Do You Meditate or Just Daydream?
AS THE torrid heat of the Negeb gave way to the cool of the evening, a young man named Isaac left his tent and went for a stroll “in order to meditate in the field.” What his thoughts were, the Bible does not say. We can be sure, however, that this was no idle, romantic reverie. Isaac’s upcoming marriage meant new and weighty responsibilities. A child produced through this union would continue the lineage leading to the promised “Seed,” or Messiah. It is no wonder, then, that Isaac needed time to sort things out in his mind. But when his meditation was interrupted by the sight of an approaching caravan, how his heart must have beaten! For seated upon one of the camels was his bride, Rebekah.—Genesis 24:62-67; 22:17, 18.
This account highlights something that should be a part of every Christian’s routine: MEDITATION. True, the word “meditate” appears but a few times in the Bible. Nevertheless, God’s Word frequently stresses the need for such deep thought. “Ponder [“Meditate,” Authorized Version] over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons,” advised the apostle Paul.—1 Timothy 4:15.
Keeping the Mind “On Track”
Though obviously beneficial, meditation is difficult for most of us. Most would probably prefer simply to daydream—let the mind just drift along effortlessly and without purpose, like a boat floating downstream. If done in rest periods, this can be very relaxing. But if done at Christian meetings, during study periods or work time, daydreaming can be like idling a car engine—wasting fuel and getting nowhere.
How can you keep your mind “on track”? Before Christian meetings, you may find it helpful to eat lightly, as a heavy meal can have a sleep-inducing effect. Taking notes is another aid to better concentration. But mental discipline is perhaps the most important factor. We can think much faster than a speaker can utter words. So instead of allowing words to go in one ear and out the other, try to anticipate what the speaker will say next. Follow his line of reasoning. Note the Scriptural arguments he uses. Later, ponder the points made, to help them stay in your spiritual storehouse ready for future use. For as Jesus said: “A good man brings forth good out of the good treasure of his heart . . . out of the heart’s abundance his mouth speaks.”—Luke 6:45.
Perhaps your mind tends to “slip out of gear” when you read. If so, try shorter, but more frequent spells of study. Of course, appreciation for what you are learning is vital. And if a lack of it is causing your mind to wander, consider what our heavenly Father says at Proverbs 4:20-22: “My son, to my words do pay attention. To my sayings incline your ear. . . . Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those finding them and health to all their flesh.”
Paying close attention to Jehovah’s sayings is a life-or-death matter. And these sayings must sink deep into our heart if they are to motivate us to do what is right. This is where meditation comes in. Bible reading without meditation is like a shower that passes quickly and soon dries up—momentarily refreshing but with no lasting benefits. Meditation is like a steady rain that sinks in and stimulates growth. How, then, can one learn to meditate?
Learn to Meditate
Have you ever examined a tiny wild flower and marveled at its symmetry and beauty, or looked up at the stars and felt thrilled with their glory? Well, these are simple forms of meditation that can enhance your reverence for our Creator, Jehovah, and make you glow with gratitude and appreciation. (Psalm 8:3, 4) Why not let your mind settle on such wholesome thoughts when opportunity presents itself?
Meditation, however, can be done at a much deeper level. Have you ever watched a cow chewing the cud, or ruminating, as it is called? To “ruminate” also means to meditate. But a cow cannot ruminate on an empty stomach, any more than we can meditate with empty minds. Hence, a study of the Bible has value, for the more you study, the more spiritual thoughts you have to “chew.” And even if you rate yourself as a poor student, you will find that as you apply yourself, study will gradually become easier, more pleasurable. New thoughts will connect with old thoughts. Seemingly disconnected thoughts will begin to organize themselves into coherent patterns. And as Solomon said, “to the understanding one knowledge is an easy thing.” (Proverbs 14:6) But it takes time. And if studying God’s Word is not presently one of your main enjoyments in life, why not ponder, or meditate, on this right now?
Ask yourself, ‘Why is my spiritual appetite so weak? Am I perhaps allowing myself to consume too much mental junk food, such as romantic novels and TV and radio soap operas? Am I unnecessarily exposing myself to associations that are spiritually debilitating?’ Deep thinking on this matter now may help you make needed adjustments.
Early Christians did not have the easy access to copies of the Bible that we today enjoy. Yet they could competently handle God’s Word. (Note, for example, Stephen’s Biblical expertise at Acts 7:2-53.) No doubt, as they heard the Holy Scriptures read at meetings, and from time to time read it themselves, they endeavored to memorize as much as possible of what they learned.
Have you, similarly, endeavored to commit at least key scriptures to memory? It really is not too difficult if you set your mind to it. As a simple test, see if you can recall the following familiar Bible texts: Matthew 24:14, Genesis 3:15, Revelation 21:3, 4, Psalm 83:18, John 17:3 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
“During the Night Watches”
The psalmist points to at least one advantage of learning the Scriptures: “When I have remembered you upon my lounge, during the night watches I meditate on you.” (Psalm 63:6) Oftentimes, when sleep is elusive, one tends to lapse into reverie. How much better, however, for one to pray as did David: “Let the sayings of my mouth and the meditation of my heart become pleasurable before you, O Jehovah.” (Psalm 19:14) One who knows Bible texts by heart can more easily act in harmony with this prayer.
Then, too, a person may wake up in the middle of the night feeling very depressed. But to repeat slowly and appreciatively some inspiring words from the Bible, such as those found at Exodus 34:6, can have an immediate, refreshing and beneficial effect: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” Or if deep anxiety keeps you awake, try recalling these comforting words: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
Help in Solving Problems
Today problems abound. Parents, for example, are constantly faced with tough decisions. A child’s education, his health, his clothes, his progress in the Christian congregation and his choice of friends are but some of the areas of concern. How does one wade through a seeming myriad of possibilities and pick out the best course of action? Snap decisions are often regretted later. So the Bible says, “The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer.”—Proverbs 15:28.
One must have facts to meditate on, and the publications of the Watchtower Society are a rich source of such. Considering the counsel of other experienced Christian parents and/or congregation elders can also help you put things in their proper perspective.
Meditation can help you through tests of your faith. For example, occasionally there are changes in our understanding of certain Bible passages or prophecies. “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established,” says the Bible at Proverbs 4:18. Some, however, are disturbed by these refinements. But the “righteous ones” take the time to meditate and absorb these new Biblical truths, instead of hastily concluding that the ‘faithful slave’ has erred.
An Aid to Endurance
“The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison that you may be fully put to the test,” warned Jesus. (Revelation 2:10) To be suddenly put in a filthy jail with no Bible and no fellow Christians to turn to can indeed be traumatic.
Several years ago a group of young Witnesses in South Africa suffered many months of solitary confinement due to their stand on Christian neutrality. Fortunately, they were allowed to have a Bible, and one of them admitted: “Without the Bible I would have been ‘sunk’ as I had committed very little to memory.” Nevertheless, another who applied himself to reading the Bible—though failing to meditate on it—soon found himself getting weak spiritually. He therefore began to ponder more on what he was reading. In time he found how exhilarating it can be to commence with prayer to Jehovah, then read Bible verses and muse: ‘How can I apply this, or avoid this danger? How does this help me to know Jehovah? What other scriptures relate to this?’ and so on. The result? Despite the misery of his situation, he says, “It was the most faith-strengthening experience of my life!”
“All Day Long”
Whether facing trials of faith or just the everyday wear and tear of life, the attitude of faithful servants of Jehovah should be like that of the psalmist: “How I do love your [God’s] law! All day long it is my concern.” (Psalm 119:97) Circumstances may prohibit actually meditating “all day long.” Nevertheless, following God’s Word should be our constant concern.
Take a lesson from Jesus Christ, who sought out opportunities to pray and meditate. (Matthew 14:13) If he felt such a need and made the time for it, should we not do so today?
[Picture on page 27]
Rather than daydreaming, how much better it is to discipline our minds to pay close attention!