thoughts on meditation.

lately the Lord has really been blessing my time in the Word. i’m doing a book study in hebrews (yeah… the twelve week one that i started about twenty weeks ago) and kind of alternating between that and a study in rooting ourselves in Christ, and what that involves. both have been really great. last week’s roots topic was about why the bible is so essential in our walk with God. one part focused on five ways to be in the word: reading, hearing, memorizing, studying, and meditating. the first three were ones that i grew up with; i feel like i’ve always had a good handle on why it’s important to read the bible, memorize scripture, and hear it preached. the last two years have been really formative in my understanding of the benefit of actually studying God’s word, and how it develops a much deeper gratitude for God’s sovereignty and perfect will (nothing quite like seeing the progressive story of the entire bible––in the context of God pursuing His people for the sake of His kingdom––to give you an appreciation for the big picture!).

but that last one has never been something that comes naturally. meditation has typically been a rather ambiguous idea for me… do i read a passage and just sit there silently, thinking about it? if i think about something else, does it not count as meditation any more? if i don’t have some kind of epiphany about my life, have i really meditated?

my instinct was to kind of brush it aside. with my checklist mentality that likes to take over everything, i didn’t want my time with God to become a legalistic series of actions i had to complete before it “counted” (which is an all-too-familiar place i’ve found myself in before). but especially with the roots study, and good conversation that the sovereign God has put in my path, i found it becoming something i was more and more preoccupied with.

the problem was, i still didn’t know what the heck it looked like.

then, today at new life, He answered my prayer. pastor bob has been going through a series about the bible and its impact on the christian life, and today was the final message in that series. it was the “so what” of everything we’d been learning over the past few weeks, and pastor bob decided to preach on what it looks like to meditate on the Word.

so, thanks God.

he preached on psalm 119:97-104. here’s what it says:

97 Oh, how I love your law!
    I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
    and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
    for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
    for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path
    so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws,
    for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
    therefore I hate every wrong path.

the Holy Spirit really used pastor bob to speak truth to us today. i just want to touch on a few of the points he made that really stuck out, the ones that made a lot of sense to me.

pastor bob made a great analogy––meditating on God’s word is like soaking a teabag in a steaming mug of water. if you dip it in and then take it out, the water is still… water. there’s been no change. there will be no flavor. but the longer you allow the teabag to steep, the darker the liquid becomes, and the richer and stronger the flavor gets.

the same thing happens in us when we meditate on God’s word. david mentions three main results of meditation in his psalm:

  1. we gain understanding and wisdom (v. 98-100); deeper than just more intelligence or being smarter than other people, this is an understanding of God and living a life that pleases Him (according to these verses, this wisdom also comes from obeying God’s word and keeping His commandments with us all the time)
  2. we are able to live righteously (v. 101-102) by avoiding evil and not departing from God’s law (and here he acknowledges that this doesn’t come from his own ability to know and follow; God is the One who teaches him)
  3. we have new affections (v. 97, 103-104); meditating on God’s word has a direct impact on our desire to be in it (the work of the Holy Spirit––we are not capable of this desire without God placing it in us… and ultimately this applies to all three results)

so, yeah, okay… but what does it mean to meditate? no yoga, right? pastor bob made the point that we all meditate all the time. at first i completely disagreed (you don’t know me!) but as he went on, it made a whole lot of sense.

when we worry, we’re meditating. we’re focusing our energy, our thoughts, and our actions on whatever it is that’s bothering us. we don’t even have to ask how it applies to our lives; we do that automatically. it consumes us, takes over what we normally would be spending our time on. it defines the rest of our day, week, or longer. when we hold a grudge, we’re meditating. we’re letting our souls steep in the hatred and anger, allowing it to grow and manifest itself in our actions and biting words. our minds focus so that every action is calculated on hurting the other. soon it becomes habit. when i’m writing a blog entry, i’m meditating on it. i’m thinking about all the ins and outs of narrative, trying to put some kind of cohesive form to the ideas and thoughts running around in my mind. sometimes an idea for an entry will stick in the back of my mind for weeks until i have the time to type it all out.

i don’t think it’s bad to meditate on a blog entry (or whatever it might be for you… a favorite sports team, a book you’re reading, a conversation you had with a friend), but i know that i often spend time meditating on things that i have no reason to… things that are stressing me out, things that frustrate me, things that are rooted in pride and arrogance. in fact, it’s not simply that i have no reason to meditate on these things… i’m commanded not to!

“finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable––if anything is excellent or praiseworthy––think on such things.” –philippians 4:8

so, to echo pastor bob, the good news is that if you’re a terrible worrier, you’re a great meditator! the challenge now is just shifting our focus to God’s word, and ultimately the Creator Himself.

connecting this with the tea analogy, it makes a little more sense to me now. i want to be steeping in the Word instead of the things of this world. i want my dry soul to soak in the rains of God’s truth. there should be a change, a reaction to God’s word. we should get something out of it, whether it be life changing or eye-opening. doesn’t it make sense to think that if i am saturated with whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy, it’s going to be reflected in my outlook of those same things?

to be clear, those things all point to God. all of them. there is literally nothing more true, or pure, or excellent, or praiseworthy, than Jesus Christ. and He is ours, as we are His.

so let’s take advantage of that.

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5 thoughts on “thoughts on meditation.

  1. Jessica Hill says:

    As I was reading this entry, I noticed how much you are full of the Spirit. I also noticed that, over our friendship, you’ve become bolder in your love for Him. Part of that, I’m sure, is not being a freshman anymore. But I’m sure that part of it is also growing in Him.

    Thanks for explaining to me what meditating means. Because I’ve struggled with that. And with listening too! how do I just shut off my brain? Close my eyes and be silent? Great, I’m going to fall asleep. But it’s really funny, when you explained it, how active meditating really is.

  2. This is great, Brad. Thank you for sharing your insight! It’s much easier for me to understand what meditation should look like when I compare it to the way I worry, or the way that I can’t stop thinking about a great book/movie/TV series when I’m just immersed in it.

  3. Emily Hough says:

    really like the tea analogy- make sense to me, and a great reminder of how important it is to really let the studying of the word sink in (letting it “steep”) xo

  4. Renee Sieplinga says:

    Brad – do you mind if I share some of these thoughts with my teaching staff for devotions this week? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your pastor’s wisdom!

    • bjhough825 says:

      Renee – sorry I’m just now replying! I hope you felt free to use them! Most all the stuff I post here is wisdom that’s been passed on to me by others, so I’m all for it continuing to bless people! Thanks!

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