Nothingness is that which sleeping rocks dream of. That, or something close to it, was purported to have been said by Jonathan Edwards a couple hundred years ago. I believe he was right on the money. We can’t imagine absolute nothingness, even for a nanosecond. Our minds are always turned on…always in gear. In other words, we’re always meditating on something. We’re thinking creatures, after all, and therefore, our minds are always turned on – even when we’re sleeping.
Because this is true, a good question to ask yourself is: What do I think about when I’m not being intentional in my thought-life? Where do my thoughts wander when I’m sitting at a traffic light? Or when I’m climbing into bed? Or when I’m taking a walk early in the morning?
Meditation can help us think God’s thoughts after him. Or, as Brother Lawrence put it, meditation can enable us to practice God’s presence all throughout the day. Meditation is a good and biblical concept. It is therefore a shame that many Christians think of it purely in terms of eastern mysticism and its American cousin, the “new age movement.” To be sure, there are numerous wrong ways to practice meditation. But there are godly ways to understand and practice it as well.
One of the first things we must understand about meditation, biblically understood, is that it is the process of filling your mind with God’s Word and it’s perspective on life, not emptying your mind. Donald Whitney points out that the Bible speaks of four areas that believers are called to meditate upon…
The first is on God’s Word. The Psalms are saturated in references to the blessed person delighting in the law, precepts, decrees, word, statutes, ways, and commands of God and meditating on them. Read Psalm 119 and you will immediately get the idea.
The second object of our mediation is God’s creation. Psalm 143:5 declares,
I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.
The third proper focus of meditation is God’s providence. Scripture points out God’s mighty deeds throughout history and directs his children to reflect upon them.
The last area of meditation is God himself. Psalm 63:6 tells us that King David meditated on God himself during the night watches. Whitney sums this up by saying…
“These four, however, could be condensed to only two categories: meditation on the content of Scripture and meditation on the perspective of Scripture. In other words, meditation can focus either on the words of the Bible itself or on another subject from a biblical point of view. I refer to one as ‘meditation on Scripture’ and to the other as ‘mediation on life from a scriptural perspective.’” (Donald Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life, p. 64)
Life is too short for followers of Christ to be asleep at the wheel of our thought-life. There are too many things in the world competing for our mental loyalty. As a former mentor of mine once put it, “the world will define you by default; the word will define you by discipline.” Meditating on God’s word takes effort and intentionality. (The following three links will connect you with good articles to help you learn how to meditate on God’s word: here, here, and here.)
Don’t be afraid of meditation. It has been in the biblical lexicon for a few thousand years. It can be a wonderful means of grace to draw us closer to our Lord…to help us know him more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly.