I have a child who worries as often as the sun rises. She naturally thinks through the worst case scenario every single day. Just recently she said, “Mom, what if you and dad both die and we go to our aunt and uncle’s and then they die? What will happen to us? What will happen to our cousins? Would we go to their other aunt and uncle? Do they even have other aunts and uncles?”
Her persistence in imagining things all the way to their destruction requires me to say often, “Even in that, God will meet us.” Whether it’s a cavity, a lost dog, or fear of a violent earthquake, I remind her almost daily that God will care for us, even if the worst comes to pass.
And I’m not unlike her. I am tempted to worry and doubt God’s ability to care for me and my family. My thoughts also wander daily. Just like my child, I can be overwhelmed with doubt, like a wave of the sea (James 1:6).
The only antidote for a mind that is tempted to believe what’s false is to renew it with what’s true. Paul knew this and tells us, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
In our human condition we naturally drift and lies take root in our minds. If we want to walk in the truth of God, we must wage a battle by using our swords (the Bible, according to Ephesians 6:17). Memorizing the Word of God is the best way I know how to renew my mind. By thinking on what’s true, the lies diminish and the enemy loses his foothold.
Here are a few observations about memorizing scripture:
- It is hard work. But any battle is. And like all hard things, I get out of it what I put into it.
- It’s similar to growing a muscle and it takes time to build strength. Whenever I memorize large passages of scripture, the first five minutes of every session that I spend working on it are very difficult. During those five minutes I nearly convince myself that I cannot do it. But, when I press through and manage to get just one phrase under my belt, my mind is rewarded and is willing to keep going.
- Not only are the first five minutes of each session hard, but the first several days and weeks are hard if I haven’t done it in awhile. Just like going to the gym, my brain is a sore muscle and reluctant to return to the hard work each day. But again, as I make small amounts of progress, my mind is rewarded and I am motivated to keep at it.
- Accountability is key. For me, memorizing scripture is a team sport. I have not ever been successful at memorizing large chunks of the Bible without a group of girlfriends doing it with me. We meet weekly and require each woman to say the allotted portion out loud, in front of everyone else. We rehearse from the top each week and add verses until we’ve made it through the book or passage. I am somewhat motivated by shame in that setting—I don’t want to be the slacker who didn’t do the work. But I am also motivated by my sisters—I know each week that they’re doing the work, so I can to.
- I have found that memorizing comes much easier to me if I do it while walking. Last fall I got to know every nook and cranny of my new neighborhood while memorizing the book of Colossians. I take my phone with me and use a bible app that allows me to read the words, as well as hear them out loud. Then I record myself rehearsing the words on a voice memo app, so that I can check my accuracy. I walk, read, listen, rehearse, and repeat. The fresh air and physical movement makes the memorization time much more efficient.
- The benefits of scripture memory are huge. When my mind wanders and believes lies, I have a truth from scripture tucked away and ready to remind me of what’s true, honorable, pure, lovely, and more. When a friend shares a heartbreaking need, I am ready with a truth from God’s word with which to encourage her—so much more powerful than my own words. When my child worries, I can remind her of God’s good character according to his Word.
- Memorized scripture meets my every need because it has been breathed out by God himself and it’s “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” so that I may be complete (2 Timothy 3:16).
- No matter what, I really do have time to memorize scripture. I am encouraged by other heroes of the faith whom I have heard recite huge portions of scripture. And I am encouraged by the busy mom with toddlers under foot who has memorized one solid chapter at a time. These examples challenge me and remind me that I can and will make time what what I want most.
An investment in scripture memory will never be wasted. We will be less inclined to spend our thoughts, our energy, and our lives worrying or doubting or complaining when we have the truth of God stored up. May you and I—and my worrying child!—be moved to wield our swords and wage battle for the meditations of our hearts.