The Book That Understands Me

Wendy SpeakeBy Wendy Speake9 Minutes

Excerpt taken from THE 40-DAY FEAST – Taste and See the Goodness of God’s Word by Wendy Speake.

Day 9
The Book that Understands Me

BORN IN DAMPIERRE, FRANCE , on December 17, 1894, Emile Cailliet was raised in a home where the Bible was not read. His education focused on the natural world with no mention of the One who made it. As a matter of fact, young Cailliet never even saw a Bible until he was twenty-three years old.

When Cailliet went off to war, a war started in his own heart, a battle to know and be known in a way he never had before. He later wrote, “During long night watches in the foxholes [in WWI] I had in a strange way been longing — I must say it, however queer it may sound — for a book that would understand me. But I knew of no such book.” Though he was well-read, he had never read anything that helped him understand life or feel understood in his life. And so, when he was later wounded in the war and released from the army, he made the plan to compile such a book — a book that would understand him thoroughly.

As he read from the great authors of literature and philosophy, Emile Cailliet jotted down quotes in a leather-bound journal. He copied whole passages that attempted to ask the same questions he himself had. Once his book of quotes was completed, he sat down beneath a tree to read it through. Unfortunately Emile experienced even deeper despair for he still lacked what he longed for. He didn’t understand and certainly did not feel understood by this book, so he tucked it own deep in his pocket.

At that very moment, Emile’s wife came to him with a gift. Knowing nothing of her husband’s quest or the book he had compiled, she placed a Bible in his hands and shared a story that surprised them both. Earlier that day, she had been out for a walk in their small village. When she came upon a little Huguenot chapel, she found herself walking in and asking for a Bible. She was shocked by the request that came from her mouth, knowing that her husband looked down on the Christian faith. But when Emile reached for it, he displayed no arrogance, only eagerness. He later wrote:

I opened it and “chanced” upon the Beatitudes [Matthew 5]! I read, and read … I could not find words to express my awe and wonder. And suddenly the realization dawned upon me: This was the Book that would understand me! I needed it so much, yet, unaware, I had attempted to write my own — in vain. I continued to read deeply into the night, mostly from the gospels. And lo and behold, as I looked through them, the One of whom they spoke, the One who spoke and acted in them, became alive to me…

The providential circumstances amid which the Book had found me now made it clear that while it seemed absurd to speak of a book understanding a man, this could be said of the Bible because its pages were animated by the Presence of the Living God and the Power of His mighty acts. To this God I prayed that night, and the God who answered was the same God of whom it was spoken in the Book.

Many people never read the Bible because they were not raised in a Bible-reading home. And yet, innately, deep in the fiber of their being, they long to know and be known by its Author. Today I want to suggest something radical: The Bible is not something we seek to understand, but a book we open because it understands us. It knows our history and our humanity, our striving and our suffering, our joys and jubilation, our DNA, depression, doubts, and dreams. The living and active Word understands and applies to our flesh and our family, it speaks into our sin-struggles and soul-sadness, and it shines its light on our past and bears testimony to a bright future ahead.

The Bible is the only book that understands you so intimately that your whole life will begin to make sense through its lens. Before you ever crack the cover and read one word, the One who is the Word is reading you. He knows you and understands you, for He made you.

God tells us that we are to love Him because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). Likewise, we begin to understand Him because we’re so intimately understood. If you have struggled to comprehend the Bible, let the fact that God knows you propel you into a life of knowing Him. He knows your hopes and dreams as well as your abilities and inabilities. He never takes His eyes off you. Even when you feel lost and alone in the darkest night, in the trenches of your own soul’s war, even then He is with you, for the darkness is as light to Him (Ps. 139:12). Such knowledge is too wonderful for us to comprehend.

Oh, to be loved like that. Oh, to be known. Oh, to be understood. Therefore, because He loves you, love Him back. Because He knows you, know Him. Because He understands you, understand Him. God reads you like an open book, so open up His book and read Him back!

Lord, Your love for me is more than I can comprehend. Your knowledge of me is too wonderful! Help me to remember that the next time I am tempted to stop reading my Bible because I don’t understand it. Because You know me so intimately, I want to know You back. Reveal Yourself to me. I ask humbly and expectantly, in Jesus’s name, Amen.


Psalm 139


Even if the Bible sometimes confuses you, quietly consider that God isn’t confused one bit about who you are or what you need today. How might you respond to this idea that He intimately understands you and loves you? Might I suggest you invite Him to help you understand Him back? The more time you spend in His presence and in His Word, the easier such knowing and being known will become.

Order your copy of THE 40 DAY FEAST: Taste and See the Goodness of God’s Word by Wendy Speake, published by Baker Publishing Group ( ©2023. Used by permission.