There are an abundance of how-to books out there. Whether for the ‘spiritual’ or the skeptical, the methodology varies little. In fact, pagan methodologies are being touched up to fit ‘Christian’ seminars, with the catch-words, Silence and Solitude, or perhaps Stillness. Everyone wants the benefits. Everyone seems to need relief from busyness and stress. But relatively few voices are promoting the Biblical concept of meditation which entails submitting oneself not to silence so much as to God’s Words.
I was delighted to find this newish book by David Mathis called Habits of Grace, and though I haven’t read it all yet, I’m pleased to offer this sampling here as it pertains to Biblically-based meditation.
We were made to meditate. God designed us with the capacity to pause and ponder. He means for us to not just hear him, not only to read quickly over what he says, but to reflect on what he says and knead it into our hearts.
It is a distinctively human trait to stop and consider, to chew on something with the teeth of our minds and hearts, to roll some reality around in our thoughts and press it deeply into our feelings, to look from different angles and seek to get a better sense of its significance.
The biblical name for this art is meditation, which Donald S. Whitney defines as “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.” It is a marvelous means of God’s grace in the Christian life—perhaps the most misunderstood, and most underrated, of the disciplines in the church today. And it is the high point of receiving God’s word.
Meditation Made Christian
Since we were made to meditate, we shouldn’t be surprised to find that world religions have seized upon the activity, and new schools try to make use of its practical effects, whether to cultivate brain health or lower blood pressure. Christian meditation, however, is fundamentally different from the “meditation” popularly co-opted by various non-Christian systems. It doesn’t entail emptying our minds, but rather filling them with biblical and theological substance—truth outside of ourselves—and then chewing on that content, until we begin to feel some of its magnitude in our hearts.
For the Christian, meditation means having “the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). It is not, like secular meditation, “doing nothing and being tuned in to your own mind at the same time,” but it is feeding our minds on the words of God and digesting them slowly, savoring the texture, enjoying the juices, cherishing the flavor of such rich fare.
Meditation that is truly Christian is guided by the gospel, shaped by the Scriptures, reliant upon the Holy Spirit, and exercised in faith.
How’s your meditation going?
Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines by David Mathis, Crossway, 2016.