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Podcast: Is Your Soul Starved for Nourishment? (Kristen Wetherell)

By Koa Sinag

Podcast: Is Your Soul Starved for Nourishment? (Kristen Wetherell)

This article is part of the The Crossway Podcast series.

Feasting on God’s Word

In this episode, Kristen Wetherell offers wisdom and encouragement to the Christian struggling with a lack of passion for God’s Word, and she shares practical tips for establishing better Bible reading habits.

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Topics Addressed in This Interview:

  • Spiritual Hunger
  • The Danger of Comparison
  • Why Do We Struggle to Want to Read the Bible?
  • Dealing with Discouragement
  • The Misunderstood Quiet Time
  • Cultivating a Hunger for God’s Word with Three R’s
  • The Role of Habit Formation

01:03 – Spiritual Hunger

Matt Tully
Kristen, thank you so much for joining me today on The Crossway Podcast.

Kristen Wetherell
Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.

Matt Tully
Today we’re going to talk about reading God’s Word, but more specifically, not just reading it but our desire to read it, or sometimes maybe our lack of desire to read it. And so maybe just to start off, is that something that you would say that you struggle with on an ongoing basis—a lack of a desire to be in the Bible?

Kristen Wetherell
I would say it comes and goes in seasons. It’s seasonal. Thankfully, it’s not all the time. And that was one of the reasons that I wrote Help for the Hungry Soul, because I found that there was a connection between entering a season of a lack of desire and then continuing to read the word and then that desire being rekindled. And so there’s a connection there. God gives us his words as food for our souls, and he satisfies that hunger that we have. But we’re not going to be satisfied apart from his Word. And I think so often the temptation, for me at least is, when I don’t have the desire is to ask, Is it legalistic then to just open my Bible, because I don’t really feel like it?

Matt Tully
And we’ve all been in seasons, maybe long seasons, where we felt like, I am just going through the motions. Is this actually doing any good for me? Maybe this is harmful for me.

Kristen Wetherell
Right. Is it the best use of my time if it doesn’t seem fruitful? Certainly, other things vie for our attention, whether it’s our family members or our work or modern media. But I found this just glorious connection that when I stayed in the word, which I know is only by God’s grace and him drawing me there, that affection was rekindled. I’ve heard people say the more you pray, the more you pray. And I think the same is true of Scripture. The more you read, the more you read, and the more you want to read, and then it’s this glorious cycle. And there are these seasons of feeling dry, spiritual dryness, feeling like God is far away. I think the Puritans have called it like “God’s desertions.” And we don’t exactly know what he’s doing. Only he’s God and only he knows, but there are seasons where perhaps the Lord withdraws a sense of his presence—we know that he’s always with us—but a sense of his presence, to see kind of what we’ll do with that. I’ve just been in this place where I’m like, I don’t like that. Lord, I need you. I need a sense of your presence. And where do we go to absolutely, without a doubt hear from God and know that he’s there? It’s his word. So this is deeply personal.

Matt Tully
You’ve used the language of hunger, and I think you even said appetite at one point. The title of your book is Help for the Hungry Soul. Throughout the book you use that picture of hunger and appetite when it comes to the Bible and God’s Word as the main idea, the main motif, the lens through which you view this issue. Why do you think that’s a helpful way to frame the question of our desire, our longing, our intake of God’s Word?

Kristen Wetherell
God’s Word talks about it that way. I think about Matthew 4:4, which is Jesus quoting Scripture. He’s quoting the Old Testament in Deuteronomy, and he says to the devil in the wilderness, No, I’m not going to give in to this temptation, even though I fasted for forty days, and I’m not going to turn these rocks into bread, because man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. God created us with a spiritual hunger for him. We were made for him—to know him, to walk with him, made for his glory, to be reflections of him. And how does God satisfy that hunger? He gives us himself, he gives us his words to satisfy that hunger. So we see this motif running throughout Scripture. I’m even thinking of the prophet Isaiah who says, Your words were found, and I ate them. I ate them and they became to me my joy and the delight of my heart. And so I think we can use this motif because Scripture uses it, and we’re a hungry people. We know that. We are hungry.

Matt Tully
Beyond even the Scriptural precedent, as you’ve thought about this and as you’ve meditated on this idea, are there connections to our daily experience of eating that have come out to you and maybe made this all the more helpful as a way to think about this issue?

Kristen Wetherell
Absolutely. Eating is such a huge part of our lives. We can’t survive if we don’t eat.

Matt Tully
We all get that.

Kristen Wetherell
We can fast for quite a long time.

Matt Tully
But we feel it. It’s pretty uncomfortable to do that.

Kristen Wetherell
Absolutely. And we know that starvation eventually produces death to the body. And similarly, if we starve ourselves of the nourishing words of God, where God tells us who he is and tells us who Jesus is and why he came and why we need him and where salvation is found, if we starve ourselves of that, our souls wither and die. God says in Deuteronomy, This is your very life. He speaks through Moses, and Moses is basically saying, Listen to God’s words, and you will live. So our souls need the food of the word, per se, just like our bodies need food. And I feel it as a mom. I have three young kids, and so our lives are very, very overwhelming at times and very, very full all the time.

Matt Tully
How old are your kids?

Kristen Wetherell
Lydia is three months old. She was born at the beginning of the year. John is three, and Joanna is five and a half. So it’s a full life.

Matt Tully
A very busy season.

Kristen Wetherell
Very busy. We’re having a lot of fun. And I know as a mom how important it is not only to feed my kids but to feed myself, because I know I can’t do my job well if I’m over here languishing because I haven’t fed myself. But I also know the difference between snacking on the go, when I’ve got to put my kids in the car for church or dance or whatever it might be and throw some snacks in a baggie, the difference between snacking and sitting down for a meal. They’ll both sustain me, but eventually I need the meal. The snacks aren’t going to sustain me forever. And I think that there’s a great analogy there for looking at the Word, because there will be times and seasons of our lives where we’re just snacking on the Word, and that will sustain us for a time. And there will be times when we’re feasting, with our church, for example, on a Sunday morning. But we need food to survive, and we need the food of the Word to survive.

Matt Tully
It seems like, too, with that metaphor of snacking versus eating a whole meal and sitting down for a meal, we kind of understand that snacking, while it is food and it is sustenance, it’s not really the full experience of the food that we were designed for, that we need ultimately. Is that part of it? As you think about that, maybe in our Bible intake, we need dedicated, intentional, even extended time with God’s Word, even if we can’t always have that.

Kristen Wetherell
Absolutely. Clearly, I’m in the season of young parenthood, and so I’m around a lot of young parents. I’m in a small group, which is a group of moms of young kids, and so we love to open God’s Word together and apply it to all aspects of life, but mostly motherhood and being parents. And we talk about this a lot because we don’t want to slip into false guilt where we’re thinking, Oh, I’ve only snacked on the Word today, and so God’s disappointed with me and I didn’t do it “right.” But at the same time, we don’t want to stop there. We want to pursue the depths of the word and the studying a passage deeply, the breadth of the Word, reading through the whole Bible so that we’re knowing the whole Bible and not just portions of it. We want that as well. So I think it’s both/and. Snacking will help us to survive, like I mentioned before, but it’s not the only thing that we need. We need the well-rounded meal.

09:23 – The Danger of Comparison

Matt Tully
Like you said, you’re a young mom, you’re involved in a church, you speak and you teach around the country, you write books. In your experience talking with women and men around the country, Christians, how big of a problem is this for Christians and our struggle to want to be in the Bible like we know we should be? I think we all feel that in our own lives, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like anyone else is really struggling the way I am. It feels like everyone else has got this figured out maybe a little bit better than I do.

Kristen Wetherell
In my experience talking with Christians, this is a very universal and common experience. I think most of us would like to be in the Word more and would like to love it more, and so we do end up feeling like, Is there something wrong with me? Because these people over here seem like they’ve got it all together.

Matt Tully
What’s behind that? If you’re saying, and I think this is what I’ve seen, this is a common struggle for many, if not all, Christians at some point, and yet we also at the same time often feel isolated and alone and ashamed and we don’t want to talk about that, what’s going on there? Why aren’t we more open about this struggle?

Kristen Wetherell
I think we feel shame. I think we feel embarrassed. I think that there’s something in our flesh that is quick to compare ourselves to other people, and then when what we see or what we think we see is seemingly better than the place that we think we’re at, we feel ashamed. But this is why we need the church. This is why we need the local body of Christ to walk alongside of us and to say, Nope! You are not alone, brother, sister. And let’s figure this out together. And I don’t think it’s only Bible reading. I think it’s a lot of what we call spiritual disciplines, these means of grace, these means of enjoying the Lord. It can so quickly move from enjoying the Lord to checking a box off my list. And I think that’s also the human heart as well. We’re just easily deceived into thinking this is something that I have to do rather than Jesus has done it, and now I get to enjoy what he’s done. So I don’t think it’s just Bible reading. I think it’s a lot of aspects of the Christian life.

Matt Tully
And I want to come back at the end of our conversation to talk about the importance of other people, like you’ve mentioned, the importance of the church and the role that other people can play in cultivating a love for God’s Word. But maybe before we get there, speak to the person listening right now who’s kind of thinking, All right, I’ve heard this all before. And maybe they’re actually thinking, I don’t know if I want to hear this because you’re just going to make me feel guilty. I already know I don’t read the Bible enough. I feel that weight, and here’s yet another podcast, another book that’s just telling me I should read the Bible more. What would you say to that person?

Kristen Wetherell
That is me. That has been me so many times. Of course, we can grow. All of us can grow. There’s always room for growth. But what I would say to that person is that we’re not just talking here about doing all the right things. We’re talking here about communing with a living God and actually encountering the risen Christ. And it’s helped me at least to think about it that way. And when I think about it that way, that this living Christ is inviting me into the full satisfaction of knowing Him, of being filled with his words, which is my very life, that shifts my perspective from just like, Oh, okay, tell me five more things that I need to do. My to-do list is long enough. But give me the one person that will sustain me both now and into eternity. That sounds a lot better. So we’re not just talking about a process or a proficiency. We’re talking about a person. It would be problematic and strange if I didn’t really want to spend time with my husband. If I just knew some stuff about him, and maybe sometimes popped into his office to tell him something that I needed or whatever, but I didn’t really know him and love him, you would say, You don’t really have a marriage.

Matt Tully
Or at least not a very healthy one.

Kristen Wetherell
Right. Not a healthy one. So we’re talking about communing with the living God.

Matt Tully
And that’s the hard thing for us is that we do believe that our relationship with God is a relationship. It’s a personal relationship. And yet such a central part of that communing with him is through reading a book. Have you ever struggled with that? Do you resonate with someone who says, It’s not the same as my husband. It’s not the same as my wife, because I can’t talk to him face to face like I can with those people.

Kristen Wetherell
I’m actually really glad that you brought that up because it was that very insight in pastor John Piper’s book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally, that helped me so much. Yes, we’re reading a book, and I can’t see the Lord. I’m just opening some pages. But it was actually just that that helped me, because I had not thought deeply about the fact that the God of all the universe, who I don’t deserve to hear from—we think about it that way too—because I’m a fallen sinner who has scorned his words and rebelled against him, that this God of the universe has made his words accessible to me in a book. I just hadn’t really thought about it that way. And so, no, I can’t see him with my own two eyes. And so much of the Christian life is walking by faith and not by sight. And yet God gives me something to see. Words. On a page. Printed with ink. In a book. It’s amazing when you think about it. It’s such a gift. It’s such a privilege. And when I read that in Piper’s amazing book—if you’re listening to this and you haven’t read Piper’s book, read it. It’s amazing.

Matt Tully
Go get it. It’s a Crossway book.

Kristen Wetherell
It was, in a sense, like some scales fell from my eyes. It was just beautiful. It was just beautiful to realize that. My mom says this, but I love it: I go to the Word and I just say, Thank you, God, for waiting for me here. And it’s just such a precious thing.

Matt Tully
That’s really profound to think that when we have our Bible sitting on that coffee table, he’s there. That is his, in a very real sense, those are his words to us.

Kristen Wetherell
And we can’t see him face to face, but we have something that we can see. It’s his something that we can see.

16:30 – Why Do We Struggle to Want to Read the Bible?

Matt Tully
So then let’s start with the seemingly simple, obvious question that we all struggle with. We understand how precious this book is and we all have a sense that we want to be reading it more. We want to love reading it more than we do. So then the question is, Why do we, as genuine Christians, so often struggle to want to read the Bible? What are some of the reasons that you’ve seen in yourself or seen in others for why we struggle to want God’s word?

Kristen Wetherell
I think a primary reason in our day and age especially is distraction. When we look at just how prevalent media is, technology is, which are not bad things. They’re good things when they’re used correctly as tools. And then we notice how they’re affecting us—physically affecting us. They’re rewiring our brains, our ability to focus. We can make that connection. We can say, Wow. I really struggled to open God’s Word, this book, and focus because I’m distracted. So we’re distracted by technology, the noise around us, our inability to focus affects us, but then we also have personal distractions. I have three kids who need me.

Matt Tully
Many of these distractions are not all bad.

Kristen Wetherell
No. These are good distractions, and yet I think we have to recognize them and ask God to help us work around them and find times to be undistracted. Or if we don’t have that luxury, because sometimes I don’t have that luxury, to bring our people in, bring our kids in. Read the word while we’re at work somehow, in the car. We can be creative in how we do this, but I do think distraction is a huge problem in this day and age. I also think by nature our hearts are easily dulled to the most beautiful reality in the universe, which is the Lord Jesus Christ and everything that he’s speaking to us. Our hearts have been broken by sin, and so we don’t desire what we should by nature. And so I would, by nature, much rather sit down in front of the television. Again, not that TV is bad.

Matt Tully
They kind of go hand in hand—our natural sinful disposition then leads us to be more easily distracted by things around us.

Kristen Wetherell
And to not recognize the most beautiful realities in the universe. But the good news is that God is in the business of changing our hearts, of reorienting our desires, of implanting in us the best desires. And so we can ask him for that. Lord, I want to just open my phone first thing in the morning because it’s just easier, and it feels more instantly gratifying. Help me to come to your Word and to want to come to your Word. We can ask him for that, and that’s a desire that he’ll be pleased to give us and to meet.

Matt Tully
One other challenging thing, or cause of our lack of love for the Bible, that you mention in the book is discouragement. I’m curious what you mean by that one. Why list that? Is this discouragement about being in the Word?

Kristen Wetherell
I think it includes that, certainly. We wonder, Is this doing anything? There doesn’t seem to be any immediate fruit. Distractions discourage us from reading the Word. I also think that seasons of life can discourage us from reading the Word. I walked through a pretty intense season of chronic pain several years back. I Came to find out that it was Lyme disease affecting my body. That’s a whole other story, but it was hard to get out of bed. And there are so many people dealing with similar discouragements—the grief of losing someone that you love and the pain of walking through that, chronic pain similar to my story or other types of disease or sickness, depression and anxiety. We have so many obstacles and trials that we’re walking through that can discourage us from opening the Word because it can just feel too hard. And yet I found that there was nowhere else that I could go. At the end of the day, it was the Word that I needed most above everything else. But I do think that seasons can discourage us as well.

21:09 – Dealing with Discouragement

Matt Tully
You talked about how we can be discouraged by our own lack of progress, our own lack of love for the Bible. I wonder if you could address that. I wonder if there’s someone listening right now who would say, I have over the years tried to be disciplined. I’ve had habits. I’ve tried to think rightly about what this incredible book is that I have in my hands. And I’ve been consistent. I’ve been faithful in reading my Bible every day, day in and day out. And yet I still feel like nothing’s really changing. My life’s not noticeably different. I’m still struggling with the same feelings of anxiety or depression. I’m still feeling tempted by the same sins and falling to those sins. What’s the point? This isn’t actually doing anything. What would you say to that person?

Kristen Wetherell
There was a season a couple years ago that I walked through where—and this is not a clinical diagnosis or anything—but I would almost call it like walking through like a spiritual depression. I just didn’t feel like myself. It was wintertime in Illinois, so it’s gray.

Matt Tully
It’s not a great time.

Kristen Wetherell
It’s not a great time. You’re stuck inside. We were sick so often during that season that we were alone a lot, just trying to heal and stay away from people and not share. We were away from church for that reason. And then on top of all of that, my husband and I lost a second baby to miscarriage. And so there was also that suffering part of it. And I just felt burdened by heavy, gray clouds. I just didn’t know what to do about it. I think by disposition I’m pretty joyful, and I just felt like that joy was gone. And so I was just praying, Lord, I need you to restore to me the joy of my salvation. The Bible addresses reality. The Bible’s not an escape from reality. The Bible addresses reality. It addresses everything that we walk through. And so it was helpful for me to keep staying in the Word, even when I didn’t feel like it. Our feelings are really fickle things. They’re not to be relied on.

Matt Tully
What are some of the feelings that you had when you would sit down in that season to open your Bible?

Kristen Wetherell
Certainly, discouragement, because I was like, I’m here again, Lord, and I don’t feel any different. I felt discouraged. I felt worried. Will I come out of this? I think I felt a sense of I don’t know if the word is guilt or maybe shame—just wondering what am I doing wrong to contribute to this? But I think I just felt just a general sense of confusion. Lord, what are you doing? You feel so far away? I know in my mind that you’re not, but you feel so far away. And honestly, Matt, one of the things that helped me the most was just to talk to people about this, the body of Christ. I’m a pastor’s wife, and as a pastor’s wife there is a temptation to think I have to have things together. It’s not a true statement, but there’s a temptation. And so I wondered in that season, Is this going to be unhelpful for people for me to share this?

Matt Tully
Is this undermining my husband’s ministry?

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah, totally.

Matt Tully
I think that’s something that many pastor’s wives listening right now and friends of pastor’s wives will know that is a common struggle.

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah. It’s a real thing. How real can I be? But when I brought this to my small group of women and to my husband, I was just surrounded by compassion and love and Me too! I have been there. And so I would just encourage the listener that if that’s the place where you’re at, start by knowing in your heart of hearts that nothing is impossible for God. His light is able to break through. And if it’s not in this moment, gather around your brothers and sisters in Christ. Tell them what’s going on and ask them to pray for you. That helped me so much. The light didn’t come on immediately, but it helped me to press on. And it helped me to hear them say, Don’t give up being in the Word. Don’t give up praying. I’m praying for you when you can’t pray. It makes me think of Moses and his arms being held up by his brother.

25:48 – The Misunderstood Quiet Time

Matt Tully
In the book you’ve written every chapter ends with an anecdote, a story, about another person that you know and how God, through his Word, stabilized them, built them up, and helped them in a difficult season. It’s really all these testimonies to the power of God’s Word and to people’s desire to hunger for his Word being fulfilled by God. And that just speaks to the power of community. The stories that we hear of this from each other are so powerful in helping us in these difficult seasons that we might be facing. And so that kind of brings me to a question about the way that we often think about this topic of reading the Bible, of hungering after the Bible. So often, conversations about Bible reading are actually conversations about our personal Bible reading—our personal quiet time, to use an American evangelical term that we all know so well. And it seems to me, in my experience at least, when I think about the idea of hungering after God’s Word, the preeminent context for doing that, the preeminent example of someone who’s truly hungering after God’s Word, is the personal quiet time. It’s the person who is so consistent in that and that they do that every single day and it’s two hours long. What do you think about this idea of a personal quiet time? How do we make sense of that? How does that fit with this broader topic of hungering after God’s Word?

Kristen Wetherell
Going back to your former question, I think one of the reasons we tend to feel so discouraged and like, Why is nothing happening the way that it’s “supposed to”? is because we have this idea of what it should be, of what it’s supposed to be, when this idea of quiet time is actually a cultural construct. There is no command in the Bible about having a daily quiet time. Now, don’t turn off the podcast. Before you write me off, let me explain. God, in his Word, is concerned about us pursuing him, about us pursuing Christ and Christ pursuing us, us abiding in him and him abiding in us. He’s concerned about us loving the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He’s concerned, generally, about us pursuing hungering after God. How we do that is not prescribed. Yes, “Abide in my words.” But how we do that, we have so much freedom and so much creativity. Culturally we have this idea of quiet time, which is a very good thing. Spend time in your Bible alone with the Lord. That’s a very good thing and I love that. It’s an excellent way for us to grow. But it’s interesting because when you look at what the Bible is, it is God’s words that are overarchingly directed to the people of God, the gathered collective people of God. You have the law that is given to God’s people. You have God’s words to the prophets who address God’s people. The New Testament are letters written to the church. Or the Gospel accounts are so that the church might know the truth and grow in the truth. It’s written to the church. And so I think it broadens our idea of what it means to feed and feast on God’s words when we realize that it’s not just for individuals. It is for individuals. We should enjoy God’s Word as an individual. But it’s not only for individuals; it’s for his people. It’s for the church. And I think so many of us fall into false guilt about this idea of quiet time because we think we’re not doing it right. And so perhaps that’s a word for the person who feels entirely discouraged right now. Have you been to church this week? Because if you have, and if your church is preaching the Word and enjoying the Word, you’ve been in the Word. And that’s good news. Take a deep breath. Enjoy that. There was a time when our life group was talking about this topic, and so many of us were feeling defeated. Oh, I just haven’t been in the Word. And it occurred to me the irony of it because we were in the Word together right there—reading the Word, discussing the Word.

30:16 – Cultivating a Hunger for God’s Word with Three R’s

Matt Tully
That’s such a helpful encouragement to us. And obviously, we could take it too far and it could be an excuse from ever opening our own Bibles and sitting down. You’re not saying that, but it is so freeing to think that Scripture invites us to encounter God’s Word in so many ways. We live in a time where there is access to God’s Word in so many ways, but then also the church is this preeminent, central place where we’re designed to encounter it. As part of cultivating our hunger for God’s Word, you talk about the importance of remembering three things in particular. We’ve kind of already hit on some of these, but I think it was really helpful to hear you explain these three things that start with an R. I wonder if you could walk us through those.

Kristen Wetherell
The three R’s are revelation, resources, and religious freedom. I think we’re so often bored with the Bible. I’ve heard that from people too. I’m just bored. I’m in the Word all the time, or maybe I’m not, and I’m just bored. I feel like I’ve read the same thing over and over again, or I think that I have and so I’ve stopped. I think it’s partially because the Bible is actually so prevalent in our Western culture. You open up the hotel nightstand, and there’s a Bible. We forget what a privilege it is to hear from God. You mentioned that we already touched on this, but the God of the universe is speaking to us. He has sent his Son to earth to die and to rise in order that we might love his words and love him. So that’s the privilege of revelation. If we really stopped to think about the access that we have to the heart and mind of God, in order that we might think his thoughts after him and love what he loves, that’s amazing.

Matt Tully
We sometimes assume it. We kind of presume that like, Of course God would reveal himself to us like this, even in a book. Of course he would tell us about what he’s like. But he didn’t have to do that.

Kristen Wetherell
One of my favorite quotations from Kevin DeYoung, and I’m probably going to mess it up, but it’s something to the effect of “the greatest calamity is the silence of God.” Because if God doesn’t speak, we can’t know him fully. We know him partially through creation, but not fully. So it’s a great gift. It’s a great privilege to have his revelation in words. And then the second one is resources. I don’t think we realize that prior to the inventing of the printing press, which was able to easily replicate printed materials, people didn’t own Bibles. They had to hear the word read and preached.

Matt Tully
They had to go to church.

Kristen Wetherell
They had to go to church.

Matt Tully
And maybe even then it was often in another language that they wouldn’t have understood.

Kristen Wetherell
Right. And so when Bibles were first printed, they were expensive. It’s not like printers that we have nowadays where you can pick up a Bible for ten bucks or twenty bucks or fifty bucks. But it would cost a year’s salary to buy a Bible. So people didn’t have what we have. And beyond copies of God’s Word, you can go online and you have free access to resources to understand it. Sermons, commentaries, study Bibles. That’s amazing.

Matt Tully
Sometimes people mention resources like that, and some people are like, Yep! I love it. I’ve got seventeen study Bibles and four commentary series. But there’s other people on the other side of the spectrum who are like, That stuff sounds intimidating. I don’t think I could use those things. I don’t know how to navigate a commentary and a Bible dictionary. What encouragement would you give to that kind of person who feels intimidated by some of those resources?

Kristen Wetherell
You don’t have to. This is why your preaching pastor is such a wonderful gift to you. They do all that work for you, which is great and excellent. And then you get to feast on this meal that they have crafted for you on a Saturday night or a Sunday morning or whenever you go to church and hear your pastor preach. You don’t need to. I always say just get yourself a good study Bible. So you have the Word of God, and then you have some notes at the bottom, as well as some extra information inside the Bible that can help you. I don’t think you need to purchase a commentary series or anything like that necessarily if you don’t want to. But I have found, when I get stuck on a passage, just a basic study Bible is so helpful. Or ask your pastor. Email him. Call him.

Matt Tully
Maybe that’s the first thing to do. Talk to your pastor.

Kristen Wetherell
I’m reading this and I don’t understand, or I have this question. Would you mind meeting with me just to talk it out?

Matt Tully
You’re a pastor’s wife, and I’m going to ask you to speak for all pastors, given your position there. But would you say most pastors, in your mind, would be pretty happy to hear from someone in their church asking, Hey, help me understand this. I’m trying to read this?

Kristen Wetherell
Oh, overjoyed. Overjoyed. I hear my husband say that. The internet is a wonderful place, and we can access a lot of information on the internet. It’s a joy for them to shepherd the flock. And that’s one way that they can do that. They want to know what you’re asking. It actually helps them to better shepherd you if they know what you’re asking and what you’re struggling through and what you’re overjoyed about. It’s a blessing for them just as it is to you.

Matt Tully
So the last R is religious freedom. Why include that?

Kristen Wetherell
We have extensive religious freedom here in our country. A couple of years back, I had the privilege of editing the book 12 Faithful Women that the Gospel Coalition put out. And these were stories of twelve women who were steadfast in the faith through many different testings and trials. A few of them involved religious persecution. These women were in countries where Bibles were illegal, gathering with a church was also not legal, and they could be persecuted for their faith. So what happens when a woman is jailed and her Bible is confiscated and she doesn’t have the Word of God in paper? Well, she’s hidden it away in her heart. And it just makes me think what a gift it is to not be worried about that at this time and to be able to gather with my church on a Sunday and not be punished for it. These are privileges that we have.

Matt Tully
Again, that’s something that’s so easy for us to take for granted in our day and age, but the truth is that throughout history, many thousands and maybe millions of Christians have, at different times, had to worry about those things.

Kristen Wetherell
And so feed on God’s Word for your own soul, and then do it also for your brother and sister who you know is in another country, who doesn’t have the word in a book form. Do it for them too.

37:33 – The Role of Habit Formation

Matt Tully
So what role should habits and habit formation play in cultivating this genuine love and hunger for God’s Word? I think sometimes we can view things that we do out of habit as less than or less genuine or less sincere than things that we might do out of love or out of passion. What do you make of that?

Kristen Wetherell
I think it’s helpful, actually, to go back to our illustration of eating. I have to eat every day. If I don’t, I will not do well and I will eventually perish. I have to eat, and you wouldn’t look at me and say, Well, what’s your motivation for eating? Are you eating for the right reasons? I’d be like, Well, I’m eating to survive. I’m eating to grow and to thrive.

Matt Tully
And you even have a habit of eating every morning when you wake up.

Kristen Wetherell
Right. We don’t talk about other habits that way. Am I doing the wrong thing by brushing my teeth every morning because it’s a habit? We don’t talk about other things that way. And I think as Christians we often get concerned about being legalistic in our approach of the spiritual disciplines—reading our Bible, praying, even going to church. But the habit is not the problem; it’s the heart behind the habit. So I can have all the habits in place for reading the Bible, for example, but if my heart is not to pursue knowing Christ, the habit doesn’t really matter. It’s not worth anything. Similarly, let’s say I want to pursue knowing Christ, but I don’t have a habit in place. As a mom of three, the likelihood of that just happening is low. So the habit is set to reinforce the heart. My heart is to pursue Christ through his Word, and so I am going to create a habit in order that that can happen. If I’m creating the habit and the heart’s not there, that’s the problem.

Matt Tully
But it’s also a problem to have the heart, so to speak, but not have any habit or plan for actually making that happen or possible.

Kristen Wetherell
Right. Because then I won’t do it.


Matt Tully
And that ends up not working out.

Kristen Wetherell
It kind of defeats the whole point.

Matt Tully
What’s some advice for creating a good Bible-reading, or Bible-eating, habit. What does that look like for you?

Kristen Wetherell
We mentioned before that God’s Word is not prescriptive about this. He’s not prescribing a certain type of quiet time. That’s great news because it means we are free to be creative in how we meet with him in his Word. For me right now, we are morning people. This is not prescriptive for anyone listening, because we’re all different. And I know some people would say, Oh, I’m struggling to make it out of bed before eight o’clock. We’re morning people, so I do it first thing. I do think that there is a helpful principle there. It’s not a command, but it is a helpful principle. There is something about starting our day and renewing our mind before the day gets going that is so wise and so helpful. And I do see that principle played out in Scripture. David often talks about in the morning he goes to meet with the Lord, or “Morning by morning he awakens me,” the prophet says, “to hear as one who is taught.” So there is a helpful principle there. The day hasn’t started yet. My feet haven’t hit the ground running. But it’s not a rule. It’s not a command. So if you’re a night person, do it then. But we start in the mornings. Our kids are not up when we get up, so we try to get up a little bit before them. And I do follow a reading plan. I find that to be helpful. I don’t actually complete the day’s reading every day. It’s too much for me. I can’t take it all in.

Matt Tully
For some people that would be stressful.

Kristen Wetherell
Right. And it can feel discouraging.

Matt Tully
You just kind of let that go?

Kristen Wetherell
I just kind of let that go. I follow the plan, but I just don’t get it all done in one day.

Matt Tully
Do you feel the pressure to go back and finish it?

Kristen Wetherell
Well, it might take me three years to finish the plan, but that’s okay. There’s no rule about that either.

Matt Tully
So much of our discouragement comes back to all these rules that we create for ourselves about this stuff.

Kristen Wetherell
Right. And then we compare ourselves to other people and what they’re doing, which can be helpful if people have ideas or ways to get the Word into our lives each day. But I think we can get discouraged there. But we can be creative. As a mom I’m wanting to speak the Word over my kids, get them in the Word, and, Lord willing, live it by example through his help. And that is a way that I can feed myself, when I’m with my kids. They’re getting fed, and I’m getting fed at the same time. But I think that we can find so many ways throughout the day to get in the Word, and it doesn’t have to be what we talked about before, that idea of quiet time. It doesn’t have to be exactly that.

Matt Tully
Maybe as a final question, what are you reading right now in God’s Word? What’s he been showing you through his Word, and what’s been capturing your attention?

Kristen Wetherell
I’m in Jeremiah right now. I just finished Isaiah in my reading plan. The Psalms are peppered in in the one that I’m using. It’s the five-day reading plan. If you’re wanting to look that up online, it’s a free resource, the five-day reading plan. And then I’m also in 1 Peter. And I am noticing, specifically in the Prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, I’ve actually spent the last year highlighting in my Bible every instance of God speaking or referring to his Word. The whole Bible is the Word, but any instance of mention of the Word.

Matt Tully
Interesting.

Kristen Wetherell
“Thus says the Lord”—it is everywhere. God is very concerned about us listening to him because he’s our life and what he says is life to us. And so being in the Prophets, especially, and noticing the reason that people perished is because they weren’t willing to listen. They ignored God, they rejected his Word, and that’s a sober warning for us because God wants our hearts so badly. He’s our perfect heavenly Father who wants his children to listen and to live. And so that’s what I’ve noticed, and it just makes me want to pray, Lord, make me attentive to your Word. Use it to reveal what’s in my heart. Show me where I’m wrong. Show me the way of holiness. Show me my need for you, and help me to treasure you more as a result of that. That’s what I’ve noticed. It’s just that God loves talking about how important his words are, and I think that that’s so good for us because it’s our life.

Matt Tully
Kristen, thank you so much for casting that vision of the importance of God’s Word and of how accessible it is to us if we would just want it. We appreciate you taking the time today.

Kristen Wetherell
Thank you.


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