I’ve been having trouble with sleep for a while now. A few weeks ago, I found myself rearranging my pillow for something like the thirty-sixth time at 3 a.m., my worst flashbacks looping through my mind on repeat.
If you’ve ever been there, you know what I’m talking about. It feels like a selective Groundhog Day—your most devastating experiences re-assault you every night.
In the latter half of Paul David Tripp’s message at Revive ’13, he put his finger directly on my need:
You don’t just suffer the thing that you’re suffering. You suffer the way that you’re suffering the thing that you’re suffering. Because if your suffering kidnaps your meditation, that suffering will be worse.
Kidnapped—I’d never thought of it that way before. But it fits, doesn’t it? When a child is abducted, they go wherever their captor takes them. They’re powerless, terrified, and anything but free.
Watch out: Suffering is going to kidnap your meditation unless you do something about it.
So what does it mean to meditate? You might not use that word, but I can guarantee you this much—you’re a professional at meditation.
In this case, we’re not talking about emptying our minds like yoga teaches us to do. Meditation is the time you spend daydreaming about the guy you like, and it’s the time you spend knotted in anxiety. Meditation means dwelling on something. It involves our memories and imaginations.
Why is it dangerous to let harsh realities become your meditation? If we do . . .
They’ll hurt you. You’ll begin to take experiences on as your identity. Experiences are not your identity; they are experiences.
In my last post on suffering, I talked about how biblical faith never requires us to deny reality. That’s still true. We need to face reality squarely, but we don’t need to hold our trouble in our mind, pack it with us, and take it with us everywhere we go.
Tripp gave us four steps from Psalm 27 to remember when suffering comes to our door. (And it will.) Think of it as a breaking-free strategy when you’re mentally kidnapped.
- Gaze. Don’t gaze on your trouble, but on the stunning beauty of your Lord. Require yourself to fill your mind with Him. As you gaze on His beauty, you’ll begin to see life the way it really is. (This is what David did in Psalm 27:4 when he was surrounded by his enemies!)
- Remember. Remember what? His beauty is unleashed for you. He’s YOUR light, YOUR salvation, YOUR stronghold. As you remember who He is, you’ll begin to understand who you are and what your life is about (Ps. 27:1–3).
- Rest. Stop trying to figure out your trouble. Rest is never going to be found in your understanding, because you won’t ever fully understand why suffering happens. Don’t run to your brain to solve the mystery; analyzing the problem or reliving the problem won’t give you rest. Rest is found in a Person (Ps. 27:5, 7–8, 13–14).
- Worship. Now it’s time to act. When you stop trying to figure out your trouble, begin to worship God. His beauty is infinitely greater than any ugly thing we’ll ever face in our lives (Ps. 27:4–6).
Is your mind kidnapped by suffering? Mine was—but I’ve been doing these four things, and I’m sleeping more peacefully now than I was a few weeks ago.
- What do you meditate on before you fall asleep? (How about trying Psalm 27 tonight?)
- Do you feel like your negative experiences have become your identity?
- How will you break free from your “kidnapper”?
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD (Ps. 27:13–14).