I love the subtitle of Jen Wilkin’s new book Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible With Both Our Hearts and Our Minds. There’s an important distinction to be made between studying with our hearts and studying with our minds. I suppose the meaning of each might be apparent to most, but I confess I haven’t paid a lot of attention to this before now.
But I’m learning that studying with the mind engaged involves gaining an understanding of God through a systematic study of His Word, and studying with the heart engaged is about experiencing the presence of God through studying His Word. The first is largely about knowledge, and the second is perhaps more concerned with intimacy and worship.
Both are necessary ingredients of a healthy Bible study life.
Without stretching our minds to grasp who the Bible reveals God to be, we risk deception by emotion and we’re left vulnerable to follow an image of a god we’ve constructed through feelings. One that isn’t true at all. On the other hand, apart from opening our hearts to the God who speaks through the Bible, we become what James called “hearers of the Word only and not doers.” We also lose an experience of intimacy our Father desires to have with us and we push away his power to grow and change us.
We don’t want to miss the grace of the Bible’s guidance because we long for information more than transformation. Isn’t it easy to search for direction about specific situations in our lives but completely forget that God is more concerned with cultivating our character in the circumstances? He definitely directs and is sovereign over the physical details of our life, but I know it’s easy to slip into thinking only about what is seen and ignore what God’s doing in the spiritual realm, the work he’s doing in my soul.
And we don’t want to miss the grace of the Bible’s guidance because we prefer the ease of never having to think through the hard parts of it. There is blessing to be found in the learning, in approaching it like a real student seeks truth and glories in its discovery.
It seems that for many of us, one of these “ways” of studying the Bible comes a little more easily than the other. Which is your tendency – to engage your heart or to engage your mind more when you’re examining Scripture?