The word reflection means “careful consideration,” “fixing the thoughts on something,” and “meditation.” The original meaning of the word was to “fold back,” “bend back.” Therefore, reflection means to consider and think about something that has happened before. You bring it back to the forefront and think about it.
Why should we reflect anyway? What role does reflection have in Christianity?
Tree and its reflection in a lake
Image by Pixabay
The first reason we should actively reflect is because if we are truly following Christ, then we cannot simply continue as we were a month ago, a year ago, or a decade ago. Our Lord Jesus Christ called us to a life of growth. How? He called us to repentance, and that is what repentance is; it is not simply a turning away from your sins as most of us think, but it is ALSO a turning toward the Way of Christ and progressing through it by His grace. Our goal is not simply for sin to disappear and that’s it, but it is also to become the Image-bearers of Christ, to fully reflect Him in the world. The main way we do this is by reflecting on four things: Christ’s life, His teachings, the Scriptures, and our lives in light of the first three. If we reflect, then we will see where we came short; we will become more watchful, and then we will learn how to avoid the shortcomings, and learn how to progress. Growth from reflection is best achieved by asking ourselves questions during and after reflection. We can ask ourselves questions like:
- What did I do wrong in this situation?
- What could I have done better in this situation?
- What have Christ and the Apostles taught about situations and actions like these?
- How do I know Christ would approve?
The result of asking yourself these questions and answering them will be spiritual growth, and not only spiritual, but personal, emotional, and social growth. As Christians, all four are connected.
But what will happen if we do not reflect? Lack of reflection causes us to be caught up in a vicious cycle of continual childhood both spiritual and behavioral. This may seem appealing, but when you think about it, imagine a 40 year old with a receding hairline and a beer belly acting like an 18 year old; it is not a pretty sight. Even if a 20-something acts like a teenager, it is out of place, and it frankly looks stupid. Now, imagine a child raising your children; all of sudden, some of you are becoming scared. The sad reality, though, is that this is indeed happening, although we don’t think of it that way. We no longer have men and women in our civilization, but boys and girls. We’ve got children raising children and we wonder why things are a mess. Why is it like this? Because we don’t reflect. The solution to these problems is reflection.
However, reflection is a fearful thing. For many people, the most dreadful thing in the world is to sit by themselves quietly. This is because when the environment is quiet, our minds automatically begin reflecting on the things that we have experienced. Good experiences and bad experiences, valuable experiences and worthless experiences. Too many live a life of sin and worthlessness, or of trouble and pain, and do not want to be reminded of it; yet, it is their consciences trying to speak to them. Sometimes silence can be very loud. They try to drown out these reflections and what their consciences might be trying to say by making their schedules busy with far too many things, quite a few of which are worthless. They will go to nightclubs, movies more than they should, coffee shops for longer hours than they should, and even go to sleep with their earphones plugged in listening to music, so they do not give an opportunity for their thoughts to begin replaying their experiences. They are trying to drown out the thoughts they don’t like. The result is, they do not have time to reflect, and there is no progress. The trouble continues, the pain continues, the worthlessness continues, and the sin continues.
Think about it this way: silence is necessary to reflection. In older English, the word stillness was used to refer to this silence. Now think of this analogy, still water reflects a clear image, but stirred up water cannot. In the same way, when we practice stillness, we can reflect the image of our Lord Jesus Christ to the world, but when we are stirred up (like the scenarios shown above), we cannot reflect His image.
Yet, many people in the Bible went through trouble, pain, worthlessness, and sin, and when they reflected, they not only got out of those messes, but they found God’s goodness in them and grew spiritually in the Lord.
Examples of Reflection and How We Can Reflect
Joseph the son of Jacob (Genesis 37-50) was betrayed by his brothers, beaten, and sold as a slave to a foreign nation, and carried away to a faraway country where he did not know the people, nor the language, nor the customs. He was all by himself. Through all this, he was faithful to God. God blessed him, and he became the manager of his master’s estate. Then, his master’s wife solicited him to sleep with her, he refused. Yet, he ended up in prison because she lied about their encounter. He had trouble (for no reason), pain (by being faithful to God), and ended up in a prison in a foreign land. Things were not looking good at all. It was one disaster after another.
In the prison, God blessed him again, and he became the manager of the prison while he was a prisoner. What happened next was he interpreted a dream for a fellow prisoner who was a servant of Pharaoh, that servant was released, then Pharaoh had a troubling set of dreams, and that servant told him about Joseph. He came to Pharaoh’s attention, interpreted his dreams as indicating a famine would come after seven years (he was prophesying), and he also gave him precautionary measures to help him save Egypt through these years. He then rose up to the highest position in Egypt. More than 20 years passed since he was sold, and a famine came as he had predicted to Pharaoh. During the famine, Joseph’s family came to Egypt not knowing he was there; they thought he was dead, and he ended up saving his family and all of Egypt from the famine.
When he reflected on all these experiences, he saw that God’s goodness not only came to him, but to all others that he saved. How? All because he was sold by his brothers as a slave to a foreign nation. He reflected, and he saw God’s hand and plan in all of this. In one of the most reflective statements ever uttered in the Scriptures, he told them, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). The trouble and pain were now insignificant when he saw how God’s goodness came to him, his family, and all of Egypt through them.
He could have whined, he could have spent all his years crying and complaining. He could have become hopeless. He may have even taken his own life. But he reflected and saw the hand of God working regularly. The effect was massive on his life:
- He remained faithful to God.
- He kept a positive attitude.
- He had a clear mind.
- He helped millions of people to live instead of die including his own family.
You can see God’s goodness too if you reflect. The effect will be massive on your life too.
Others in the Bible reflected as well.
The next greatest example of reflection in the Bible is David the Prophet and King. He reflected about all the broad range of human experiences: joy, anger, fear, grief, depression, anxiety, and appreciation, and he saw the hand of God in all of it; he also brought God into all these experiences by talking to Him about all these things. He left us nearly half the Psalms. They have not only served as comforters in times of grief but also as teachers showing us how we ought to pray, and they have trained our minds to reflect and grow.