“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”–Joshua 1:8
Meditation has long been considered a part of the Christian life, but how? We’re now dealing with a culture that encourages meditation—but for very different reasons. In fact, meditation can be downright sinful if not rooted in the right things or pursuing what is true. Let’s look at what Christian meditation is (and what it isn’t).
Christian meditation pursues the living God.
Many people in our culture—motivated by Eastern or New Age theologies—meditate in order to escape the brokenness of this world and of our hearts. Christian meditation is not escapism. You do not meditate in order to flee your troubles but to pursue the God who reigns over your troubles.
That is why Christianity tends to combine both the Bible and prayer within meditation. As you meditate on the word of God, you can wrestle with and better comprehend the very truths of God. You then carry these points of conviction and comfort up to the Lord, where you know your prayers are heard. For the Christian, meditation is never a solitary act. It’s where the Holy Spirit exposes the depths of your heart, Jesus Christ intercedes on your behalf, and the Father hears your prayers with a happy and helpful heart.
Christian meditation takes sin seriously.
Every counselor—Christian or not—knows that it’s a mistake to pretend that brokenness doesn’t exist. Yet many pursue a form of meditation that pretends as if suffering is an illusion. You must simply banish bad thoughts about bad things from your mind and become one with some form of transcendent spirit or the universe.
This sounds great in theory, but it leaves the brokenness of your life untouched. Even worse, if the world isn’t broken—if it isn’t the problem—then your tears are the problem. You are the problem. Why do you grieve over things that aren’t real? Why don’t you just escape through meditation and pretend that those things are not grievous?
When Christians meditate, they do not ignore the brokenness of the world, let alone of their own hearts. Sin is real and its effects are real. Suffering is not an illusion but is part of the misery that infects all of mankind since the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. Rather, you must bring your sin to the Lord in your meditation. You can echo the words of the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 129:23-24).
Christian meditation is a tactical retreat, not a permanent isolation.
Jesus often retreated from the crowds in order to pray. But he didn’t stay up on the mountain. He came back down. Christians don’t escape the world with their meditation, but they retreat for a time in order to better engage the world with a heart that is more enflamed for God.
Some Christians have pursued withdrawal from the world. One such group were the monastics, who preferred a solitary life in the monastery to the evils of the world. Yet, Luther reportedly quipped, “Little do they know that they take the devil with them.” Sin isn’t simply an external reality to escape, but an internal reality that we must daily put to death. Meditating upon God’s word—with both our sin and our Savior from sin clearly in view—enables us to better engage our sin and put it to death.
The bottom line: Christian, feel free to meditate upon the Lord as he has revealed himself through his word. Wrestle with your heart before a God who knows your heart better than you do. Rejoice that Christ wrestled with his heart in the Garden of Gethsemane in order to accomplish the work that lends you complete safety in the salvation he has wrought. Do this, not to escape the world, but to pursue the Lord. And as you comprehend his company in your meditation, you will be more eager to both engage your own heart and the world around you to the glory of God.