“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Ok, so, have you ever read this passage... prayed this passage... meditated on it... wrote it out and stuck it to your bedroom mirror... and STILL FELT ANXIOUS? Anyone???
I think God showed me a little secret a few years ago and He’s highlighted it again this year. Bear with me a little, please, while I get to the point.
So, first of all, I want you to think about something that makes you deliriously happy. Like so happy it’s all you can think about. Maybe it’s a time you were in love. Maybe it’s a job promotion. Maybe it’s....(fill in the blank). Do you go over the event over and over in your mind? Share it with everyone? Tell the story over and over again and get a lot of joy doing so?
Ok, now I want you to think about a person who was incredibly hard to forgive. Do you ever go over the harsh conversations, the mean words, the shocking betrayal, over and over again? Replay it in your mind? “How could....do this to me? I trusted her so deeply.” “I never saw it coming.” “How dare they?”
My point, friends, is that repeated thread in our heads, the repeated scene in our mind’s eye is a form of meditation. That’s exactly what meditation is, you continue thinking and replaying the same thing over and over again. It’s like a record player that going around and around in your mind’s eye, your head, and your heart. As in the examples above, we can meditate on things that cause us pain and we can meditate on things that bring great joy.
God taught me this lesson a couple of years ago when I was really struggling with forgiving someone. Every way this person wronged me was like a record player on repeat whirling around in my head. The result was increased bitterness, anger and indignation. The pain also increased, and to be honest, it became like a buffer and a source of protection for me.
One Sunday in church, I was very fervently praying about the issue when I sensed that God said, “Are you willing to let go of the record? Can we play a new tune? You don’t need the pain to protect you. You don’t need the bitterness, indignation or anger to make you feel strong. I am your strength and your protection. But you need to let go of the old tune and play a new record.”
The thought of this new tune brought me so much peace, freedom and joy, that I said, “Yes Lord. Yes. I am willing to hear a new tune.” And so I discovered the power hidden in the gem of the following verse:
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and if there is anything praiseworthy—MEDITATE ON THESE THINGS." (Philippians 4:6-8)
Honestly and truly, I really could not think of anything positive about the situation or person, so guess what I did? I memorized the verse. And any time that I started thinking about the person, pain or problem, I immediately replaced the thought or little video I played in my head with this verse. Immediately. And brothers and sisters, this was a significant step forward in the healing process and in my ability to experience the peace that God promises in verse 6 - "peace that surpasses all understanding."
I need to say that I definitely had some good and healing conversations with people that played a pivotal role in the healing, but I really felt the power of the Word of God through this process of meditating on verse 8.
Often I think we focus on verse 6 and 7, but our prayers can become a way of meditating/focusing on the problem, instead of really releasing it to God. How noteworthy, that God’s promise for peace is bookended by thanksgiving (verse 6) and praise (verse 8).
Quiz question: What are the eight things we should meditate on in verse 8?
Focus question: Is there a record player whirling around in your head that’s not bearing good fruit? I challenge you to record your thoughts in an area of your life where you feel anxious or discouraged for a minimum of three days. What’s playing on your record player?
Now, it’s time to play a new tune. Find a new record and play a new tune. Ideally that new tune is a verse you can repeat (i.e. meditate on) and if you can’t find one, just put Philippians 4:8 on repeat. What were those 8 things again (LOL, sorry I couldn’t resist).
Prayer: Dearest Lord Jesus, thank You for the power that is available to us in You. As we approach Your death and resurrection, thank You that the power present at the Resurrection is present in me today. Teach me Jesus to meditate on You, in one way or another. In these upcoming holy days, teach me to meditate more deeply on Your life giving death and resurrection. Give me a new tune in the record player of my mind and heart.
When all else fails, if no words come, if it’s tough to offer thanks, help me Lord simply to recite....
Disclaimer: Hey friends, I would hate for anyone to think that I believe that simply meditating on a verse will solve all problems. I understand that life is complex. In my situation, the road to forgiveness was hard and long and required many tough (but healing) conversations. Meditation on Scripture was an essential, but not the only part of the process of transformation. For more verses on the importance of meditation, check out Psalm 1 (see verse 2) and Joshua 1 (see verse 8).