"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." [Php 4:8].
Several days ago, I woke up on the wrong side of bed. I didn’t go to bed the night before with a plan in my mind that the following day would be devoted to negative thoughts, critical remarks, and unfettered irritation, but that’s precisely what happened. I do know that it all started with a negative thought. Something had annoyed me earlier in the week, and I found myself dwelling on that annoyance. Those thoughts then led me to think about other situations that had angered and annoyed me. I then found myself thinking about all of the situations that had ever hurt, offended, or angered me in my 45 year life span. Before I knew it, I had worked myself up into a full-blown depression.
Knowing that my thought life was spinning wildly out of control, I went to the Lord in prayer and pleaded with Him to deliver me from the pit of negative thinking that I had fallen into. But even this didn’t work. As I prayed to the Lord, I found myself whining and complaining to Him about the very situations that I was trying not to think about. It seemed like I was in a no-win situation, unable to break free from the power of my own negative thought life.
Yesterday afternoon, I walked into my office at home and saw on my desk some books that I had ordered to help prepare me for the approaching season of Lent. I shut my door and began to leaf through the books. I came to a chapter on the Stations of the Cross, and I began to read each Station. As I meditated on each of the Stations, I found myself entering into the spirit of the prayers offered up to Christ at each Station, and something supernatural took place. My misery slowly began to dissipate. The heavy spirit that had enveloped me for the past few days began to lift. The pressure that had felt like a tight band around my head all week long snapped in two and completely disintegrated. A deep, inner joy that had eluded me for what seemed like an eternity swiftly returned, and I was able to sense the nearness of Christ once more. I found myself being purged, even cleansed, of every displeasing thought that had held me captive only moments earlier. By the time I finished reading and meditating on the Stations of the Cross, I was a different person once more. My mind and spirit had been renewed, and the meditations of my heart were pleasing to Christ once more. When I thought of the situations that had annoyed and irritated me earlier during the week, I found myself looking at them in a different light - God’s light - and they no longer affected me. This poor captive had been set free.
Where the mind goes, the man will follow. Saint Paul knew this, which is why he exhorted us to make sure that the things we meditated on were good things, and not bad things.
In Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippian believers, eight words are used for the things which he taught should fill the Christian’s thought-life. We are to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. Saint Paul knew the power of meditating on good things. As we meditate on those good things, they have power to shape our attitudes, direct our words, and direct our actions as well.
Do you know that it is impossible for a person who thinks negative, unkind thoughts all day long to speak praiseworthy things when he opens his mouth? I found that the longer I dwelled on my miserable thoughts, the more miserable my speech became as well. Not only this, but I didn’t feel like doing anything good either. This is because our thoughts not only shape our attitudes and our speech; they shape our actions as well.
There are many good books to help us in our meditations. First and foremost, is the Holy Bible. I suggest, however, that if you are feeling depressed and angry, you should meditate on the Book of Psalms, rather than the Books of Lamentations or Job. Some people like to meditate on a book of prayers. Some like to write in a journal as they meditate. As we read those prayers or Scriptures, we find ourselves entering into the spirit of the things which are written, and this causes us to enter into another realm - a heavenly realm. Whether we use the Holy Bible, a book of prayers, or even the Stations of The Cross, to lift us out of our moody thinking, is not the issue. What matters is finding something that is centered on God that will help us to get our thought life back on Him.
Meditation isn’t just for priests and nuns; it’s for all of God’s children. King David knew the power of meditation. According to the Book of Psalms, he meditated on the Word of God all throughout the day. Satan, too, knows the power of meditation, which is why he tries so hard to keep God’s children from discovering this awesome secret. He doesn’t want us to walk in the power of the Spirit, which comes to all who have learned how to meditate on the things of the Spirit.
Quiet time is something that fewer and fewer people have in this particular day and age. Our lives are filled with noise. They are filled with activity. But without quiet time, we cannot develop an interior life. Our modern world makes it very difficult for people to take time for meditation and reflection. We have become a society of plugged-in people. If we aren’t on our cell phones, we’re hooked up to our I-Pods or computers. If we are not on our computers, we can be found vegetating in front of our big flat screen TVs. But without the quiet and solitude necessary for prayerful reflection and clear thinking, it will be very difficult for our thoughts to line up with God’s. Without these things, we will not be sensitive to the voice of God or His leading in our lives. Without quiet time, we will never be able to hold on to those things which are lovely and true, as instructed by Saint Paul. We certainly cannot expect the unbelieving world to assist us in this endeavor.
If I had not taken the time to sit in my office for an hour in order to meditate on the Stations of this Cross this week, I’m convinced that I’d still be caught up in the vortex of negative thinking that held me in its power all last week. This article would not have been written, and my thoughts, speech, and actions would have continued to displease the Lord.
May God graciously lead us to a place of quiet time in our daily lives so that we may give our minds over to those things which are lovely and true. May we be open to that leading, so that our minds and spirits may be purged, cleansed and daily renewed. Help us, O God, to set our hearts and minds on things above, where Christ is seated at Your right hand. For where the mind goes...
...Your servant will surely follow.
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