the Bible even as you patiently wait to get a better understanding of those texts and topics that are difficult to understand.
To sum it up, if you get stuck: read the Bible for yourself, trust God, get help from others, pray, and give thanks for those things you do understand even as you continue to wrestle with certain things you don’t understand. God is good to give us his Word. It is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.