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Why is Consistent Bible-Reading So Difficult?: Trillia Newbell

with Trillia Newbell | March 24, 2023
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The struggle can be real when we want to read the Bible with any amount of consistency. Author Trillia Newbell shares some practical tips to help, and then talks about what we can expect when we regularly dive into God's Word.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Shelby Abbott

    Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, and conference speaker on staff with the ministry of Cru. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States. Abbott is the author of Jacked and I Am a Tool (To Help with Your Dating Life), Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress and DoubtLess: Because Faith is Hard. He and his wife, Rachael, have two daughters and live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

Author Trillia Newbell shares some practical tips to help with consistent Bible-reading, and what we can expect when we regularly dive into God’s Word.

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Why is Consistent Bible-Reading So Difficult?: Trillia Newbell

With Trillia Newbell
March 24, 2023
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Trillia: I think when you read the scriptures, you already talked about the lies that are in our own hearts and minds, but there's a lot of lies in the world. There's a lot of lies in the culture. There’s a lot of things that are telling you how to live and what to do. I think for me, it reminds me of truth because there's so many voices, so much advice. I need to meditate on the Word day and night. I need His voice to be the loudest in my head, because this is good counsel, good news. It's the truth. And in a world where there's so many “truths,” we need the real truth.

Shelby: Somewhat anxious, always authentic. This is Real Life Loading.

I'm your host, Shelby Abbott, and I was wondering if you've ever tried to read the Bible when you're just not feeling it, or when it doesn't seem like it's maybe working? You've been there? I've been there. Well, I wanted to talk with someone about just that very subject.

So, in this episode, I sat down with Trillia Newbell. Trillia is an author and a speaker, and honestly just a fun person to have a conversation with. She recently wrote a book called 52 Weeks in The Word. It acts as a guide to help anyone read through the entire Bible in a year, and it's super helpful. So today, Trillia and I are going to talk about how to handle dry seasons in your spiritual life.
Then we're going to go through how God used Scripture to help Trillia during an incredibly dark time in her life when she went through a season of having multiple miscarriages. It's going to be powerful and honest and at the same time, delightful. Let's get into my time with Trillia Newbell.

Trillia, what have you been thinking about lately?

Trillia: Oh, goodness. Well, my husband and I are sitting together, and we've been reading Genesis and we have just been amazed by how much we've forgotten and how some of the culture then is so odd. We're like all of these wives, what's happening?


Shelby: Yes.

Trillia: Abraham took the father to the extreme. No, but there's these kinds of stories that we're, so - those things have been, we have had the most interesting conversations trying to make sense of culture at the time. God's ways, what would've glorified him and obedience. It's so interesting and intriguing - and so that's been on our mind. It's funny because I have a few friends who are reading through the Bible also and they've talked about how they're also realizing that they have forgotten some of these stories.

Shelby: So much stuff that happened in Genesis. Yes. Like the good, bad and the ugly.

Trillia: Yes. And they're really ugly.

Shelby: Yes. Yes. Very ugly and not so appropriate kind of things there in Scripture that makes you go, huh? Why? Okay.

So, you're from Nashville. Nashville is known for a ton of different wonderful things. One in particular that I'm thinking of Trulia, make the case for your favorite barbecue place in Nashville.

Trillia: Ooh, Okay. I love Edley’s. Edley’s barbecue is so good. Now I know right now some of my friends are like, but what about Martin's? What about it? There's lots of barbecue in Nashville. You're not going to run out of options. But I love Edley’s because there's such a variety, and I think not just pulled pork and brisket, which are your staples, but brisket tacos, oh my, that. Will make your – my mouth is watering.

Shelby: Yes, yes. You're bringing it to the level. Yes. [Laughter]

Trillia: They're so good. Yes. So that's my, uh, advertisement for Edley’s Bar-B-Que.

Shelby: Yes, I'd imagine if you're a barbecue place in Nashville, you have got to do something that's a little bit unique in order to stand out from the crowd. But I don't frequent Nashville, but when I do, I will make a concerted effort to get to a number of different places, including that Edley’s?

Trillia: Yes.

Shelby:. All right. I just want to make sure that I know for when I go to the future, in the future.

You are obviously a very huge proponent of being a person of God's Word, and that's primarily what I wanted to talk to you about today. You have said that any time spent in God's Word is never wasted. I love that quote, but I thought about this, and I said, well, what about for that young person listening who's in the middle of - maybe what we'd call a huge dry spell right now in the relationship with God, they're taking time each day to read scripture, but they just don't sense God speaking to them or meeting them in any way. The time does for them maybe feel wasted. Can you talk to that person right now who no doubt feels maybe dejected?

Trillia: Yes. Well, I think if you are approaching God's Word for a spiritual high, you're going to be disappointed, because there are going to be seasons for every single one of us, when we read God's Word and we come away. Well, that was an interesting list of numbers. [Laughter]

We aren't going to be on a mountain top or feel like we just had this massive experience with the Lord. However, anytime we read God's Word, we are learning about His character, His nature, who He is, His law. - How we please Him. We are learning about the Lord and that's not wasted time.

I would encourage that person to continue to pray that the Lord would meet them. I think it's totally fine to pray that they would feel a passion for the Lord; to pray that they would enjoy Him emotively. However, if you read the Word and you remember who it's about, then you are going to be encouraged. It's about the Lord and you will learn something about Him, and your emotions may follow later. But I think we all have those kinds of dry seasons, and we can ask the Lord to fill us afresh and to give us a joy as we read. But even this morning, I read in Exodus about the plagues. [Laughter]

Shelby: Yes, not super tall on the mountaintop there with those. Yes.

Trillia: Yes, no-I was like okay Lord. What I'm saying, what I'm learning is that you are the Lord. You are God.

Shelby: You're serious, yes.

Trillia: You are serious and I'm going to worship You. I didn't leave with these emotions and so I think that's okay. I just want to encourage the person, be encouraged. You are engaging with the Scriptures. Pray, ask the Lord to reveal, illuminate his Word, reveal something to you in his Word. But remember it's about Him, and so going into it and learning and you're growing. Can I say something else?

Shelby: Sure. Yes.

Trillia: I've had four miscarriages. I've lost four babies to miscarriages. After my second one, I was very despondent. I was so discouraged. Of course. I could barely get out of bed discouraged. I couldn't, my mind was so foggy, I was struggling to read the Bible. But in His kindness, He would recall things to my mind that I'd already read. So I knew in my heart of hearts that the Lord draws near to the brokenhearted. He does not break a bruised reed. He's going to hold me up by His righteous right hand. Like these are the things that I remember - Jesus was tempted in every way, but without sin, and that He sympathizes with my weaknesses. That was the Lord, just recalling these things to my mind and heart, because during those dry seasons I had been in the Word.

I was in the Word soaking up all that I could to learn about His character. When that fury trial came and I couldn't really process trying to read something like the plagues. I was reminded of His character. The Scriptures, it sustained me. The Lord is so good. None of it's wasted. So you get in that Word, read God's Word and you'll be amazed by how the Lord may recall it one day. All that you're learning, all that non-spiritual high time, the Lord is so faithful and so good.

Shelby: Thank you so much for not only saying that and help us to understand the truth of that, but also applying it personally. Because there's always going to be seasons where we go through rough times – yours having four miscarriages that's unfathomable - and many, many ways and you're laying there not feeling really anything in terms of goodness when it comes to drawing close to the Lord. But because you, in those dry seasons, were ingesting the Word, maybe not even seeing that it was penetrating your heart. It just kind of came out. How do you go through that process and feel a sense of hope in the middle of being kicked down and kicked down over and over and over again?

Trillia: You know, it's interesting. I was very patient with myself. I think one of the reasons why is that I just remembered Jesus in the garden and weeping. I just thought, you know, it's okay. We've got whole Psalms where it's all about lament. I wasn't trying to rush myself out of lament. I do not like to feel sad or pain. My general personality bends towards happy. But what I was realizing is that there's a different kind of joy. You can be sorrowful yet always rejoicing. There's a different kind of joy rooted in the gospel, rooted in who God is that we can have. That kind of joy of the Lord is my strength, like leaning on the Lord for His joy, that He is my strength.

I didn't hurry myself out of sadness. I leaned into it, which was very hard for me. But I couldn't hurry myself out of it. There's nothing I could do. I was so sad. So instead, I just realized that I'm not alone. That Jesus, like He wept. I think that's almost like a t-shirt, but it's true. And that kind of realization that I serve a God who isn't far off, that He's God with us, He understands was so helpful for me. So that I think helps me to be okay with lamenting.

But I want to say this because I think it's important. There are some who will be sad and then question God. I didn't experience that. So if there is someone who's struggling with now their faith, I would encourage them to one, talk to a counselor, but also ask the Lord to give you faith to believe that He is who he says He is. I didn't struggle with that. I knew God was with me and good. And so that wasn't my struggle. And everyone goes through things differently. I don't want to put a blanket - like this is going to be the way you are going to experience [it]. But I believe wholeheartedly that the Lord does draw near to the broken hearted. That He cares deeply for our situations, our sorrows. Jesus was a man of sorrows. He understands. He's acquainted with grief. Those are the things that kept me. Oh, I don't serve a God who doesn't relate, who doesn't get it? He gets it.

Shelby: And now it's time for three dots, three thoughts on Real Life Loading. This is where I share three simple ideas that could potentially change your life or at least slightly improve it.

Thought one. There are many opinions about how to do this correctly but let me tell you how to properly make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Two pieces of bread, obviously, creamy peanut butter, not crunchy, on one piece of bread, and then grape or strawberry jelly on the other piece. Bring the two pieces together and cut down the center from top to bottom, so both sides are relatively equal.

Now, some will say you should cut the sandwich diagonally, or maybe use a more unique kind of jelly when making it. But I need to tell you, they're just kidding when they say this. The way I've described it, is the proper way to do it. Or is it?

Thought two. Don't quote a Bible verse when you haven't read it in context. And don't quote a movie you haven't seen unless, of course, you're quoting Dominic Toretto from The Fast and the Furious franchise. We talk’n or we race’n. The thing about street fights, the street always wins. The problem with putting your foot on a Tiger's neck is you can never let it up. It's amazing. Any quote like these are going to be great conversation starters.

Thought three. I believe gospel community is one of the major keys to thriving in the Christian life. Listening to podcasts, reading books, absorbing sermons, and private devotional time by yourself with God. All that is fantastic. It's great, and it should be a regular part of your routine to draw closer to God. But if you aren't in regular proximity to other gospel believing and living people, who are discussing challenging, confessing, wrestling, thriving, laughing and crying around you on a habitual basis, your spiritual life is going to suffer. It just is.

So, make everyday choices to live life alongside people who love Jesus and want to follow Him wholeheartedly, like the weird ones who actually pursue Christ with the entirety of their lives. I'm not saying they're perfect, of course, and neither are you, but people who will be annoying enough to challenge you on the regular to walk with God. These are the kinds of people you will praise God for and thank him for, because they'll give you a little taste. Of what life will actually be like one day when Jesus makes everything right. Get with your people.

This has been three dots, three thoughts on Real Life Loading.
Now back to my time with Trillia New Bell.

We're going to talk about why consistent Bible reading is such a struggle and some practical tips for getting started. And then she'll share about what we can expect to happen in our hearts and lives as we dive into God's Word.

I challenge college students all the time to read the Bible in a year, and what I found is that not only when they do this, but when I did this for the first time and decided to read through the Bible in a year. It's a struggle. The struggle is real for almost everybody. I think there's been two students [who] read the Bible in a year, like hashtag the struggle is real - Bible in a year. [Laughter]

So my question to you is, why do you think so many people are unable or frustrated in their inability for consistency when it comes to Bible study or starting maybe a Bible in a year program?

Trillia: Yes. You know, it's interesting because I think people expect something more out of the Scriptures than the Scriptures themselves, even promise. I think that when you get into especially Old Testament and those long books or the books where you're just maybe even a little lost in the story, what's happening here? It can be hard for people to keep going. So that is a general reason I think that people start to just struggle, because they think they're going to get that spiritual high, when really they're reading about history or there's a poem, or that's the reality.

And I think we need to approach the Word remembering what it is. It is living and active and sharper than a double-edged sword. It's useful, right? It's also a story. There's a storyline there that I think we can forget, when we realize, oh, it's not about me.

Shelby: Yes. Yes. Very good.

Trillia: That's very difficult - for, oh, okay I'm learning about other people.

Okay I think another problem is, and I think this is probably most of our problem, is that we allow other things to just get in the way of reading. I think we are busy people. We can struggle with prioritizing the Word and become complacent and apathetic. We kind of miss a day and instead of just starting again, we're like, oh, well. [Laughter]

Shelby: Oh yes let's pitch it. We missed two days in a row.

Trillia: Yes. So those are the things that I believe we have to ask God to help change our hearts. It's a kind of a heart change that needs to happen so that we can see our need for the Lord and see our need to get in the Scripture. I think that is where it will help motivate us to run to Him in his Word and to read and learn about Him so that we can worship Him rightly. And love Him with all our heart, mind, and soul. I think that is another aspect of it. So one, we're looking for a spiritual high - It doesn't happen. The second, we are busy, often complacent, and we just don't prioritize it - especially if number one.

Shelby: Yes, that's good. As you think about it, you are talking about Genesis, and a lot of reading plans that you do Google start in Genesis; then they lead naturally into – well no, they'll mix in some Psalms and some New Testament at the same time, if they're a good re reading plan to help people get through some of the tougher books.

Is there a specific place that a young person you think can start when it comes to wanting to do a Bible in a year program, so that there's a level of consistency at least at the beginning?

Trillia: Yes. Okay. So it's funny enough, I wrote one. [Laughter]

Shelby: Oh really?


Trillia: I wrote - it's interesting - I wrote a book called 52 Weeks in the Word that helps lead people through the Scriptures. And I didn't actually mix it up with all different things, so that people could understand the context of the whole book. I'm trying to encourage people - read all of Genesis, and then if you want to skip, because there are no dates, you can skip to a different week and get in the New Testament.

Shelby: Got it.

Trillia: But try to read and understand the whole context of the Scriptures, because I found hopping around to be a little distracting for me to understand the full context in what I'm reading. But with that said, I think physical people engaging with other people can help you. I mean we need a body.

Shelby: Community, yes - right.

Trillia: That's why the New Testament is always talking about this body. And I think we can think of time with the Lord as a “quiet time,” where it's just me and the Lord, me and the Lord. But when we engage with other people - One, it helps with fellowship. Two, it will help you be accountable.

Shelby: Yes.

Trillia: So that's what I would encourage someone who's just starting out. Don't do it by yourself.

Shelby: That's good.

Trillia: Grab a friend, grab a companion, a resource, grab something to help you along. You don't have to just open your Bible and try to make your way through it, though you can. And many people have come to know the Lord because they open their Bible and may their way through it. But You have so many resources, but also people who can help encourage you along the way, and people doing it in groups are, I think, is a really sweet way to encourage you to keep going.

Shelby: Trillia, how can we balance the discipline of reading the Bible versus the way we tend to feel shameful or like we're letting God down when we don't spend time with him?

Trillia: Yes. Okay. When we approach the Word, if we are approaching it legalistically, in other words, if we're trying to earn God's favor when we approach any good work, then we will feel shame and condemnation when we don't do that thing. So you want to dive into God's Word and ask them to remind you, that you're not earning anything by being in His Word. It's a part of knowing Him and enjoying Him and learning about Him. - And so that you can also make disciples. So if you are feeling shame and guilt, I would just ask Lord to show you why. Where's that coming from?

Shelby: Yes, what’s going on with you?

Trillia: Yes. What's going on? Because if you miss a day, or two days you just read the next day. I don't - there shouldn't be a shame or guilt if you are sad because you're like, oh man, I really need the Lord. That's good. But if you're like, oh man, God's going to deal harshly with me. - Or I'm disappointing the Lord. Then I would ask God to help you remember Romans 8, “There's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” [Paraphrased] and to approach his throne of grace and receive mercy and help - and then do - don't not read, just read asking God to change your lens, change your heart, change your motivation.

Shelby: Yes. I think in those times probably it's like, well, if you're dealing with shame and guilt, you're forgetting the gospel, so why pull away more from the gospel instead of lean into it.

Trillia: Yes, and I think God offers us kindness and tender.

Shelby: He kind of throws his arm around us and says, yes, come on in this child of mine, who once was lost but is now found. Let's not run further away, know that there's no condemnation, come in here. And that makes you have an attraction towards the Scriptures even more, as opposed to believing the lies that might be in your head. It's really good.

What can we expect to happen, or what are we likely to experience as we continue to spend time with God through His Word? Basically, I want to encourage the young person who might be listening that this isn't about checking a box on a to-do list every day, but there is tangible change to look forward to in their life when they spend time reading the Scriptures.

Trillia: Yes, okay. There's two things that I thought of. I think Psalm 1 says “Blessed is the one who meditates on the law day and night and doesn't sit in the seat of scoffers.” [Paraphrased] Yes. And et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Shelby: Yes - Tree is planted by the river - streams of living water. Yes, yes.

Trillia: Yes, yes. I think one of the benefits is, you already talked about the lies that are in our own hearts and minds, but there's a lot of lies in the world. There's a lot of lies in the culture. There's a lot of things that are telling you how to live and what to do. I think for me, it reminds me of truth, because there's so many voices, so many things, so much advice, I need to meditate on the Word day and night. I need His voice to be the loudest in my head because this is good counsel, good news. It's the truth.

And in a world where there's so many “truths,” we need the real truth. And so you are going to, I think, be able to have a better view of yourself in the world, a biblical worldview and understand how to walk rightly. But practically speaking, gosh, we kind of said this at the top of the hour, we were talking about how crazy things like Genesis, and all the families and all the craziness that goes on and the sin. Yet God calls people like Abraham and David and they're faithful and righteous. And you're like, what?


Shelby: Like David was what now? Yes.

Trillia: Yes, it's amazing.

Shelby: Yes. Unrighteousness.

Trillia: Yes, and it reminds me that I can go before the Lord. I can confess my sin. I can be honest. I can turn, I can repent and change.

So I think when you read the Scriptures, you realize, oh, God is so gracious and merciful. He is slow to anger. That's not just a Bible verse. I mean, you see it. He is abounding in love and I can go and I can read and I can receive that kind of grace and mercy because He's done. You see his faithful hand - and I've seen it practically in my own life of repenting at the age of 22, but then daily needing to ask the Lord for forgiveness and turn and change. I think that's a practical way that the Scriptures have been living and active in my own life; It’s helped me know that I can change, that I can live for Him. That's, I think, really encouraging.

Shelby: Yes. Thank you for saying that, because we always need to be reminded of it.

Trillia: Yes, definitely.

Shelby: One of the things that I like to help people kind of think through intentionally is when we say the word family, often we think we mean something specific. We think about the nuclear family and true that can be there. But Jesus redefines family in a lot of ways for us. I like to process it through the idea of the family of God. So, when you think about the family of God, how has it been a life giving anchor for you?

Trillia: My father passed away when I was 19, and he was one of my best friends and one of the first things that the Lord and his kindness did when I became a Christian is that I kind of understood the idea that He is my father. - And that He ushers us into a family of believers and were brothers and sisters in Christ. It was amazing. For me, especially when I first became a Christian, I got together with these gals and we did accountability and we met together every other week and talked about our relationship with the Lord and we broke bread together. We were just in each other's lives.

And then I've always been a part of a community group and then, trying to meet with people regularly. At my lowest, the church has been there and at my highest the church has been there. I want to also say, because I think this is important, it has not been without conflict. [Laughter] In other words, I don't want to paint.-

Shelby: That's putting it lightly.

Trillia: Yes, it is. I mean, if you read the New Testament, the writing to churches, Yep. People are worshiping idols and there's division.

Shelby: You need to be corrected. Yes. There's a lot of weird stuff going on. Yes.

Trillia: For me, the family has been both a beautiful and glorious thing and a refining by fire thing. The family's important. I don't believe you can obey most of the New Testament apart from the local church.

Shelby: Very good.

Trillia: There's all the one another - you just can't. And so we need each other. We need the body. We need the church. It's also where we exercise our gifts that God has given us in the local expression.

I think right now, especially the church has been, well there's been some legitimate concerns. For a lot of people, the idea of going to a church and going into a church can be scary.

Shelby: Sure, yes.

Trillia: Will they be like a real family? Will they shun me? What's going to happen? - And so I just want to encourage people who are kind of - maybe they're a little skeptical or cynical to ask the Lord to give you a church family. A family that will speak truth in love. Where you can hear the Word preached and where you can receive and give because you cannot survive. You're not going to finish the race on your own.

Shelby: Isn't she great? I love talking with Trillia because she helps me see the beauty and practicality of what it means to be a person of God's Word. If you want a valuable resource to come alongside you and help you read through the Bible in a year, pick up her book 52 Weeks in The Word. If this episode with Trillia Newbell was helpful for you, I'd love for you to share today's podcast with a friend and wherever you get your podcast, it could really advance what we're doing with Real Life Loading, if you'd rate and review us. It's ultra easy to find us on our social channels. Just search for Real Life Loading or look for our link tree in the show notes. I want to thank everyone who's on the Real Life Loading team, Chloe, Bruce, Kaytlynn, Jarrett, and Josh. I'm Shelby Abbott. I'll see you back next time on Real Life Loading.

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