Growing in Grace, Resources

He’s Where the Joy Is

Today, I finished the one-year Bible reading plan I started in January…of 2021.

Yes, it has taken me one year, ten months, and eighteen days to complete 365 days of readings. In the past, I probably would have felt anything from mild embarrassment to deep self-condemnation over my inability to keep up with the reading plan. (I definitely wouldn’t have celebrated my belated completion on a blog post.) Yet this time reading through the Bible was different.

I’ve attempted rigorous Bible reading goals several times in the past, yet often I’ve fallen behind and given up. I’d wait until a new week or a new month (or even another new year) before trying again. I entered the year 2021 with renewed resolved and made it a quarter of my way through the reading plan before starting to fall behind. I opened to the book of Judges in early 2021—ten days behind schedule. I stared at the Bible in my right hand and my check list in my left. I knew I had the same three choices I always had when “failing” at my reading plan: (1) legalism, (2) license, or (3) grace.

First, I could put obedience to rules over delight in relationship—putting God’s law over God’s love. I could legalistically discipline myself to read twice (no three times) as many chapters a day until I caught up. I may not retain anything I read, but at least I would have accomplished my daily goal.

Instead, I could choose to be lazy—believing God didn’t care at all what I did. I could comfortably live in license, not thinking it matter whether I spent time in God’s Word. I could have shelved my Bible and journal to avoid shame and chosen to give up my time in the Word altogether.

In the past, I would have defaulted to one of those two decisions. Prideful legalism or shameful license. Yet this time, by the Spirit, I walked the third and better way—the joyful way.

At the beginning of 2021, I chose to follow Tara Leigh-Cobble’s chronological Bible reading plan she writes and podcasts about in her Bible Recap resources. Every day in her devotional, The Bible Recap, she summarizes the reading for that day and provides short context and commentary. Yet she ends every day, all 365, with how that day’s reading teaches us about God and how “He’s where the joy is.”

If I’m honest, time in God’s Word hasn’t always been a place of joy for me. Over my twenty-five years of following Christ, Scripture reading has often been a chore, a check on a to-do list, a place of both shame and pride.

Cobble’s catchphrase—“He’s where the joy is!”—has followed me over the past twenty-three months as I have slowly completed her plan. Checking off days, underlining key lines, moving my bookmark slowly through the monster of a book. It’s what kept me from swinging towards legalism—rushing through without comprehension to accomplish my goal. It also held me back from license—giving up all together because I couldn’t complete it perfectly. At the end of each day’s reading, whether I was ten days or ten months behind, Cobble reminded me why I was opening God’s Word in the first place.

That simple sentence pointed me back to the truth that my joy is not found in a perfectly checked list or an extra ten minutes of sleep. It’s not found in my own accomplishments and comfort. My joy is safe and secure in Christ alone—who was born in human flesh to finish what I never could achieve and suffer so that I might have true comfort.

Rather than be disappointed in me for not being able to keep up with a rigorous reading plan during this season of life, God met me where I was. In fact, sometimes the passages hit differently than if I had read them according to the prescribed timetable.

When I was close to giving up the reading plan, God used Judges 7 to remind me that God uses imperfect people—fearful, insecure, and doubting people. He meets us where we are, calling us by the identity he has given us.

When our family went through season of both celebration and grief, I spent nine months in and out of the Psalms. No matter what the day held, Psalms called me to put my hope in God’s past faithfulness, present character, and future promises.

When I was discouraged in the multiple callings God has placed on my life, God brought me to 2 Corinthians 9:8-11. He provides me with all sufficiency, at all times, and in every way so that I can complete all the work God has given me.

By God’s grace, as I persevered through the reading plan, it was no longer about keeping up with someone else’s expectations (or the ones in my own head). I took my time, savored his words, and let them transform me. I let myself find joy in reading God’s Word.

I have succeeded in completing yearly Bible reading plans before, but I’m most proud of myself (and grateful to God) for enduring to the end this time—even though it took me twice as long. Rather than sustain myself with my own effort, God carried me through with his new morning mercies.

The past two years have transformed my time in God’s Word. It took endurance, yes, but it mostly took humility. Humility to lay down my pride and accept that in this season of life, a lofty plan may not be what draws me close to the Lord. Humility to lay aside my shame and comfort, and instead bring my weaknesses to the Lord for him to strengthen me.

At this time, I don’t know what the next season of my time in God’s Word will look like—whether I’ll dive back into a yearly plan or settle deep into a single book. However the Spirit leads me, I pray I don’t forget Cobble’s phrase, “He’s where the joy is!” I pray I will carry it with me whether my time in the Word comes easily or is a fight each morning. I pray it would be a delight rather than a duty.

Today, as I read the final words in the canon of Scripture, my heart sang with the apostle John, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Because after one year, ten months, and eighteen days reading God’s Word, I truly believe that he’s where my joy is.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Words to Carry”.

If you’re considering starting a one-year-Bible reading plan in January (or tomorrow!) here are a few resources I recommend:

2 thoughts on “He’s Where the Joy Is”

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