Recently, I had a physician recommend meditation to my daughter. It may or may not surprise you that this led to some interesting discussions about what in the world that doctor was talking about. What does she mean by meditate? Is that practice a good one? Is that something Christians do?
This conversation came back to me when I was reading through Joshua. There, we find a biblical command for Joshua, as a leader of the people of God, to participate in meditation daily. But what God told Joshua to do is far different than what the doctor advised my daughter to do for relaxation before bed.
Joshua 1:8 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.
God commanded Joshua to daily, day and night, meditate on the law of God. The reason God said this is given. He wants Joshua to know, without any doubt or question, exactly what God wants. He wants Joshua to be able to obey without any form of confusion. This is especially important for Joshua, as his leadership of the nation either toward or away from the way of the Lord will result in the saving of or loss of lives.
How does this compare to the doctor’s advice for my young one? It is a completely different concept. The form of eastern meditation that the physician was suggesting involves taking steps to empty your mind and to remain in that state for a time. Such a plan, from a worldview such as Buddhism, is a religious practice that some non-religious folks have found to be helpful, not unlike yoga. Depending on the source of the meditation philosophy, this could be simply for the sake of calming yourself and quieting your mind, or it can be to slow your spiritual rhythms and recognize your oneness with the universe as a pantheist.
But what is the meditation that God commanded Joshua? Joshua was not to empty his mind, but instead to focus his mind on something significant and true. Joshua was to read and study the law of God. And when that study was done, Joshua, in his quiet moments, was to still let that truth roll around in his mind. Every day, Joshua was to take time out of his busy routine to take his eyes off the day-to-day running of a military camp and to focus it fully on something true and beautiful, the word of God.
So, what do we learn from Joshua for ourselves? While you and I do not sit in a position of authority over a nation, we do have daily lives to live. The choices we make and the actions we take are significant. We can please God or dishonor him based on what we choose to do or how we choose to think. And, thanks be to God, the Lord has given us his perfect and fully complete word to guide us.
Thus, I would argue that it is wise for a Christian to meditate, not by emptying our minds from all thought, but by focusing our thoughts on the word of God. Each day, reading the word of God is good. Each day, studying the word of God so as to rightly understand it and apply it is good. And then, each day, taking time to pray and to simply think on the word of God is good. Let the word of God and the truths therein roll around in your mind. Let it become something you think about even as it drives other distractions out of your brain. That is a form of meditation I can get behind, as it fits what the Lord tells his people.
No, I’m not a fan of the form of meditation her doctor recommended to my daughter. God does not call us to empty minds. Of course, relaxation is fine and helpful in general. Making good choices to quiet ourselves so that we can focus on one, good thing makes sense. But, if we really want to be a people living under a biblical worldview, we need to be hungry, not to empty our minds of all thought, but to fill our minds with the word of God.