“For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” –Hebrews 4:12
I don’t think we fully begin to understand how alive the Word of God actually is, until we take the time to let it grow in our hearts. Each verse holds such depth—like a seed with a potential to grow into a tree when it is placed into the correct growing conditions.
But sometimes familiar verses or stories begin to feel commonplace or simple. We have heard them over and over again; we can quote them; and they comfort us with their predictability. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, it’s just that there is so much more we could gain when we take the time. Our relationship with God can be closer and more powerful when we are intentional about meditating on the Word.
Meditate. This is not a “strike a yoga pose” meditation, or even a practice that requires silence and isolation. I’m sure there are benefits to spending copious amounts of time in literal stillness, but the majority of us do not have a lifestyle that allows for that! So instead, we must take the scripture with us throughout our day. During our tasks. While we interact with others. In the middle of our personal chaos.
Joshua 1:8 says, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
“Day and night” we should be thinking of scripture. Not just during our quiet times with the Lord (if they even happen!); not just during church on Sunday; not just when someone happens to share an encouraging verse with us. Day and night. Mulling it over as often as we can remember to. Seeking wisdom and discernment and meaning behind even the most familiar of verses.
This might sound daunting at first—I have trouble enough remembering the years my kids were born or what state I happen to be living in—how could I possibly remember to constantly keep Scripture at the forefront of my mind?! If I can’t keep the simple things straight, what business do I have trying to discern important things???
But the reality is, there is SO much grace with the process of meditating on the Word. There is no agenda, no quota, and no pressure to perform! Any agenda, quota, or pressure that you feel is man-made not God-given. One teeny tiny baby step (or stumble!) at a time, and eventually you look back and see that you’ve been walking!
Let us encourage one another in the spiritual discipline of meditation. If you aren’t sure how to even begin, here are some ways that help me to remain meditating on a scripture that has been placed on my heart:
- Choose something bite-sized. I wouldn’t recommend trying to meditate on an entire chapter or story at once. Instead, choose 1 verse, or even part of a verse, that you can easily memorize and recall. When learning this discipline—the easier the better!
- Look up the actual verse that you are meditating on—to be certain that you have the correct words. There are some Bible verses that are often misquoted, so we want to make sure that we are meditating on the true scripture and not a pseudo-scripture.
- If you are having trouble remembering to dwell on the verse, find a task that you do on a regular basis and use it as an opportunity to multi-task! Maybe when you wash dishes each night you can also be reciting the verse to yourself. You could even put a sticky note by the sink to remind you! Or maybe it’s whenever you are waiting in a drive-thru, changing a diaper, commuting, or brushing your teeth! If you can piggyback meditation onto an existing habit or task, you will be more likely to establish a habit of meditation.
- Fight worries and distractions with the verse. When you begin to feel anxious about something, or find yourself meditating on something unproductive (“How dare they do that to me!”), bring to mind the verse you have been meditating on. That particular verse may seem totally irrelevant to your current situation, and yet, there is power and life it will bring.
- Don’t move to a new verse too quickly! Take days or weeks on a single verse—asking God to reveal new depths to you. Learn how to richly apply or appreciate that verse in new ways before moving on to the next.
- Be gracious and patient with yourself. You washed the dishes and thought about your grocery list instead of scripture? It’s okay! Disciplines take time and dedication. Don’t give up, just keep trying to be intentional and ask God to bless your efforts.
Okay, so you remember to remember your verse. Awesome. Now what? While there is plenty of value in just reciting it over and over, there are some additional approaches you can take in meditating on it. I’ve found that I gain deeper understanding and appreciation when I do these things:
- Look at specific words and think about what they mean in the context of the verse. You can even look up the definitions to give you better understanding. What does that word add to the scripture? How does the verse change if that word is changed or removed?
- By looking at the individual words, you can also glean understanding about what the scripture doesn’t say. For example, our verse from earlier, Joshua 1:8 says, “to do everything written in it”. The verse doesn’t tell us “to do some things written in it”. The word “everything” is an important concept we need to remember.
- Does anything in your verse remind you of another verse you’ve read before? Many times I use Google to help me figure out a Bible reference when I can only remember partial phrases. Joshua 1:8 reminded me of Psalm 19:14 which says, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Finding consistent themes in scripture helps us to gain deeper knowledge of God’s heart and the lessons He wants to impart to us.
- Try reading different translations to see different word choice and emphasis. What do the differences and similarities tell you about the meaning of the verse?
- Talk about it! Ask God to give you fresh perspective on His living Word. Thank Him for the verse. Also, share the verse with a friend to see what stands out to them. Joshua 1:8 says “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips”, which means we should be talking about it! Scriptural insights are so valuable in our personal walk with God, however, we should share them with others when appropriate! It doesn’t have to be in a preachy way—give God the glory by telling a friend how grateful you are that God has shown you something of value!
When I sat down at my computer today, I had planned to write about a different topic. I intended to type up some notes on a verse I have been meditating on for almost a week. Yet, as I began to type, I was just so excited about how alive the Scriptures are, that the verse at the beginning of this post (Hebrews 4:12) was all I could think about. In meditating on one verse at a time, I get so in awe of how much there is to understand and unpack. One simple verse can have so much depth and power! So instead of sharing my notes today, I wanted to encourage you to begin your own discipline of meditation. Ask God to place a scripture on your heart, and then explore it! You might be surprised at the blessing that follows.