Should I Read the Bible…in a Year?

I’d like to make a confession. I’m guilty of encouraging people to follow a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan. Having read through the entire Bible several times through the years, there’s something about a yearly reading plan that clicks for me. There’s a simple checklist, and I can read through a daily reading while drinking my morning coffee. I’ve even read a daily reading on my iPad while walking on a treadmill. (Though to be fully transparent, I’m much more likely to be listening a Brandon Sanderson novel or another audiobook while exercising.)

But in 2018 I decided to try something a bit different. I started reading through a specific Study Bible on my shelf and wanted to not only read the Biblical text, but all of the commentary notes as well. To make it worse, I tried to convince myself that I could read the whole thing in a year. Truth be told, I probably could have done it. I could have pushed myself and made it through the entire thing. But had I tried, I would have missed out on some other things God was teaching me.

Today, with 2020 drawing to a close, I’m nearing the end of reading through that particular Study Bible. I’m probably 93% through, and should finish it in early 2021.

Why am I sharing this…?

Well, I’ve talked with a lot of normal, everyday, real life, people who have attempted a “Read through the Bible in a Year” plan, and were not able to complete it. When asked why they weren’t able to complete it, the two most common responses I’ve heard through the years include:

  • I started in Genesis 1 and just wanted to read it straight through. I actually made it through Exodus, but a little bit into Leviticus I was so confused I just gave up.
  • Life got really busy for me, and at some point in time I realized I was so far behind that I’d never finish the plan in a year, so I stopped trying.

Because I’ve heard responses such as these many times through the years, I wanted to offer some insight that may help.


  1. Get a good Study Bible.

30 years ago, the Study Bible market was fairly limited in scope. Today, there are a lot (like, a lot a lot!) of Study Bibles to choose from. So many, in fact, it may be difficult to choose.

Personally, I often recommend the NLT or NIV Life Application Study Bible as a good choice. But feel free to read this article outlining some other popular options, and/or do some additional research on what Bible you think may be best for you.

  1. You may not want to read the Bible straight through.

Beginning in Genesis and reading straight through may work for some people, but it probably isn’t best for many. Why? Well, because that’s not how it was written. The Bible isn’t one book written from beginning to end. It’s sixty-six books. And while the timeline of the Bible is mostly in order, there is overlap between some of the books.

For example, if you read 1 & 2 Kings and then 1 & 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament, you’ll quickly discover you’re reading some of the same historical accounts of the same kings of Israel.

One solution to this is to read through the Bible chronologically. There are many chronological reading plans available, but this one is probably the simplest one for those reading through the Bible for the first time. If you read through the Bible in this way, you’ll begin to see some passages tied together in a way you may not have noticed before.

Another possible solution is to use a Reading Plan that doesn’t focus on the entire Bible. The F260 Bible Reading Plan is one that focuses on the foundational passages of the Bible in 260 daily readings. So those passages in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that may seem confusing…likely aren’t included in this plan.

  1. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall behind.

Picture this. You’re binge watching a TV series such as The Mandalorian on Disney+. You have a goal to finish the first two seasons within two weeks. But something comes up and you’re only able to get through the first half of Season 2 by the end of your initial goal. Do you give up and say, “Well, I didn’t complete it before I wanted to, so I’m not going to go back and watch the final episodes of Season 2”? I mean really, you know you’re going to finish it, right?

Here’s the deal – there is no hard and fast rule saying you have to complete a “One Year Reading Plan” within a year. These plans are simply a guide to help you follow a systematic plan to read through the entire Bible. As I noted above, I’m just now nearing the end of a plan to read through a specific Study Bible and it’s taken me three years to do it. I’ve pushed pause on the reading plan a few times to focus some energy studying out other topics and passages. But I didn’t give up on completing the plan.

So yes, there are benefits to engaging with the Scriptures on a regular basis. And yes, most people I know who read the Bible at least 5-6 days a week can’t imagine not reading it. But don’t give up just because you fall behind on your goal. Keep reading. Get to know God. Get to better understand who He has made you to be. And continue to experience the full life He desires you to live.

  1. Bonus: Journal what you’re learning.

Choosing to journal will undoubtedly extend the amount of time you need each day to engage with the Scriptures. But in my experience, it helps to better process and reflect on what I’ve read and engage with the text more fully.

Personally, I often type my journals into an app called Day One. It’s my go-to software on my computer and phone for journaling. But I occasionally use pen and paper to really slow my mind down, as I can sometimes more fully reflect on what I’ve read when I’m not sitting behind a computer screen.

Outside of reading the Scriptures, I’ve also discovered that journaling helps me reflect on other areas in my life, and to identify the positive things that happen throughout each day.

If you’re not used to journaling, here are some steps you may find helpful as you begin to engage with the Scriptures more regularly.

Do you have another tip that wasn’t covered above? Feel free to leave a comment and let us know!

2 Replies to “Should I Read the Bible…in a Year?”

  1. Thanks Justin! Lots of good thoughts here. I get off track, too, and it is frustrating for my personality when I don’t start Genesis one on January 1 and finish Revelation on December 31. But I keep going and try not to get discouraged.

    I switch back-and-forth between reading straight through and reading my NIV chronological Bible. If anyone has not read a chronological one, it is really fascinating!

    I also like to switch up which version I read each year. I will alternate between ESV, NIV, and the God’sWord translation. GW is probably my favorite because it seems to be the most natural English while still maintaining faithfulness to what the original author is actually saying.

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