Sacred Idleness

Last Sunday’s message stuck with me this week in a particularly poignant way. Unlike some messages, I haven’t been able to leave it behind. It’s almost like it has a hold on me in some way and is not going to let me go until it’s finished its work with me.

Have you ever had the sense that a particular truth or message is not done with you? You understand the truth and believe it. You may even be attempting to put it into practice in very practical ways. But for some reason, you sense the Spirit of the Lord is after something deeper. You may not be able to quantify it or capture it in words, but the Spirit of God is moving in a way that is undeniable.

I’ll be honest. That’s not always the case for me. Though I prepare many hours every week to preach, and often experience intense spiritual pleasure in preaching, not every sermon sticks with me in the way I would hope. As the listener, I’m sure the same is true for you. Some messages arrest your soul’s attention in the way other messages do not. Some messages linger in the heart and over time make a lasting impression on your life, while other messages simply do not have the same influence and seem to enter one side of the heart and immediately exit the other side with little spiritual impact.

The mysteries of communing with God are great, and I would be the first to admit that I sense myself to be only at the beginning of the journey. Indeed, the further I go in my walk with the Lord, the more mysterious it becomes. At the same time, I see patterns in Scripture, history, the lives of others, and even my own life that have confirmed normative means of communion with God.

For instance, I have found that I can chart a direct relationship between the impact of the truth on my soul and the vitality of my meditation on the truth. Likewise, I have found that when I cannot sit with God in the Word and prayer for concentrated and at times substantial periods of time, I will rarely experience the quality of communion my soul needs and longs for.

I’m reminded just now of something George MacDonald once wrote, which has stuck with me over the years. He said, “a soul needs sacred idleness.” I have found this to be a very wise observation. We must acquire the grace to sit still with God in spirit and settle our mind into the truth, if we are to enjoy deep and lasting communion with God. This “sitting still” is not some psychological technique but a blessed grace given by God. If we desire this gift, we must seek it tirelessly from God and in God, for it His great desire to give it to us (Psalm 37:4, Matthew 7:7, I John 5:14-15).

Someone asked me yesterday to recommend a book on Christian meditation. (I’m glad he asked, for there is a lot of misdirected instruction in our day, even among Christian writers, on the subject of meditation.) Several good works come to mind, but I’ve found no modern treatment that is as accessible, easy to read, and biblically consistent than Christian Meditation by Edmund Clowney (Regent College Publishing, 1979). It really is a fine work, and if you’re eager to grow in the important discipline of Christian meditation, this would be a great place for you to start.

1 Comment

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One response to “Sacred Idleness

  1. Ah, Dr. Clowney is near and dear to my husband’s heart. He also wrote a great book on the church.

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