Last summer, one of my neighbors walked by saying that she was on the way to meditation class. More recently, my hairdresser told me she hopes to expand her salon to include a meditation room, since so many of her clients are stressed out and having nervous breakdowns. Apparently, meditation is the answer the world has to offer to people overwhelmed with life. And while such a discipline can be very helpful, what we are meditating on will make all the difference in regards to where it will lead us.
In an online article on meditation for beginners, the author noted that meditation has helped him become more peaceful, focused, and better able to understand his own mind. With the focus on feelings, the desired outcome is to establish even breathing and a loving attitude towards one’s thoughts. While this may lead to a temporary state of peace, the Bible tells us the human heart is deceitful and wicked by nature, (Jeremiah 17:9). This means that meditating on how we feel is, at best, only temporarily productive and, at worst, can lead us away from knowing the truth; that our greatest problem is not anxiety and stress, but sin.
God’s Word is clear about the kind of meditation that pleases God. Knowing this, the Psalmist cries out, “Let the Words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer,” and “May my mediation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord” Psalm 19:14, 104:34.
So what kind of meditation is acceptable and pleasing to God? The dictionary’s definition leaves room for many interpretations.
Meditation: to focus one’s thoughts on; to ponder, think on, or muse. To call to mind for the purpose of consideration, reflection, and remembering.
Psalm 1 brings clarity as we read that God blesses the one who delights in His Word and meditates (ponders and reflects) on it day and night. Psalms 19 and 119 further describes the good fruit and reward that comes forth from a person who meditates on (remembers) God’s truths all day long.
“Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” Psalm 119:97-104.
While most women I know understand the more obvious dangers associated with eastern meditation (and its various forms), it seems that fewer women are aware of a more subtle danger that faces the church today: a lack of biblical knowledge and meditation on God’s truths day by day.
- What happens when we allow our minds to dwell on our fears, difficult circumstances, selfish ambitions, or what the world says we need to have and be?
- Where do we usually end up when we give our feelings more weight than God’s Word?
Vulnerable to the lies of Satan, the world, and our own hearts, (at the very least) we forfeit the peace, joy, and freedom that Christ died to give us.
Speaking personally, I can see a number of ways my mind and heart tend to drift when I allow myself to meditate on my circumstances and feelings rather than on who God is and what He has done. The reality is that, apart from an ongoing infusion of God’s Word, we are prone to meditate on things that lead us away from truth. See if you recognize any areas where you are particularly vulnerable.
We are prone to meditate on our own efforts and works and forget the Gospel.
One of the greatest temptations of the church today is to view the Gospel as a means of salvation but then revert to a works mentality in regards to spiritual growth. This error leads us down one of two roads:
Road One: If we are rule followers, we can believe that we’re earning God’s favor by what we do, rather than relying on His finished work and power to live a righteous life. This thinking can promote a spirit of entitlement, a belief that God owes us for our “costly” obedience. With a focus on our works, there is often a marked lack of gratitude to God for all He has done for us in Christ.
Road Two: Sin that has been committed by us or against us can leave us feeling such guilt and shame that we don’t really believe God’s grace can cover the stain on our hearts. Again, with a focus on our works, rather than Christ’s work on our behalf, this person will be prone to despair and hopelessness, never feeling she can be good enough.
Daily meditating on the Gospel helps us avoid either of these errors, reminding us that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to live the perfect life of obedience we cannot live. Having done that, He took the wrath that we deserved for sin through His death on a Cross, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven where He intercedes for us now, that we might live a Spirit empowered life that’s pleasing to Him.
We are prone to meditate on things of this world rather than things above.
This can create all kinds of havoc in our souls. We may feel eaten alive with envy and jealousy over what others have that we want, being consumed with what we don’t have. Unwanted circumstances can suck the joy out of us, leaving in its place self-pity or despair.
Meditating on God’s promises of future grace is the only thing that will set us free from morbid introspection and the dissatisfaction that can lead to hopelessness. Colossians 3:2-4 says;
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.“
We are prone to meditate on the sins of others rather than asking God to reveal and forgive sin hidden in our own heart.
One thing I’ve learned is that it’s far easier to see the sins of others than our own. When our focus is on the many ways people have fallen short of our expectations, we can be blinded to own sin and miss opportunities to display the power of the gospel to them.
As we meditate and place our lives under the light and authority of God’s Word, while allowing the Spirit to convict us of sin; we will become more humble and patient towards those who disappoint us. We will be driven to prayer, dependent on God for living lives that are pleasing in His sight.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive” Colossians 3:12-13.
We are prone to meditate on our own righteousness and failures rather than Christ’s righteousness and provision for sin.
Blinding pride can tempt us to make much of ourselves, deceiving us to believe that we don’t need Christ. But it can also lead us to believe that we have messed up so badly that God could never forgive or truly desire us. Both of these lies prevent us from experiencing the joy of the Gospel; that Jesus Christ left His throne in heaven and humbled Himself by taking on human flesh. Having taking the sins of the world upon Himself on the Cross, in Christ, we are covered with His righteousness, not our own.
Meditate on this! Our merciful God redeems sinners (who trust in Christ) from the pit and crowns us with steadfast love and mercy. (Psalm 103) While we were still God’s enemies He delivered us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, Colossians 1:12-14.
We are prone to meditate on our fear of man rather than God’s power and Presence.
I wasted too many years being anxious and fearful over an endless list of “what ifs” that my mind found to dwell on and worry about. Time spent thinking about my fears, rather than learning about who God is and what He had done for me, was the result of several false beliefs:
- The lie that God’s main concern is for us to be happy (and not suffer).
- The lie that we can control our lives (and the lives of those we love), out of a false perception that we ultimately know what’s best.
- The lie that things and people in this world can bring deep and lasting soul satisfaction.
It was only when I began studying and meditating on the character and purposes of God that these and other lies were exposed and strongholds dismantled. The truth that Christ not only died to pay the penalty for my sin, but also to break its power, became more precious to me than living a stress free life.
Tim Keller says:
“Meditation on Scripture is absolutely critical to a prayer life in which you experience the presence of God.” It’s only when we remember that God is with us and will never leave us, that fear is driven out and we experience His love and joy.
Perhaps you recognize the danger of meditating on wrong things but don’t know exactly what it looks like to meditate on Scripture. While it’s not difficult, it does require some discipline. Here are a few suggestions to get you going:
- Set aside a designated time for reading God’s Word each day, reminding yourself that Almighty God wants to speak to you through His Word. Begin with prayer, asking His Spirit to teach and awaken you to truth He wants you to know, believe, and live by.
- Choose a book of the Bible you want to slowly work through, a Psalm, or a particular passage you’d like to understand better.
- Read the selected portion once, then go back and read it more reflectively. I often find writing out parts (or all) of the section helps me slow down and ponder what I am reading.
- Ask questions of the text. Who is the author and who is he addressing? Why is he writing? What doctrine is being taught? What does this teach us about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or ourselves? How has Christ and His Gospel provided for my salvation and living a godly life in this present age?
- After you have spent time with the passage you have chosen, if you have questions that inhibit your ability to understand and apply it’s truths, ask another believer or consult a trustworthy commentary.
- Jot down any words or phrases that the Spirit illuminates to you and pray about how to apply it to your life. Write a verse or two on a notecard to meditate on throughout your day.
- Finally, close with worship and prayer, asking God to help you walk in the light of truth He has revealed.
James warns us to be careful that we don’t walk away from reading the Word without seeing truth about God and ourselves. We need to get deeply into God’s Word so that God’s Word can get deeply into us. And day by day we will be become more like Christ. The benefits of meditating on God’s Word are endless. As the Word fills us, our spirits are calmed and quieted and we find rest for our souls. Having acknowledged our feelings, we will find peace as we place them under the truth and authority of God’s Word.
“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” Colossians 3:16.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you,
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