My Prayer

Things the Bible Won’t Tell You

We’ve all been there. We’re praying for a sign. We’re looking for an answer. We toss up a Hail Mary, close our eyes, open the Bible…and point. Bible Roulette. The answer to all of life’s questions. Right?

Wrong. So wrong, y’all.

The Bible is the holy, inspired Word of God. It is full of mind-boggling parables, eternal wisdom, and the very words of Jesus Christ. It is beautiful. It is sacred. It is a means through which we can know the very person of God Himself. It teaches us love, sacrifice, relationship, mercy, justice, faith, and so much more.

But it is NOT a Magic 8 ball. So let’s explore the purpose of the Bible by first exploring what is definitely NOT its purpose. Here are three questions the Bible can’t answer for you:

1. Your Vocation

Okay, yes, technically the Bible can lead you to your vocation because God is the One who calls and the Bible reveals the heart of this One. But. This being said, let’s explore the simpler path, the Bible Roulette path.

You’re pondering. You’re dying to know. Who should I marry? When will I meet them? Should I be a priest/nun?! What college should I pick? What career should I pursue?? The vocational questions are endless in our youth. There seems to be an entire book of our story yet unwritten and we’re dying to know the ending. But the Bible, as inspired and full of God’s goodness as it is, is not going to open up to the page that answers every question. Even St. Augustine, who was converted essentially by Bible Roulette-style page opening, didn’t stop there. It took many, many prayers, much personal growth and reflection, and the mentorship of holy friends to apply what the Bible had shown him.

Certain passages or Bible stories can lead us in the right direction, but no one passage can answer every question we ask right when we ask it. Often, God wants to use His Word to take us on a journey, revealing only one step at a time. If it’s not our time to know our career, vocation, calling, etc., then the Bible won’t give us the answer. Rather, the Bible will help us to know God, and in knowing God we can know ourselves and how to respond to what He has placed in our hearts.

God doesn’t spell out your husband or wife’s name in the pages of His Word (unless you’re looking at Hebrews 11:7). He doesn’t spell out the name of your college major between the lines. Rather, He uses the Bible to lead us to His heart–through prayer, the sacraments, and community. And these aspects of our faith, over time, helps us to answer life’s greatest questions.

2. WWJD

Once again, yes, technically the Bible does tell you exactly what Jesus would do. But. Here’s what I mean. When you’re trying to decide how to spend your spring break, which Church to go to for Mass this Sunday, what to say to that person in your class, etc…the Bible is not going to spell it out for you. Sometimes it does, sure, like resolving disputes among Christians (Matthew 18:15-17). But more often, whether it’s a little decision in life or a major matter, the Bible doesn’t always clearly explain the next steps to holiness.

There are plenty of serious points of discussion today that aren’t explicitly mentioned in the Bible, or that are mentioned in a context that may need to be understood through the lens of Church authority and scholarship (e.g. certain Old Testament laws, Christian stances on current controversial issues, etc.).

Therefore, if you’re making a decision or trying to find out how to respond to someone or defend a complicated Church teaching…the Bible is a fundamental resource, but it may not teach you everything you need to know to react as Jesus would. There are other sources of learning (philosophical arguments, modern technology, personal prayer and contemplation, and more) that can inform a Catholic understanding of your daily decisions and conversations. There are plenty of situations Christ Himself did not face quite as you have. Think, He never grew old or picked a major or decided who to vote for. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t understand, or that He doesn’t have guidance to give you. It just means His written word may not clearly record it. Though the Bible can’t spell out the answer to every hard choice, it can teach us about Him and His Church, and this relationship can guide us in how to act. In reflection and conversation with the person of Christ Himself, we can discern in our hearts how best to take the next step in our decisions.

3. “Give me a sign!”

One of the most challenging demands to make of God: “Give me a sign. Speak to me now.”

The Bible has answers to life’s questions, no doubt. But it cannot be forced. It is not a dictionary or a Google search bar. Knowing the Bible means praying with it, and praying with God’s Word is a patient process. The Church teaches the practice of Lectio Divina, which entails quieting one’s mind and slowly absorbing the Word. In Lectio, we pause to note what the Spirit puts in our heart: a passage or word that jumps off the page. The details we notice can be different every time, for every person…because God writes them for each of us uniquely, and depending on our circumstances, certain aspects of divine revelation speak to us differently. The same passage can teach us a million different lessons over one lifetime.

Therefore, it is problematic to demand an immediate, clear answer from the Bible. It is a gentle guide, because He is a gentle guide. God rarely does anything easily. Rather, He invites us to know Him, step by step, until we walk, then run, confidently beside Him. If it were an easy answer, it would reduce our relationship with Him to nothing more than an exchange, like a slot machine or magic lamp with limited wishes.

Think of that teacher who knew everything. You wanted so badly for them to just tell you the answer. But instead, they painstakingly made you work it out, step at a time, showing your work, until you could finally box-in that well-deserved answer. (At least until you realized it was wrong, erased it, then went back and tried again…also often very true with God). God wants to guide us to His Kingdom. That requires more than guessing or peaking at the end result.

Lord, Teach us to Pray

When we read the Bible, remember we read the Word of God. But know that this Word is not a substitute for discernment, prayer, and relationship–with God and others. The Bible leads us to these aspects of our faith (and more), which are all necessary and beautiful supports in our journey to God.

The answer to life’s questions may not be found in Bible Roulette, but Christ’s heart can be found in those pages. Accounts of His love are waiting to be explored, not as facts or forced responses, but as messages of His very self with which we must grapple. The Bible doesn’t work like a Magic 8 ball (thankfully), but it can form us to know God and ourselves better. And with this knowledge, reliant upon our Church, we can discern the answer to the next step before us.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

About the Author

Faith Noah

I’m a college student at Vanderbilt University studying neuroscience. I’m from the great state of Texas, and my hobbies include rapping along to Twenty One Pilots, jamming out on guitar, and watching NCIS marathons. However, at the end of the day, you’ll find me either engaging in sugar-induced fits of hyperactivity or having a deep stimulating theological discussions. One extreme or the other. Fun fact: my whole name (together) is in the Bible. Hebrews 11:7. No big deal.