Moments of quiet are rare, aren’t they? There are too many things to watch, listen to, read; there are beloved friends and family to enjoy; there is work to be done and community to build. Even if we can step away from the fellowship, information, and entertainment, our own thoughts are still right here with us. I’ve found that mental noise is the most difficult to silence.
Such is the human condition. When Jesus looked out upon “the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36, ESV). Harassed and helpless is a great descriptor for our internal state. Whispers of regret, self-pity, frustration, worry—they are unruly. Only God knows in full the internal battles that leave us discouraged and disarmed. Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us to battle alone.
Training the brain is the focus of this month’s reading from Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. Foster calls this discipline meditation: “listening to God’s word, reflecting on God’s works, rehearsing God’s deeds, ruminating on God’s law.”1 Meditation trains our thoughts to settle upon God and all that He is, beating back against whispers that harass us and leave us helpless.
“It is so vitally important for us to be thrown in utter dependence upon God in these matters. We are seeking to think God’s thoughts after him, to delight in his presence, to desire his truth and his way.”2
This is the result of meditation—the life-giving thoughts and deeds. But these come only from the practice of the discipline. It requires actually focusing the mind upon God, saying no to the other thoughts that want to invade the space. That’s not easy.
At the end of the chapter, Foster gives several application exercises. I’m using one for the next week or so—just a simple reading of a passage and praying that into the realities of my life at the moment.
Are you reading along with me? I’d love to hear how you are learning to think God’s thoughts after Him.
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” —Psalm 1:1–3
1. Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. 3rd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1998. 15.
2. ibid., 26.