I Refuse to Quit

Ever had that feeling that you’ve wasted the last 20 years of your life? Your eyes saw and your ears heard, but your mind and heart were on another planet. The opportunities were more than plentiful, but somehow you soaked in something that never made it through your skin.

Yep. That’s me and the Old Testament.

I was a homeschooled AWANA whiz who attended Bible college and taught Sunday School for ten years, and yet I read whole chapters of Isaiah {for instance}, and I’m like, “When did God put that in the Bible?”

Hundreds of hours of study and conversation later, and I still can’t begin to explain what’s going on. Either my mental capacity is the size of a mustard seed, or I daydreamed a couple of decades of my life away. Otherwise, I would have some resemblance of cognizance, yes?

But let’s not live in the past. Where do I go from here?

snail's pace

My instinct says:
1. Give up. You’ll never be able to understand it all, so don’t spend so much time trying. Resign yourself to the reality that the Bible is too big to comprehend.
2. Just do some catch-up work. Google it. Take an Old Testament class. Listen to lots of sermons. Read some commentaries.

And the refuse-to-quit in me says: Read the Old Testament. All 39 books. One by one. Again and again. And this time, think. Pull it apart. Struggle with it. Ask questions. And calm down when they’re not answered.

So that’s where I am. I plod along at a snail’s pace feeling like a three-year-old in a thirty-year-old’s body and wondering if I’m growing or learning anything at all.

Yet, there’s this great and perfect consolation: the Word always produces.

And so, with delightful anticipation and an annoying habit of feeling overwhelmed, I tackle the Old Testament, and I give it all I’ve got. I resolve to do the work no pastor, author, or search engine could ever do for me. I pore over it, think out loud, grab some friends and have a study party, pray it, sing it, preach it to myself, hash and rehash into the night, journal observations, then take back what I said and try again tomorrow.

Yes, I’m crazy. And yes, I often find myself in a daze, requiring a good night’s sleep or a blueberry-pomegranate-chocolate-chunk-ice-cream break.

But I must press on, because God is there. And what he says is priceless.

So with every ounce of my mustard-seed-sized brain {and before more years get the better of me}, I get to work.

And I refuse to quit.

 [image credit: flickr.com, journeyoftheword.com]


54 thoughts on “I Refuse to Quit

  1. “Yes, I’m crazy. And yes, I often find myself in a daze, requiring a good night’s sleep or a blueberry-pomegranate-chocolate-chunk-ice-cream break.” —yes!

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  2. Good for you! Keep persevering, one chapter at a time — even one paragraph at a time! It is so worth it! My husband and I have made it a goal to read through the Bible together out loud. This is our second year and we are slogging through Leviticus right now. Rugged going, but I’m thankful for the truth – especially when viewed through the lens fo the New Testament!

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  3. Oh how I recognize this struggle, but God has been in it. I too have been reading each book and God has been opening my eyes like never before. Suddenly words I failed to see have caught my eye and I’ve leant in for more. I’m at Isaiah now…I must admit it took me a while to get into this book and it has slowed me right down. But I’m now at 54 and it’s starting to become clearer.

    I still feel like I’ve missed a lot though…it’s SO packed full of meat.

    Thanks for the encouragement to press on in this.

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    1. Oh, how fun! I’ve been digging deeply into Isaiah with a friend of mine for a year and a half, and we’ve reached chapter 28. 🙂 Isaiah is such a difficult book to understand and the reason why I wrote this post!

      Thanks for sharing, and I’ll be praying for you as you press on!

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        1. Haha, well it’s been quite the journey. I’m not sure where to begin. You can find some other posts I’ve written here which relate directly or indirectly to some of our Isaiah study: https://journeyoftheword.com/tag/isaiah/. Briefly… We’ve noticed the theme of pride…people who think they’re something until God brings them as low as can be. We’ve struggled through lots of scenarios, trying to figure out who-what-where-when-why is going on. Right now, we’re trying to get a handle on a basic understanding of the people of Israel. Who were they? Was it possible to become one of them? Was it possible for people outside of Israel to follow God? When it uses the word “remnant,” is that referring strictly to the chosen people of God? Etc. More questions than answers, really. 🙂 But it’s been fun. My roommate (the friend I’ve been studying this with) has been super patient and helpful. Then we roped in a mutual friend of ours to help us out, too (when we were talking about chapter 23). So, it’s been quite an experience!

          I’d love to hear any insights (questions or observations) you have as well!

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          1. I’ll get back to you on this. I also found I had lots of questions…but I remember feeling like it started making more sense as I got further. I’m going to go back and re-read things and get back to you…I’ll also be looking at what you found (curious!). Kind of excited by this opportunity to revisit with a fresh perspective. Thanks!

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              1. Finally getting back to you! You know what I realized my biggest lesson has been (I just finished reading through the whole book of Isaiah): honesty before God. Throughout the book of Isaiah He’s wanting our eyes to be opened to the Truth: our desperate need for His Love. All He seeks from us is that we become real before Him: that we weep real tears, that we stop running, stop hiding, stop chasing, stop numbing and instead admit our desperate sinful, broken state before Him, so that He can pour out His Love, Grace, Comfort, Hope…upon and into us.

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                1. That’s beautiful! Thanks for sharing the lesson you’ve learned. Actually, I had not really noticed very many of those things yet. I’m only about a third of the way through, and I like to spend a lot of time learning what the text is saying before attempting to discern what I can learn from it or how I can apply it. But I’m looking forward to that step. Isaiah is surely packed full of meaning, and most of it is hard to settle on in my opinion!

                  My friend and I were just working on chapter 24 tonight and trying to sort it out. We were impressed with the reality of judgment and joy that will come when Christ returns. And how everything, absolutely everything, we see now and will see then is under his control! Thank you, Lord!

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                  1. Lydia, can I ask you a question? Feel free not to answer. Do you wait for the Spirit of God to reveal the Word to you or do you “discern” it yourself. I’m asking this because there have been numerous times I’ve been heading in a completely different direction in “discerning” by myself and have then been prompted by the Spirit to notice something new in the text that cuts down my “discernment”. Also, if it were not for the Spirit’s leading I may not be alive today. In calling out to God in the midst of horrendous PTSD-INDUCED flashbacks of my mother’s last hours, I prayed asking Him to show me life was worth living: I opened my Bible to John 6: 35-40 (MSG). The promises contained there answered each and every one of my fears. The Word is Living and Active: let us never forget that.

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                    1. So true and what a powerful testimony! To answer your question: My goal is to continually search diligently to understand (or “discern”) what Scripture says and what it means, all the while praying earnestly for the Spirit’s leading and revelation of himself through his Word, because if it’s up to me, I’m in trouble! I cannot know the Word, mind, and heart of God on my own!

                      Hard to express my answer well, I guess, but maybe that’s a start!

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                  2. Love what you share about 24. I shared that about the prompting also because I’ve noticed different things in Isaiah at different times. Shortly after my Mum’s death, this verse was one that God kept bringing back to me: “The Lord will surely comfort Zion
                    and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
                    he will make her deserts like Eden,
                    her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
                    Joy and gladness will be found in her,
                    thanksgiving and the sound of singing.” (Isaiah 51: 3), later it was the Scripture about Jesus entering our suffering and in entering it bring life to many (Isaiah 53), more recently I’ve had these verses impressed upon me (Isaiah 32): “Oh tremble, you indolent women.
                    Get serious, you pampered dolls!
                    Strip down and discard your silk fineries.
                    Put on funeral clothes.
                    Shed honest tears for the lost harvest,
                    the failed vintage.
                    Weep for my people’s gardens and farms
                    that grow nothing but thistles and thornbushes.
                    Cry tears, real tears, for the happy homes no longer happy,
                    the merry city no longer merry.
                    The royal palace is deserted,
                    the bustling city quiet as a morgue,
                    The emptied parks and playgrounds
                    taken over by wild animals,
                    delighted with their new home.
                    Yes, weep and grieve until the Spirit is poured
                    down on us from above
                    And the badlands desert grows crops
                    and the fertile fields become forests.
                    Justice will move into the badlands desert.
                    Right will build a home in the fertile field.
                    And where there’s Right, there’ll be Peace
                    and the progeny of Right: quiet lives and endless trust.”

                    And I’ve also had these verses on my mind a lot:

                    from John 4: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The Message version speaks of worshipping as themselves: “Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

                    And this one from Luke 9: 18 – 27

                    Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

                    All these verses mirror Isaiah: a call to let Christ lead, a calling into a life of suffering and yet hope, a calling to be ourselves before God (desperately imperfect, broken men and women in need of love, grace, comfort, healing and hope). For ultimately: He is our life (Colossians 3).

                    I think God leads us to see what our hearts need to understand at the right time. What you notice may therefore not be something that I did and vice versa: although God can work through us to help each other see even more!

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                    1. How interesting! Thanks for sharing so much! I will say, it seems our approach is very different when it comes to Scripture study. I hesitate to read looser versions or paraphrases (such as the Message) or read commentaries, because my goal is to spend much time in the literal text itself. Also, I don’t want to confuse the Bible with people’s thoughts about it. If I read a commentary, I am prone to assume that whatever it says is “Gospel truth,” when its authors are not at all inspired. That’s not to say that human input is not important, but that’s another topic for another day.

                      Another difference is that I prefer to spend a great deal of time asking questions of a text and seeking to determine its literal meaning before delving into thoughts on interpretation or application. How can I know how this should be seen in my life if I don’t really know what the author is saying yet? And so I hesitate to draw out conclusions, over-arching statements, parallels, or practical points until I’ve soaked in the text at great length (at least several months)…and even then I’m hesitant!

                      Anyway, I just noticed that maybe we’re looking at things a little differently (which is totally fine), which is why our thoughts on Isaiah feel not at all similar!

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  4. “the Word always produces” – love these thoughts, your heart, this brand of tenacity. I find the Word to be anew to me all of the time and I am continually left humbled and wanting more. I hope that part never changes. 🙂

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  5. I’ve been a Christian for many years and I’m still learning new things. I’m in a Beth Moore Bible Study and recently learned that before the term Christian came, Christians were called “The Way.” I was amazed that after all these years I never knew that! God’s word is living and active and it always produces something new for me to learn. I enjoyed reading this at the weekend link-up!

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  6. This is great! I’ve struggled to understand the OT and put it in context, too. I had to smile when I saw you mention Isaiah. That is a book that has puzzled me, too. I recently blogged about reading through it with a really helpful commentary, and I totally agree with you. Good commentaries and good teachers help a lot.

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    1. How fun! I found your Isaiah blog post, so I’ll have to check it out.

      Actually, my point in this article (and others) is that I prefer NOT to use commentaries. They have their place and can be extremely helpful at times. But I feel like I learn much more when I do the work myself. And I don’t want to rely on them or think their words are automatically 100% truth. Same with sermons, articles, etc. I love these things when they help me think. But I want to be sure to spend most of my time in the Bible itself and know what IT says. Anyway, just wanted to clarify that.

      But thanks so much for your comment! And keep up the good work!

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      1. Ah, my apologies. I read it as trying to break through to get at the meaning of the OT both with and without aids. I went back and read some of your other posts, though, and that helped me better understand.

        And yes, as much as I love some of the great Bible study aids I’ve found, that time spent just digging into the text is so valuable. I feel like I’m never reading it alone.

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  7. Hello, Lydia. I’m a bible study-er myself. What a challenging endeavor we have chosen. But the benefits are immense! Our heavenly Father love when His children seek Him with their whole heart. Even if we don’t fully ‘get’ everything we read. He will guide us to truth.
    Glad I found you at #literacymusingmondays. Have a beautiful day.

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  8. I love your transparency here. Though the OT is tough to chew sometimes, and requires a lot of pondering, I actually prefer it for those exact reasons. It’s full of precious gems, relevant to us in today’s real world, just waiting to be unearthed.

    Thanks so much for sharing this at Grace & Truth! I’d love to feature it on Friday, but the rules require a featured blog to be linked back to the blog of one of the hostesses. It’s quite possible that I missed your link back. If that’s so, or if you’d like to add one to be featured, please let me know.

    May God continue to pour His blessing on your words, as you use them to point others toward HIS Word.

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    1. Thanks so much, Jennifer! To be honest, I’m new to this “link-up” thing. I’ve been linking up in lots of places and am slowing adding some link-backs to my front page. So if I link back to adivineencounter.com by placing a text link in the right-hand column of my blog under “Friends Along the Way,” does that count? Thanks so much for choosing to feature my blog post!

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  9. I was reminded of a middle aged man who just came to Christ. He knew nothing about the Bible, except that Jesus died, rose again and wanted us to live our life with Him inside us. In his quest to learn about the Bible, he purchased a BIG Bible story book with pictures (a children’s book) and learned the Old Testament stories. I am not sure if the book had a lot about the Prophets and Isaiah. smile. Thanks for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

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  10. My dear Lydia, what a joy and blessing to visit your beautiful website. Reading your posts has been such a refreshment to my heart and soul.

    I want to thank you for the visit to my blog the other day 🙂 It’s always a delight to “meet” another Sister in the Lord! Hugs to you!

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  11. There are days it would be so easy to quit. But But giving up would be the most detrimental thing we can do to/for ourselves. Jesus never gives up on us, so we must keep on keeping on!! Thanks for sharing. I am visiting from over at the UNITE link-up party.

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  12. That’s diligence, steadfastness, loyalty, devotion, and rising to a challenge. All wonderful traits to have. I love when I start digging into God’s Word how it takes me on these trails–definitely not rabbit trails, because they’re always fruitful–just side trails of deeper learning. Enjoy!

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  13. The struggle to dig deeper and understand is such an important part of the process, I think. It forces us to look closer and more carefully. Thanks so much for sharing at #FridayFrivolity!

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  14. Very cool to hear that you were homeschooled! I went through public school, college and am now homeschooling my sons so it’s always cool to hear about others who are or were homeschooled. It is encouraging to hear that you are reading the scripture directly. I think doing this becomes more personal and we interpret it the way God wanted us to hear it. Thanks for sharing with #SocialButterflySunday and prayers for you in reading! Hope to see you link up again this week 🙂

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    1. Oh fun! Yes, I’m one of those homeschoolers who was homeschooled all the way and loved it. Should God give me children some day, I dream of the chance to provide the same for them. Thanks for leaving a note of encouragement here today!

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  15. Lydia,
    Yes, the OT is surely a “challenge”, to say the least! I’m working through Psalms right now…and finding SO much relevancy to my life today and our current culture! Makes me grateful for God’s grace, and how He meets us right where we are in these words that were written so long ago… Just LOVE Him!!
    Thank you so much for sharing your encouragement at Coffee & Conversation – hope you continue to stop by and exhort us not to give up 🙂
    Have a great week…and hang in there!

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  16. I love this kind of determination! I agree. We should always realize that there will be opposition to reading and learning from the Word, but to remain resolved and press on to find the hidden jewel of God Himself!

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  17. I refuse to quit. I have this boldly printed on my wall, so I get to see it each time I walk into my room and whenever I wake in the morning. Its a great reminder to keep pursuing my relationship with God. The Word of God is alive and so valuable.
    Thanks for encouraging us at EncourageMe Linkup. I hope you will stop by next week.

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  18. It’s a blessing and an encouragement to hear you share about your determination to delve into the Old Testament and gain new understanding from the Spirit. It demonstrates to others that no matter how long you’ve been a Christian, it’s never too late to really dig into God’s word and seek understanding–even if we’ve been avoiding it for years.
    I really enjoyed your post. Was next to you at 3-D Lessons for Life a couple of weeks ago. Just catching up.
    Blessings, Janis

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  19. Yes! This is me with the Gospels just now! The other day I read in Mark where they brought the sick and lay them in the street so that the sick could touch Christ’s clothes as he walked by on the street, and I was like, What?! How have I never seen that before?! And I grew up in church and Christian school, and went to Bible college as well 😀

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