I can still remember the excitement and exhilaration I felt, all those years ago, when I first learned to read; when I started to learn about words and how writers used them in my favorite books and stories.
One of my favorite things to do while growing up was to read Bible stories with my mom. I simply loved to hear the words in the Bible, though all I had was a child’s grasp of what they meant. As I got older, I learned through experience the power of words: power to build up and create, power to tear down and destroy. By His words Jesus created and formed all life on earth. By our words humans have the power to bring blessing or cursing (James 3:10).
A while ago, at a time I just needed more from God’s Word, I started a word project. My relationship with God and my spiritual growth felt stagnant; destructive thought patterns and weaknesses were holding me back from truly knowing God. I felt that I had only a superficial knowledge of God, and that I couldn’t break through the surface to a deeper knowledge. I didn’t know how to put my finger on the exact problem, or where to go for help. Being in that perplexing place showed me how much I needed God to help me. And He did.
One day I picked up an unfamiliar book by one of my favorite authors. I read about something I love—words! Words we say and think; how these words affect our brains, our bodies, those around us. Most important, it was about how we can use God’s Word to re-create us the way Jesus used His words to create the earth and the universe.
It changed everything for me. I read about how words and thoughts can cause different chemical reactions in the brain, initiating and creating the range of emotions we experience—from fear, frustration, and anger to excitement, serenity, and affection. Every word we use, every thought we think, plays its part in this phenomenon of creation. So much so that it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of words.
I think of words that opened my mind to the difficult yet important task of examining every part of myself, words advising me that the atmosphere around me may be “charged with the life-giving power of faith, courage, and hope, and sweet with the fragrance of love. Or it may be heavy and chill with the gloom of discontent and selfishness, or poisonous with the deadly taint of cherished sin.”1
Self-examination can be awkward. But it is no tragedy if exposing my need points me more sharply than ever to Jesus, my solution. I hit rock bottom and discover the Rock of my salvation, anchorage that is sure and steadfast: Jesus, who lifts me up into a wide place—a place of acceptance, love, and peace. Through the Word I realize that for every existing sin, weakness, bad habit, or bad word, Scripture offers a word, a promise, to empower me against it.
I am a worrier by nature, a Martha perhaps, anxious or fearful about many things (see Luke 10:41). I looked up verses that soothed my fear and anxiety. On my way to work each morning, I repeated promises three or four times. The same on my way home as well. Before long I had many memorized. After a week went by, I started to realize that I wasn’t so anxious; I was more at peace; I just felt generally stable in a way I couldn’t accurately describe or understand.
As weeks went by, I started to see that every time I felt fear rise up within me, God’s words, God’s promises, came immediately into my head, and fear fled away. After struggling with fear for my whole life, I was amazed by what was happening.
Since then I’ve taken things a step further: I now have a system in which I have promises to repeat at any spare moment. If I’m in line somewhere, if I’m waiting for a document to print, when I’m in the car, if I’m waiting for someone, I make sure I have verses to repeat.
One of the verses I repeat urges meditation on God’s law “day and night” (Joshua 1:8, 9). Day and night! It hit me. I was making strides in meditating on the Word during the day. What about at night? How does one meditate on God’s Word at night? For me, it was downloading an audio Bible and playing it at night; turning it on just before bed and listening as I fell asleep. It would play all night long and I’d turn it off when I woke up in the morning.
I have always had difficulty shutting my brain off at night. Sometimes it can be hard to get to sleep. I don’t have that problem anymore! As time went by, I started to wake up well before my alarm and pray. This isn’t always easy; but the mornings that I listen to the call and actually get up to pray have always brought some extra blessing and protection into my day. Sometimes I awaken, for no apparent reason, just at the moment the Bible is relating some beautiful and comforting promise. An indescribable feeling of peace and love washes over me. I fall right back to sleep, to awaken in the morning with that same feeling, and the knowledge that God woke me up just to hear that message, whether I fully remember the words or not.
For me, it was downloading an audio Bible and playing it at night.
I wish I could say that my word project has turned me into a perfect human being, that I no longer have trouble with sin or weakness of any sort. But because of what the Word has done in my life in these past few years, I now have a strong hope that God will finish the work He has started in me and will perfect that which concerns me (see Phil. 1:6).
As Paul says, I’m not perfect, but I’m focused: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13). Paul evidently kept his focus by day and night meditation on “everything that was written in the past” because he understood that it “was written to teach us” so we “might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Paul understood that hope is not some vague emotion out of nowhere, like a stomachache. Hope is the confidence that the stupendous future the Word of the Spirit promises is going to come true. The God of such hope fills us “with all joy and peace as we trust in him” until we “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (verse 13).
Everybody needs guidance in life. The best imaginable the Bible. Ellen White wrote: “The Bible presents a perfect standard of character; it is an infallible guide under all circumstances, even to the end of the journey of life. Take it as . . . the rule of your daily life.”2
In the Scriptures thousands of gems of truth lie hidden from the surface seeker. The mine of truth is never exhausted. The more we search the Scriptures with humble hearts, the greater will be our interest, and the more we will feel like exclaiming with Paul: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Rom. 11:33).
We should learn something new from the Scriptures every day, searching them “as for hid treasure, for they contain the words of eternal life. Pray for wisdom to comprehend these holy writings. If you would do this you would find new glories in the Word of God; you would feel that you had received new and precious light on subjects connected with the truth, and the Scriptures would gain constantly a new value in your estimation.”3
The person who meditates on God’s Word “is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away” (Ps. 1:3, 4).
Who would not delight to read a book, the reading of which would change one from useless chaff to a mighty cedar of Lebanon, from a Texas dust bowl to a Hawaiian orchard? Nobody deep down wants to be chaff—rootless, weightless, useless. All of us want to draw strength from some deep river of reality and become fruitful, useful people. That river of reality is the Word of God. All God’s great saints have been made great by it.
Can you feel the powerful urge to immerse yourself in the life-giving, life-changing Word of God?
Sarah Kannanaikkel is an international service employee specialist at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, in the United States.