Handling the normal stressors of life is in itself challenging. For many, adding the additional stressors as a result of a global pandemic turns everyday stress into mega-stress. I have been mulling over my management mechanisms for stress. I thought I would pass along some of my musings on managing stress in a series of blogs.
The teacher in me alliterated the practices as:
Meditation is one of the disciplines for a healthy and thriving life. The practice is encouraged throughout the Scriptures. The Scriptures document a range of focus for reflection and the healthy boundaries for meditation.
I appreciate these healthy boundaries penned by the Apostle Paul. Paul is in prison at the time he composes these sentiments. For me, being incarcerated would represent mega-stress!
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
(Philippians 4:8, NKJV)
Meditation involves solitude, stillness, and silence. It is stepping away from everyday responsibilities and distractions. With practice, meditation can happen amid these responsibilities and distractions. Being alone and taking charge of ourselves to still the body, the mind, and the emotions are the first step. Shutting out the noise of the world around us is crucial. Sometimes, if we are not careful, we can expose ourselves to noise and busy-ness all day.
“Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah”
(Psalm 4:4, NKJV)
Meditation provides the opportunity to hear from ourselves. The noise and busy-ness of life can drown out our voice.
“My mouth shall speak wisdom, And the meditation of my heart shall give understanding.” (Psalm 49:3, NKJV)
These synonyms: Word, Law, Statutes, Commandments, Precepts, Testimonies, represent one of the focuses recommended in Scripture
The Hebrew word for meditating is שׂוּחַ [ transliterated as “suwach” and pronounced “soo·akh.” It means to speak to oneself in low tones as a way to establish or clarify proper thought. We might use the word mumble.
I have memorized several Scriptures having to do with strength. As a polio survivor, physical strength and stamina have been a lifelong challenge. Often when I exercise, I mumble these verses. Sometimes I personalize and paraphrase the mumbled passage.
Genesis 24:63 contains the first occurrence of the Hebrew word שׂוּחַ. Isaac meditated and discovered his wife!
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe 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.” (Joshua 1:8, NKJV)
Mediating on the nature of our triune God and His works is also a worthy pursuit during meditation.
“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.” (Psalm 63:6, NKJV)
“Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.”
(Malachi 3:16, NKJV)
“I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds.”
(Psalm 77:12, NKJV)
Often the process of meditation will become a catalyst for prayer and worship!
“Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my meditation.”
(Psalm 5:1, NKJV)
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”
(Psalm 19:14, NKJV)
“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord.”
(Psalm 104:33–34, NKJV)
A spiritual realm exists. We are spiritual beings and can interact with the spiritual realm. Sons of God are those who are lead by the Spirit. The indwelling Spirit is one of the perks of following Jesus. The Spirit is a person. As in any other relationship, it requires time and commitment to develop and grow in a relationship with the Spirit. Meditation is one discipline that contributes to this maturing relationship.
“I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search.” (Psalm 77:6, NKJV)
The Psalmist writes because he is in distress. He remembers his connection with God in previous times of trouble. Once again, his spirit is searching for that intimate communion with God.
Meditation is a discipline that releases the human spirit from the noise and busy-ness of life to commune with the Holy Spirit. It is a turning of attention and affection to the indwelling Spirit. The remainder of Psalm 77, the Psalmist expresses the meditations of his heart. In this context, the heart represents his mind. Thoughts of distress consume the Psalmist’s brain. I wish the Psalmist had included instructions on how to do spirit searches.
For me, the greatest challenge in spirit searching is quieting the brain. Our brain is always active.
One of my practices for quieting my mind involves using two simple tools, a legal pad, and a pen. As thoughts come to mind, I write them down. Making a note of the idea assures the brain that I will not forget it. After a short time, the brain relents and stops sending random messages.
A spiritual tool that I use is the gift of spiritual language, often referred to as the gift of tongues. Spiritual language can be spoken out loud, mumbled under the breath, or quietly run through the brain. As a tool, spiritual language has many uses: prophesying, praying, singing, blessing, the giving of thanks, and meditation! The more one uses a tool, the more applications one can discover. Spiritual language quiets the brain and brings it into focus. It prepares the mind to receive.
One of the fruits of spiritual searches is hearing the voice of the Lord. We position ourselves to receive revelation, guidance, and personal ministry from the Holy Spirit.
“The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the inner depths of his heart.” (Proverbs 20:27, NKJV)
Another fruit of meditation and spiritual searches is heart clarity. God desires to search the depth of our hearts. Our tendency as fallible human beings is to hide our hearts from God. Remember Adam and Eve?
Spirit searches open the deepest recesses our hearts to the probings of God. Sometimes God allows us to pass through trials to reveal our heart depths to ourselves and Him. When tempted to give up, this image often comes to mind. I see God with resource upgrades in His hand for me. I will only be able to adequately utilize this resource upgrade if I refuse to give up and pass through the maturing process of the trial. God can only assure Himself that I can handle this resource upgrade if He can inspect the depth of my heart through the testing process.
One of the spiritual delights I have enjoyed in our international travels is connecting with leaders who also enjoy singing in the Spirit during congregational worship. Pictured here are myself singing in the Spirit with Pastor James in Embu, Kenya and Pastor Richard in Montevideo, Uruguay.
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