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Podcast: How I Study the Bible (Lauren Chandler)

This article is part of the The Crossway Podcast series.


Savoring Scripture in All Seasons of Life

In this episode, Lauren Chandler discusses her habits of reading and studying the Bible. She reflects on what influences how she engages with Scripture, explains the way the Bible impacts her work as a songwriter, and shares how God used his word to strengthen her faith when she first learned of her husband being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

TheESV Womens Study Biblefeatures study and devotional contentalong with elegant artwork from artist Dana Tanamachi to help women in all seasons of life pursue a transformational understanding of Scripture.

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Topics Addressed in This Interview

Matt Tully
Lauren, thank you so much for joining me on The Crossway Podcast today.

Lauren Chandler
Thanks, Matt. I’m really excited to be with you guys today.

Matt Tully
On the bio on your website you write something that I found kind of interesting, maybe a little bit funny. You write, I love asking questions, and I loathe talking about myself. So I just want to apologize up front: I resonate with that, which is why this is so fun for me but maybe less so for you.

Lauren Chandler
Oh yeah. I like to be the one asking questions. I like to digI’m a little bit of a researcher. But sometimes what I’m thinking or feeling isn’t always top of mind, and so I feel like I can’t always express fully in the moment what I want to say. So usually, if Matt and I are doing Q and A’s together, I’m always like, I don’t care what the question is, will you answer first so that it gives me a minute to think about what I’m going to say?

Matt Tully
Yeah absolutely.

Lauren Chandler
So this is good for me!

Matt Tully
It might be a bit clich to start with this, but I actually think it’s a really interesting question, and it’s also very simple: What is your favorite Bible verse and why?

Lauren Chandler
There are several, but I think one that I always come back to no matter what is 2 Corinthians 12:9My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weaknessbecause I tend to want to do things in my own strength. I want to achieve things, and I often fail. Or maybe things that I’m striving for or dreaming about, I don’t get in that moment. So the Lord’s grace is sufficient not just to cover my failures but also sufficient when I’m disappointed. His grace is enough for me. I think he’s used a lot of my weaknessesprobably more than my strengthsin showing me his kindness, his goodness and then also sharing my story with other people. I think he uses more of my weakness in that then he has my strength. So that’s been a verse that I come back to you over and over again.

Matt Tully
Sometimes I feel like verses that really resonate with me change depending on the season of life. Do you find that to be the case for you?

Lauren Chandler
When Matt was going through cancer and we were going through that trial, Isaiah 26:3You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.I just totally held on to that verse. There’s also another one in Isaiah 33:5-6he will be the stability of your times. So there are different verses for whatever I was going through that I just meditated on. Scripture memory is so good and I love it, but usually I retain the ones that I have used and had to cling to. So there have been different seasons where there have been other Bible verses that by God’s Spirit and his grace he’s gotten me through hard times just thinking on his truth.

Matt Tully
You mentioned your husband’s cancer, and maybe for those who aren’t as familiar with that storyI think it was maybe a little over ten years ago now that he was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, right?

Lauren Chandler
Yeah, he was. It’ll be eleven years this Thanksgiving that he was diagnosed.

Matt Tully
Do you remember turning to Scripture in the wake of first hearing that news? What was that like? How quickly were you finding yourself like, I need to turn to God’s word in the midst of this?

Lauren Chandler
What’s interesting is before he even went through cancer and before he was diagnosed and he had the seizure, I was just spending time in the word one morningI think my kids were still asleep or they were having a nap or quiet time or something like that. And no Bible teacher probably endorses this, but I just let my Bible fall open to something. I was like, Lord, I just need a word from you, and I trust that it will open to the right page. It opened up to Job 1, which was a little unsettling because I was like, Oh! What’s about to happen? In that moment I thought it was for a separate situation, and then I think later that week is when Matt had the seizure. I thought back to Job 1 and what I’d read there about how Satan the accuser could not harm or touch Job except for what the Lord allowed. The enemy is just a pawn in God’s hand and God always has the upper hand. It’s not an even game, he always has more power. And so I think I needed to know that going into that season. I’ll be real honest: Yes, I did search the Scriptures, but I was really grateful for what I was reading at the timeMorning and Evening by Spurgeon. Just having other people’s meditation on God’s truth was helpful. I love that he had a chunk of Scripture, and then he would just have a devotional on it. I think for that season I needed both. I needed someone who loved God, loved his word, but could also kind of break it down for me for a minute because I was just trying to make it from day to day. That was good for me, I needed that. So what that would do is it would whet my appetite for more of God’s word too.

Matt Tully
In addition to writing a couple of Bible studies nowyou’ve also written or contributed to a few booksyou’re also a songwriter and a recording artist. I think maybe one of the songs that you’re best known for is Though You Slay Me. It’s just a really amazing song that I think you co-wrote with a few other people including Shane Barnard of Shane & Shane and others. For me, as I think about that song, one of the most powerful things about the song is the way that it draws on the very words of Scripture from the book of JobJob 13:15 which reads, Though he slay me, I will hope in him. And so I wonder, what does that song mean to you as you think about the history behind it and the process of writing it and how it connects in with Scripture?

Lauren Chandler
I had some songs that I wanted to finish writing and record, and so I had the help of Beth and Shane Barnard in particular. They had a studio, and so we had almost all the songs and there was one song Shane B. played for me that he started with another friend, but it didn’t have a second verse. He played it for me and I was like, I want to sing that song, and I want to help write the second verse! This was 2012, so Matt had gone through about eighteen months of chemo and a little bit of radiation during that time. So this was fresh out of that season. I wasn’t sure how long Matt would live, because that was the thing about primary brain cancer is that the doctors would say, You’re never in remission. It will eventually kill you. We believe God healed him. We prayed, Lord, we believe you heal. We believe you can still heal. And we believe you healed Matt. I think you used medicine for sure, but the fact that you have kept that tumor at bay, we believe that’s your hand keeping that back. So having gone through that and still dealing with the unknowns at that time of how long would Matt live with thiswould it be two to three years, or would it be ten years? And now almost eleven years later, he’s still here. So that song resonated with me, and of course Job was kind of my buddy already because there are definitely times in your life that it feels like a slaying. It feels like God is just decimating you. But it’s very much like a skilled surgeon’s scalpelthe cutting away of what will not last. I think about different stories of the people of the Bible where God leads them through wildernesses and he leads them through hard times. I think about Joseph where what he’s doing is he’s preparing him for the next season. And so what might feel like a slaying is actually God preparing us for what’s next. He’s disciplining us as his beloved children, and so we can trust the hands that hold the scalpel, we can trust the heart of the Father that anything that would come to us he can use for good. And we need to get to that point where you can say, I’m still going to worship you, I’m still going to love you, I’m still going to praise you because you will not abandon me. I know that one day when this is all over I might not understand all of it on this side, but on the other I’ll get to see you and it’ll be worth it to me. So that was kind of the verse two of the song that I got to write was about longing for that day

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I’ll see the Lord.

And that is another Job prayer. I didn’t set out thinking, What am I going to write that’s from Job or a Psalm? This is kind of how songwriting is for me especially. I don’t usually do well just trying to take a Psalm and write a song to it. Some people are greatShane & Shane are phenomenal at that. Robbie Seay is great at that, but what happens to me is I’ve inputted all this Scripture, I’ve meditated on it, I’ve inputted life experiences and just honest prayers before the Lord, listening for him to answer me some way somehow, and then what comes out is a song out of that. So it’s almost like I’ve got all the ingredients for a recipe, and I let it kind of bake in me for a little bit, and then a song will come out.

Matt Tully
Taking a little bit of a step back, what does your Bible study routine look like these days? You mentioned a class for young pastor’s wives with lots of young kids in different seasons in lifewhat is your current season look like?

Lauren Chandler
My current season is I’m trying to work through reading the Bible chronologically, which I’ve never done before. Honestly, I’ve never read the Bible from cover to cover. I’ve read all the parts, but I’ve never started and finished. I’ve started quite a few times! So right now I’m just trying to go through the reading. I’ve got the Blue Letter Bible reading plan for chronological reading. I will not tell you what day I’m on and what day I started!

Matt Tully
How do you think about missing days, does that stress you out?

Lauren Chandler
No.

Matt Tully
Is it like, You know what, just kind of keep plodding. It’s okay?

Lauren Chandler
I’m always like, Keep plodding. I’ve written two Bible studiesone on Psalm 107 and then one on Numbersand I always make sure that the ladies know if you miss a day, it’s okay. Come back to it later, and maybe you needed that day at that time. Maybe if you had done it at the right time, it would have been the wrong time. There’s grace there. What matters more to the Lord than knowing and studying God’s word is it becoming a part of us and us delighting and meditating on it. I think a lot of times we can read his word and yes, will it change us just by reading it? Yes. And studying it? Yes. But if we just meditate on one Psalm for a whole week and we don’t get past that for maybe a month and we let it read us and really take it into us, I think that does more long-term change in our hearts and has more of a long-term effect than just kind of a little bit just to get through to the reading plan.

Matt Tully
What do you mean by let it read us?

Lauren Chandler
I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading it I’m like, Oh man, that’s totally me. Or, I’ve totally been that person. I hear often, Be careful about reading yourself into the Bible. Yes. First and foremost it is a story about God. It is a story about his people. But we are his people too, and he does have something to say to us, I believe, in every part of the Bible. And so I think we’re really selling ourselves short if we just read it academically and not personally. So I think it reads us in that it reveals things about us and about human nature that we might not have seen before or it’s easier to see outside of us than inside of us. So when we see it on the outside we’re like, Oh, that hits a little close to home, and I’ve never seen it that way. So that’s what I mean by it read us.

Matt Tully
Do you journal alongside your Bible reading, or do you take notes? How do you typically approach a passage?

Lauren Chandler
I do a little bit of both. I try to journal and take notes, and sometimes it’s just that I underline some stuff and I come back to it later. I don’t journal everyday. I probably should. I would love to, and I have high hopes for that; but then someone comes in needing something. Matt likes to wake up first and so he’s got all this quiet time before I leave

Matt Tully
Like he has to be first?

Lauren Chandler
Oh yeah. He wants like forty-five minutes of just quiet, alone time with no one else up. So what happens is I’ll get up and then he’s halfway done with his study; and then I’ll start reading, and then when he’s halfway done he starts talking to me, and then kids start coming in. So I don’t always get as far as I want to. But I come back to it. A lot of times I’ll just journal. I’ll write something that stood out to me. If there are names or places or ideas that sound familiar to me I will go back and I’ll look at the little footnotes in my Bible and cross reference and just kind of write down thoughts that I have about it. Then a lot of times I’ll write it into a prayer like, Lord, help me see this in my life. Help me be obedient to this. Do this in me. Or if it makes me think of someone to pray for, I’ll do that too. I don’t have a time that looks exactly the same every morning or evening or whenever it happens, but I do just try to make some kind of time for his word.

Matt Tully
I’m sure for most parents listening right now that’s an encouraging thing to hear, they resonate with that. You mentioned you wake up and your kids come in and then kind of all bets are off at that point so often. What word of encouragement would you offer to parents who are in that kind of a situation where it just feels like it’s difficult to find dedicated time, dedicated space, and even just mental space to really focus? Or maybe for someone else it’s not kidsit’s the nature of their job or their schedule or their classeswhat would you say to that person?

Lauren Chandler
So as you’re talking I’m getting a weird picture in my mind of someone grabbing food to eat. When you’re a parent and kids are little, I know I would just end up eating the leftover mac and cheese and

Matt Tully
Yup. I had that today.

Lauren Chandler
and so get it where you can. There will be a day that you get to sit down and have a whole feast. Maybe right now it’s that you read a children’s book that’s about one of the Bible stories. Or my friend Jenny Allen is just coming out with this thing called Theolaby where it’s teaching theology to kids, and maybe you just read that to your kid and that is your time where you get it where you can. Just like you know you won’t always be eating leftover mac and cheese off your kid’s plates, you’ll get to sit down and have a nice dinner and, if you are so free, have a glass of something adult. You know that’s coming, but know that there might be seasons where you’re just having to get it where you can. I feel like the Psalms are always so easy to come to, especially when you don’t have a lot of time, and because it is so rich in emotion and in theology. So that’s a no-brainer for me when I have no time, but I can get a little Psalm in. The whole point of it is to know God. That’s the point of why we know our Bible is to know him, and to also be able to discern what’s the truth and what is a lie, and to wield the sword of the spirit against the lies of the enemy and the lies of the world; but the heart of it is that we would know him. Not that God has this heavenly gold star chart where he says, Well, I don’t knowyou didn’t do so good today! But the time will come, and you’ll get to sit down at a feast; but just get it where you can for now.

Matt Tully
I think sometimes, too, it seems like another source of shame or disappointment in ourselves is when we compare ourselves to other Christians. You’re a pastor’s wife, you’re an author, you write beautiful musicI wonder if it’s easy for people to kind of say, Well, of course she’s got it all together. She’s going to be so much farther ahead of me on that kind of stuff, and I’m pretty discouraged by thatwhat would you say to the person who thinks that?

Lauren Chandler
I am not varsity by any means. You could ask my kids thatthey see the real me, they see Matt. I hope, even in the Bible studies and the songs I write, you can see the real me, that more than anything I do I’m always having to remind myself of whose I am and who God is and that he is a good, loving Father and I am his daughter and no one can change that. And so no matter what I do outside of that-yes, it’s stewarding what he’s given mebut it doesn’t make me more varsity or not. You’re either his child, or you’re not his child. And hopefully, if you’re listening and not yet his child, I pray that you become his child. But I would say that you don’t ever nail it on this side. I can look to people and think, But I’m not doing that! I mean, look how many books she’s got out. Or, Look how she is loving her neighbor. Look how she pours outshe’s volunteering here, she’s doing that . . . . It’s so easy for me to look to either side and see what other people are doing, but to have the Lord say, Okay, that’s great that they’re doing that, but what have I given you to do? What have I called you to? Kind of like when Jesus was talking to Peter and Peter’s like, But what about Johnwhat about him? And Jesus was like, You follow me. Feed my sheep. Look at me. What does that mean to you? You will not find contentment or satisfaction by looking at anyone else but Jesus. I think that’s been a struggle of mine my entire lifelooking at other people and trying to put on their skin, if that makes sense. Like, Okay, that’s working for her and that’s working for him, let me try that! And the more that I would do that, the more dissatisfied I would be, the more paralyzed I felt; but when I got to the point where I could say, God, your grace is sufficient for me. Your power is made perfect in weakness, and I can’t do all the things that they do because I’m not them. And the Lord reminds me that I’m above all his beloved child and that he has something in mind for my life, and it doesn’t have to look like another person’s. To look to him to be faithful with what he’s given me, that’s where I’ve found the most peace and the most satisfaction. When I do start looking the other wayto my right or to my leftthere’s always strife, and that’s when I have to stop and say, But what do you say about me, and what do you have for me, God? And that’s where his word comes in wonderfully to remind me there’s so many different people’s stories in the Bible. Yes, it’s all one storyit’s all his storybut there’s not two people in that book that are alike. So remember that too. We all have a part to play. We all have something to contributebig in the world’s eyes or small in the world’s eyesbut all equally measured by God. He’s the one that matters. I don’t know if that answers your question very clearly.

Matt Tully
I think it absolutely does. You mentioned already that you and your husband have three kids, and they’re all teenagersis that right?

Lauren Chandler
Almost. We have an 11-year-old. So they’re 11, 14, and 17.

Matt Tully
Honorary teenagershe’s so close.

Lauren Chandler
Yeah. She acts like one sometimes. She wants to be one.

Matt Tully
When it comes to God’s word, what do you hope that your kids see in you? I don’t necessarily mean learn from yousomething that you say to them. I mean what do you hope they see in your own life and your own heart as they get older and leave the house and start families of their own, Lord willing?

Lauren Chandler
I think I want them to see, more than anything, how much their mom loves Jesus and how much she is convinced of his love for her. There was a moment with one of our kidsit was just a hard seasonwhen we got a call from that kid and they had gone to something at churchvery begrudginglyand we got a call in the middle of the night and we hear this little voice all broken just saying, I get why you love him. I get why you love him. I think that’s what I want my kids to know is that my mom loves Jesus, is so loved by the Father, is just so convinced of his love for her, delights in his love for her, feels delighted in, and feels known. I want them to see that in me and then want that for themselves. When I saw Matt for the first timehe was actually preachingI remember more than I thought he was handsome or well-spoken, I was more moved by how much he loved Jesus and was so convinced of God’s love for him. That marked me more than anything, and I think that’s what I want my kids to see in me.

Matt Tully
Lauren, thank you so much for taking the time today to talk to us about how you approach God’s word, what it means to you, and how it affects your life.

Lauren Chandler
Thanks for having me, Matt.


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