Over the past eighteen months, the diagnoses of anxiety disorders have increased significantly. Paradoxically, during a period when the fast-paced world to which we have become accustomed to slowed down, anxiety increased. The COVID-19 pandemic, in certain aspects, forced us to be still.
However, so many of us could not be still. In addition to the constant barrage of phone alerts, social media, television, school, and work which continually occupied our minds, we discovered various activities and new hobbies to busy ourselves—baking, cooking, reading, exercising, binge-watching, and playing board games. In our current culture, being still is an extremely challenging task.
Enjoying quiet and silence is challenging or uncomfortable for most people. For those who struggle with anxiety, bedtime is often arduous. Anxiety, rumination, worry, and fear intensify when the mind is still because there is nothing left to occupy it. As a result, it becomes difficult to fall asleep. It may seem as if anxiety is worse at night; however, the truth is, anxiety is usually constant during the day. The busyness of life distracts us from our anxious thoughts. When there are no more diversions, anxiety symptoms magnify.
A noticeable increase in anxiety levels, coupled with the difficulties of slowing down, compelled me to focus on the practice of meditation with my clients. I find the discussion of meditation to be an uneasy one, particularly with Christians. Some Christians are receptive to the practice of meditation, while others have strong hesitations about it. Some may consider mediation to be an Eastern ritual, not a Christian application. However, in contrast to Eastern meditation, which focuses on emptying the mind, Christian meditation focuses on filling the mind (Col 3:1–2; Phil 4:8–9; Heb 3:1). Christian meditation is far from nebulous. In concert with our faith, it can lead to a richer connection with God.
Meditate on God’s Word
After Moses died, God spoke to Joshua, giving him instructions for the people and the land. The specific instruction reads, “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”
God’s instruction is simple: meditate on the Law. The key to Joshua’s success and prosperity in the task ahead of him rested in being rooted in God’s Word. When we adhere to this directive and meditate on the Word, God’s Word remains embedded in our hearts and minds.
Meditating on the Word of God increases our understanding of Him and His precepts. It can also increase our level of proficiency regarding implementing His Word in our daily lives. When our mind is full of Scripture, our lips are filled with God’s Word which, in turn, we effortlessly impart on others.
How does one meditate on the Word of God? There are various methods to implement this practice. For example, reading a specific passage of Scripture several times, thinking through the passage, and identifying practical applications of
Meditate in Silence
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave” (1 Kings 19:11–13).
God came to Elijah in a gentle whisper. Some commentators translate this to, “in a moment in silence.” Our life is full of noises, yet God often speaks in whispers. We desire to hear God, yet the distractions of incessant noise create difficulty. To hear God requires a lessening of the noise. Decreasing the volume of external noise is just as important as decreasing the volume of internal noise. Continuous thoughts, planning, worry, and self-talk can also obstruct hearing God through meditation.
Benefits of Meditation
There are numerous health benefits associated with the practice of meditation. For example, meditation has been proven to lower blood pressure, enhance the immune system, and improve sleep. Additional benefits of meditation include the following:
- stress reduction
- improvements in attention
- decreased anxiety and depression
- reduction in pain (both physical and psychological)
- improved memory
Through a plethora of research, we also understand that actual structural and functional changes in the brain occur as a result of meditation. New dendrites and synaptic connections are formed. Neural circuits become activated and are permanently strengthened in particular parts of the brain. These structural and functional transformations lead to a decrease in anxiety and depression and an increase in empathy and cognitive health. Neuroscientific findings make a case for greater use of meditation in the Christian walk.
The Call to Meditate
We need only to peruse the Bible to observe the numerous examples of mediation as a biblical principle.
- Psalm 1 instructs us to meditate on His Law, day and night (Ps 1:2).
- Paul encourages the message of Christ to dwell in us (Col 3:16).
- The Hebrew writer calls us to fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb 3:1).
- Our thoughts are to be consumed by whatever is good and worthy of praise (Phil 4:8).
The Bible is clear in its instructions on mediation. Christian mediation can be performed in a variety of styles. It can incorporate prayer or Scripture reflection. It can focus on worship or silence. Meditation can incorporate God’s promises, His majesty, or any of His wonderful qualities. In all of these methods, the benefit of meditation is unquestionable. Science reinforces the good in what God has commanded: Be still.
About the Contributors
Dr. Ekpedeme Wade (MABC, 2015) is a board-certified family physician, licensed professional counselor, assistant professor of Biblical Counseling at DTS, and speaker. Dr. Wade is passionate about the interplay between the physical, mental, and spiritual self. She has been married for thirteen years and has two beautiful children.