What do you think about when your mind is in neutral … when you don’t have to concentrate on work, or shopping lists, or sports games? What is on your mind when nothing else is? If you are trying to help a loved one cope with a mental illness, chances are you are often thinking about them and their situation. In fact, left to its own choices, your mind will likely fix itself there.
Like a cow chewing its cud (in the mouth, down to the stomach, back up to the mouth for more chewing, back down to the stomach), we get caught in the cycle of always bringing back to our minds the things that we fear. We think over and over and over again about worst-case scenarios, bad outcomes and tragic endings. That process of rumination is called meditation (reflecting again and again on the same thing), and meditation focused on our fears is called worry.
Let’s be honest: Worry is a thief. It comes to rob us of sleep, of hope, of joy. It steals from us the ability to think objectively and to engage in the richness of our wider lives. And most tragically, it erodes our faith in our God Who is full of compassion and mighty to save.
But though the thief of worry seeks to steal, kill and destroy, our God of abundant life seeks to enclose us in perfect peace. He invites us to focus our thoughts, to fix our minds, to meditate … on Him. As we reflect over and over on His goodness, His power and His love, our trust in His care for our loved one (and for us) begins to rebuild. We are able to rest in the confidence that He does not rest, but is always watching over us (Psalm 121:4). We are renewed in our faith that He can work all things (yes, even this) together for good (Romans 8:28). We are emboldened to be still in the assurance that He is God (Psalm 46:10), He is good and He is great.
It is helpful, therefore, to pause regularly and ask ourselves, “What am I thinking about? Is my mind stayed on God?” And if it’s not, to take our thoughts captive and bring them back to the throne of redemptive grace.