Mindfulness is everywhere. Recently, as I was waiting in the grocery store checkout line, my eyes happened upon a special edition of TIME magazine titled, “Mindfulness: Your Path to Health & Happiness.” On the cover sat a young woman in a yoga pose gazing contentedly out of a softly lit window, the picture of perfect contentment and catharsis. Even this morning, before I set foot out of the door, my Apple Watch reminded me to take several minutes to breathe deeply and be mindful. For many, mindfulness has become synonymous with meditation. Even the Mayo Clinic defines it thusly, “Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgement. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.” In other words, mindfulness is intense introspection, blocking out the noise and judgment of the external world, thereby becoming free to discover who you truly are at the core of your being. Such is the mindfulness prescribed by fallen man to fallen man.
Scripture, on the other hand, prescribes a very different remedy for man’s comfort, a kind of mindfulness that does not turn inwardly upon self, but externally upon the mindfulness of another—namely, that of almighty God. David treasures this divine mindfulness in Psalm 8, perhaps as he is sitting atop his palace roof marveling at a starlit sky, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (v.3-4). David takes special comfort in knowing that the God who is infinitely majestic and the Creator of all things is mindful of him.
God’s majesty as Creator is the central theme of the psalm as it opens and closes with David extolling the majesty of God’s name in all the earth, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (v.1, 9), “You have set your glory above the heavens” (v.1). As David writes in another psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” because he made them (Ps 19:1). God’s glory is over all the earth because all the earth is God’s creation, the work of his fingers (Ps 8:3). By highlighting the majesty of God reflected in creation, David is revealing to us both the first step and the end result of a true, biblical mindfulness—reverence and awe at the glory of God’s transcendent being. He is who he is, he is actus purus; he is over creation, not a part of it.
The Westminster Divines exemplify this same spirit of reverential awe in their treatment of God’s covenants with man, “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him, as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant” (WCF 7:1). Notice that before expounding on the covenant of works or the covenant of grace the Divines stress the Creator/Creature distinction, “the distance between God and the creature is so great…” This infinite distance has always existed; it was there prior to man’s spiral into sin. As David declares in Psalm 103, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Man was dust before Adam and Eve’s first transgression, and ever since they ate the forbidden fruit, the chasm between God and sinful man has only widened. In order to enjoy the comfort that David does in this psalm we must, like David, keep in view the exaltedness of God’s being. Our apprehension of and gratitude for God’s grace is directly proportional to our apprehension of the greatness of God’s being. Greater transcendence requires greater condescension in love, and greater condescending love inspires greater gratitude in the heart of the recipient. Who it is that is mindful of us makes all the difference.
Connected with the knowledge of God as Creator is the knowledge of God as the providential upholder of his creation. In verses 5-8, David praises God for the unique privileges that man enjoys as God’s image bearer and vice-regent of creation. Man is crowned with “glory and honor,” he is given “dominion over the works of your hands,” God has “put all things under his feet” (v.5-6). Despite man’s creaturely status, God has entrusted man with the responsibility of stewarding his creation. The dominion mandate is to subdue, multiply upon, and fill the earth (Gen 1:28). God is able to grant this delegated authority because he continues to “uphold the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3). God cannot give to man what he does not possess (and to an infinitely higher degree) himself. The Westminster Confession’s chapter on providence speaks of God’s continuing sovereignty over and interest in all his creatures and all their actions: “God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy” (WCF 5:1). These words serve as a reminder to us that our God not only desires good for his creatures but that he also has the power to direct and dispose all things unto good ends so desired.
God’s ability to do all his holy will reminds me of the Christmas cards my wife and I receive each year. Though no two cards look exactly the same, the intent behind them all is—the senders are expressing their love for our family. They are mindful of us. And while I will always appreciate the sentiment (and will continue sending Christmas cards myself), such mindfulness cannot provide lasting comfort to the receiver because it cannot secure that comfort. This, however, is not the case with our God. Our God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. God’s concern for his image bearers generally and his covenant people particularly is always met with divine ability and action. Again, the Westminster Divines remind us of this in their exposition of the Lord’s prayer: WSC Q.100 “What doth the preface to the Lord’s prayer teach us? A: The preface to the Lord’s prayer, which is ‘Our Father which are in heaven,’ teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us…” (emphasis mine). God is ready and he is able. He is mindful of us and he is working all things together for our good (Rom 8:28). What could be more comforting than this? Pity joined with power.
And if there were ever any doubt that God loved us in this way, the incarnation of our Lord Jesus provides us with irrefutable proof. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16–17). Over and above God’s work of creation and providence, the chief expression of God’s love is the provision of his only begotten Son for the sake of sinners. In the follow-up essay, we will consider how the mindfulness of God as Redeemer is seen in Psalm 8, particularly in the ministry of him who was made “for a little while lower than the angels” and is now crowned with “glory and honor” (Ps 8:5; Heb 2:7).
Before moving on to the mindfulness of God as our redeemer, let me personally recommend David’s star gazing as a useful tool to remind you of God’s greatness as Creator and Sustainer. Upon reflection, most of our personal frustrations in life can be traced back to two faulty ways of thinking—either we think of ourselves too much or we have thought too much of ourselves. Our sinful tendency is to put our own needs before the needs of others. We grumble when we do not get our way. We get angry when others do not treat us the way we think we deserve to be treated. Worldly mindfulness, which requires retreating further and further into our sinful selves will only serve to justify us in our already sinful, self-centered way of thinking. But whenever I gaze into the heavens and consider the vastness of the expanse above and that a greater God formed each of those stars by the word of his mouth, not a minute goes by before I sigh in awe with David, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Tonight is a night as good as any—go outside. Marvel at God’s greatness in his creation and enjoy the comfort that only comes with knowing that this infinitely majestic and almighty God has promised that he is forever mindful of you.
You can find the whole series on Psalm 8 here.
©Stephen Spinnenweber. All Rights Reserved.
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