Meditation is one of those words with multiple meanings, and some Christians are frightened by the concept because they think that meditating involves emptying their minds completely and allowing outside spiritual forces to fill the vacuum.
(Interestingly, this is a good description of what happens when we sit in front of the TV, chips in hand, but for some reason we keep doing it.)
Emptying one’s mind, however, is not the only option (and indeed, not a valid one for Christians), and meditation upon Scripture involves actively using that mind as we contemplate, muse, ponder, and deliberate over what we are reading:
“His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:2
Consider meditation as an extension of prayer, the fusion of which deepens our relationship with God. With that in mind, here are five thoughts to think about meditation, and making it a part of your life:
Alone with God
1) Find someplace quiet. Thinking requires concentration, and concentration is best accomplished without distraction. Some people find this on a solitary walk; others prefer a door with a lock.
“When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:6. Like most people, you may not have a lot of time in your day, but if getting up at 3:30 a.m. doesn’t appeal to you, then make the most of the time you have:
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7)
If you only have 5 minutes, then use every one of those 300 seconds.
2) Read the Bible on a regular basis. If memorizing verses is an agony to you, don’t worry about it — regular, consistent time with the Bible is enough to familiarize yourself with its content, and even if you don’t make a point of focusing on one verse for a week, truth will come to your mind when you need it, because you’ve tucked it away, somewhere, in that mind.
Look to the Bible as a source of truth, and you will find it:
“When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony!” (Isaiah 8: 19, 20)
3) Throughout the day, muse on what you’ve read, as opposed to worrying, speculating about the future, or conducting fruitless conversations with imaginary people in your head.
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands, and bind them on your foreheads.” (Deuteronomy 11: 17)
While we don’t have to literally slap post-it notes on the backs of our hands and on furniture, when we think about — meditate upon — the stories and histories and relationships and conversations we encounter in the Bible, we are training our mind to focus on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable,” (Philippians 4:8) and thereby decreasing our anxiety level.
Looking for God
4) Speaking of anxiety, it is frequently in times of stress and pain that we turn to God at all. The good thing is that we’re turning to Him; the bad thing is that worry, fear, and stress can act as mental barriers to hearing His teaching, which is one practical reason to meditate upon Christ’s rhetorical question,
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6: 25)
Nobody prefers bad times to good, but if the circumstances are such that you realize things are out of control and only in the hands of God, you’re on the right track. Recognize this as a time to grow through your experience, continue reading, and actively pursue pondering about what you are reading. When you want to worry, force — literally force — your mind to think about something from the Bible. (If the tendency to fret is invasive enough, this might be a good time to decide that you want to memorize a verse, after all.)
Sometimes, what you read will seem applicable to your situation; other times, it won’t. Don’t obsess — just let your mind poke and prod and tease and question Scripture.
5) Clear your mind of worry by being thankful.
Not for the problems — it’s perverse to pray, “Thank you, God, that I lost my job,” or, “I praise you for this cancer diagnosis.”
But in the midst of the crisis, focus on what isn’t going wrong: “Thank you that there’s enough food to eat.”
“Thank you that bad people aren’t breaking down my door at 3 a.m. and taking me away somewhere.”
“Thank you that the toilet isn’t overflowing.”
Mentally going over things to be thankful for stops the anxiety train, clears the brain, and enables us to prayerfully think — which is what meditation is all about.
Meditation isn’t magic, it doesn’t need to be done with a candle, you don’t need to sit a certain way, and you don’t need to say, “Om.”
When you practice it, however — reflecting upon Scripture, ruminating upon the stories and history of the Word, mentally lingering over a phrase or sentence — you subtly train your mind to be stronger, more focused, and directed on the right things — as you no longer “conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12: 2)
Don’t be scared of meditation. Renew your mind with it.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I speak up as an ordinary, individual Christian. I don’t have a multi-million dollar budget, I don’t work through a “Christian” publishing house, and I don’t make movies.
I’m just one, small, tiny David in a world full of Goliaths, trying to point Christians back to the real thing, the real truth, as opposed to what we’re told, taught, and teased is supposed to be Christianity. If you like what you read, please pass me on. And don’t be afraid to start speaking up and out yourself, if you’re not already doing so.
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