Did you know that if you are a worrier, you already know how to meditate? Someone brought to my attention recently the fact that worry is a form of meditation. A friend told me he had had a sleepless night. All he could do was worry and fret about his annual review at work which was scheduled for the next day. As sleep escaped him, he spent the night ruminating on as much as he could remember about what had happened over the past several months. He was trying, of course, to imagine what negative things his supervisor might bring up the next day. By morning, he had worried himself to the point that he was convinced he probably would still have a job, but wouldn’t get a raise in pay.
As we talked about his experience that night, it became clear to me that what he had experienced in worrying could just as easily be described as “meditation.” After all, it was a clear example of focused attention, which is the definition of meditation. Focused attention in Christian meditation is focusing our attention on what a particular passage of Scripture is saying to us. We read a passage over slowly several times, trying to listen to what God is saying to us. When something catches our attention, we ponder, or ruminate over what we have found. We chew it over and over in our mind, praying it deep into our soul.
When we worry, we slowly go over and over the situation and our fear. We focus our attention on all the ramifications of what our worry is about. My friend looked at all the possibilities he faced in his annual review. He chewed on the many facets of his concern, looking at the situation from every possible angle. He ruminated, or pondered on, each detail of his fear.
The purpose of Christian meditation is for us to “hide God’s word in our heart and think about it often“. When we focus our attention on God’s word, we are driving those words deep into our mind and heart. When we worry, we drive those worries deep into our heart as well, and it is all we can think about. And of course, since we have focused so much on what we are worried about, we find it easy to switch our focus forward and begin to worry about the next problem. There is always a next time to worry and we typically begin early to worry. For many of us, worry has become a habit.
But worry is different in this way: I’ve often said that worry works, for after all, how much of what we worry about actually ever takes place–very little. But here’s the difference. That sleepless night of worry didn’t change anything, and in this person’s experience, nothing that he worried about in his review actually happened. In fact, the outcome was the opposite of what he had worried about.
On the other hand, unlike worry, when we meditate on God’s word, the Bible tells us we are like a tree planted by the water bearing fruit (Psalm 1). Christian meditation is life changing. So the old saying that says, “why worry when you can pray“ has great validity. Basically we are saying that if you are a worrier, this change of focus can change your life. Try it!
By Dr. David Stoop