What to Do if You Get Nothing Out of Reading the Bible

by Steve Fuller

Getting Nothing

Let’s say you are reading God’s Word, but getting nothing out of it.  Maybe it’s not meaning anything to you, or you are just not feeling it.  What can you do?

I’ve been there, and I’m pretty sure every believer has.  So you are not alone.

But what’s even more encouraging is that the author of Psalm 119 has also been there, and he tells us what God can do about it.

Open My Eyes

That’s what he prays in Psalm 119:18

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

The fact that he prays this means that he is not beholding wondrous things from God’s Law.  Which means that when he reads God’s Word, he’s not seeing anything wonderful.  He’s getting nothing out of it.

So what does he do?  He asks God to open his eyes.

What Kind Of Eyes?

He can’t be talking about the eyes in our heads, because those are always open when we read.

So he is saying we have another set of eyes, which are sometimes closed so we can’t see wondrous things in God’s Word.  And when they are closed, we can’t open them ourselves; we need to pray and have God open them.

So what kind of eyes is he talking about?  I found a clue in Ephesians 1:17-18

[I pray that God] may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you …

Paul prays that God will enlighten the eyes of our hearts.  This means we have two sets of eyes — eyes in our heads, eyes in our hearts.

What’s the difference?  The eyes in your head SEE the truth, and the eyes in your heart FEEL the truth.

Seeing, But Not Feeling

So when we open the Bible, the eyes of our heads can see the truth about Jesus — that Jesus died on the Cross, for example.

But too often we can see the truth about Jesus, but not feel the beauty, glory, and wonder of that truth.

So we can read that Jesus died on the Cross, but instead of feeling –

  • wonder at a God who would die for sinful people
  • sorrow for my sin which deserved such punishment
  • joy that my sins have been paid for
  • love for Jesus who would do this for me

– I can feel nothing more than – Jesus died on the Cross.  OK.  I believe that.  I understand that.

Why Does That Happen?

The problem is that  sin grows like a cataract over the eyes of our hearts, clouding our ability to feel the truth of Jesus (I think I originally heard this from John Piper).

But when you first trust Christ, he supernaturally cuts the cataract of sin away from your eyes, and for the first time you not only see but also feel the truth of Jesus Christ — and love him and desire him more than anything.  Remember that day?

So if that’s what happens when we are saved, why does Paul ask God to enlighten the eyes of believers?  And why does the psalmist ask God to open his own eyes?

It’s because, even though we have been saved, we still have indwelling sin.  And this sin will keep trying to grow up over the eyes of our hearts so we won’t feel the truth of Jesus.

How can we tell if that’s happening?  It’s because when we read the Bible we see the truth, but feel nothing.

That’s why Paul prays that God will enlighten the eyes of believers, and why the psalmist prays that God will open his own eyes.  It’s because sin is constantly trying to cloud the eyes of our hearts, and because when we pray and ask God to open our eyes, he will.

Good News

This was wonderful news when I first heard it.  Because much of my Bible-reading had been dull and lifeless.

But the problem was that I didn’t understand that I had two sets of eyes.  I didn’t know that sin was clouding the eyes of my heart so I could not feel the wonder of what I was reading.  And I did not realize that if I prayed, God would cut away that sin and open those eyes so I could feel.

So now, almost every time I read God’s Word, I start by praying Psalm 119:18 – Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things from your law.

It’s also important to meaningfully confess sin, and to read God’s Word carefully, prayerfully, and thoughtfully.

Since doing this my Bible-reading has been transformed.  Some days are better than others.  But by God’s mercy I do regularly see, and feel, wondrous things from God’s Word.

Call The Surgeon

When you read God’s Word and feel nothing, it’s because cataracts of sin are blinding you.

But God is a perfectly skilled eye-surgeon who specializes in cutting away these cataracts.

So when you are reading and feel nothing, don’t give up; don’t close the Bible; don’t keep reading just so you can say you did it; and don’t be discouraged.

Instead, understand that the surgeon is ready to go to work.

And call upon the surgeon.


This article has been reposted from the Living by Faith Blog.  The original article may be accessed here.

5 replies
  1. Dottie Ryan says:

    Who knows why the Lord would have me come to Thistlebend’s Website and “accidentally” end up on this blog post!!! God knows. In His Sovereignty, He knows – and possibly designed it that way.
    As I was praying for Laurie, the lecture and the hearts of those receiving the message given through her today…my prayer was just this: “That the eyes of their/our hearts be enlightened to SEE.” . . . WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST – and to know that it is Only By His Spirit that anything eternal can be accomplished…well, as I was praying that, I landed up on this article by Steve Fuller (Posted on Thistlebend’s blog) from February 6th, “What To Do If You Get Nothing Out Of Reading The Bible”

    “. . . Open My Eyes

    That’s what he prays in Psalm 119:18 –

    Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”

    Thank you Lord for leading me here and directing my prayer for my Sisters in Christ!

  2. Ray says:

    Having been there for around 4 years, trying everything, including this prayers of open my eyes of the hearth, give me the ligth of the spirit, and similar things, without any change, I have given up to find out why it is the way it is.
    Reading the bible is just an intellectual exercise to me.

    I am confident in that God CAN, and I widely believe that HE WILL (someday in the future), but my experience is that He doesnt DO (until now).
    My conclusion is that the only prayer that makes sense anymore is “Be thy will”.
    Having expectations, that never get met, have poisoned my life the last 4 years, so I try to avoid them for to avoid the hurt of disappointments.

    • Thistlebend says:

      Dear Ray,
      I think many of us can relate to the pain or disappointment of what you’ve experienced at different times in our lives. Let me encourage you though by saying that the ardent desire to get something out of the Bible evident in your comment is a work of God. Apart from a work of God, that desire would not be there. Also, the trust that is expressed when you say that you do believe that (someday) God will do this, is pleasing to God and actually a living out of what the Bible says. So if you are obeying the Bible–in this case in the most fundamental thing that the Bible calls us to, faith–then you are getting something out of the Bible. In fact, you are getting one of the most important things out of the Bible. If we read our Bible and feel that it falls flat, but then we go out and obey, it really hasn’t fallen flat! We must resist the temptation to reduce getting something out of the Bible to an emotional experience we have while reading the text. It is much more dynamic than that. I pray this blesses and encourages you as you continue to seek Him. May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Rom. 15:13).
      -The Thistlebend Team

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