Thursday, March 3, 2016

Meditating on God's goodness is spiritual sustenance

Today, if my count is correct, is the sixty-third day of the year. Consequently we will be considering the following lines from the sixty-third psalm:

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
  and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
  and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
  and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
  you right hand upholds me (vv. 5-8).

Ordinary experience tells us that there is an analogy between the strength and vitality of the body and that of the spirit. Just like hunger and malnutrition can affect the functionality of the body, making us lethargic and sleepy and good for nothing, in the same way our spirit can seem to dry up and wither if we do not feed it properly or at all. And yet feeding the spirit is not the same as feeding the body, not literally anyway; how can it be done?

Today's psalm suggests that at least one way in which we can feed our spirits is to sit back and think about the ways in which we have experienced God's goodness in our lives. Thinking about the way God has been our help, in whatever difficulties we may have experienced, is for David akin to eating a rich feast. Many of us have probably had meals so good that we felt compelled to say something, to compliment the chef, to express our supreme pleasure at the food we've just consumed in some way. So also David says thinking about God's help is like a rich feast, and it moves him to praise God with joyful lips!

David says that he does this at night, meditating on God in the watches of the night, and on his bed just before he's about to fall asleep. This is an excellent practice: rather than falling asleep with your mind on the day's problems, stressing out about the various difficulties and obstacles that stand in your way, or worse, to meditate on evil things which only darken our minds, we ought to think about God and about the graces and gifts we've received from him. It is a way of reassuring our hearts that we have not been abandoned. Even the grace of restful sleep -- a tremendous gift, as anyone who's gone without it can testify -- ought to be reason for gratitude and praise of God.

When we do this, when we regularly come into contact with God's goodness in our minds, I think we will find that it draws us closer to God. Just like David says, My soul clings to you: devotion to the Lord and a greater trust in him is a product of thinking over the good things he has done for us. Such meditation inspires in us love for God and a greater willingness to live life following him wherever he may take us.

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