March 19, 2018
The Mental Hamster Wheel
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8, NLT).
Friend to Friend
Have you ever found your mind rolling the same negative thoughts over and over? Like a hamster running his heart out but not getting anywhere, we sometimes waste our thought lives on a mental hamster wheel.
The process is exhausting, but yields no real benefits beyond mental exhaustion. Negative thought patterns can often inhibit our journey to forgiveness. We can easily talk about forgiveness and agree it is God’s way, but when it comes to actually looking at our betrayer with love, it’s no easy ride. I have wished my mind could be free of negative thoughts that continue to recur. When we don’t care about people, it doesn’t hurt so much. In contrast, when we have trusted others with our hearts, secrets, and love, the pain of rejection and betrayal isn’t easily wished away.
Joseph in the Old Testament knew this kind of pain. It wasn’t just a surface wound as his brothers tossed him into a pit and sold him into slavery in a foreign land. Many years later he was still thinking of his brothers’ betrayal when he named his children. His journey toward forgiveness and reconciliation was a roller coaster of ups and downs. Yet we know victory is possible when we read that Joseph said this to the very brothers who betrayed him, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20, NLT).
Joseph got off the mental hamster wheel of dwelling on his pain and came to a place where he could see God at work in the midst of it. My downs on the roller coaster often revolve around rehearsing offenses in my mind and justifying myself, which sometimes leads me to review things the person has said or done in the past with a new judgmental bent. Some of the ups for me include focusing on God’s grace toward me, praying for those who have hurt or offended me, and memorizing Scripture. One of the most helpful things when we are navigating the ups and downs of forgiveness and reconciliation is to set our minds on truth.
The gospel truths of God’s grace are a perfect place to set our minds when we are struggling with the roller coaster of thoughts and emotions related to those who have hurt us. As we study, meditate, and memorize God’s Word, we find help in navigating the highs and lows of difficult relationships.
Today take a moment to consider your thought life. Do you need to get off the mental hamster wheel and fix your thoughts on positive things today? Take a few moments to be intentional – think about Jesus, heaven, and the blessings in your life. When your mind begins to wander, steer it back to things that are true, honorable, and right! Soon we’ll find God transforming the way we think.
Dear Lord, I want to get off the mental hamster wheel of unproductive thoughts. Help me to set my mind on You today. Renew my mind. Give me the ability to see You at work in the midst of the difficult people and circumstances in my life. Make me aware today when my thoughts start spiraling in an unhealthy way. Then help me to direct my thoughts toward gratitude, blessings, and good things.
In Jesus’ name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Today, choose a character quality of God that you can meditate on throughout the day. Whether it is His faithfulness, forgiveness, provision, mercy, or love, just identify one aspect of God. Then every time you find your mind wandering toward worry, fear or any unproductive thoughts, come back to the character quality of God you chose. Praise God, meditate on God, and find your thinking transformed!
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Melissa Spoelstra is a women’s conference speaker, Bible teacher, and writer who is madly in love with Jesus and passionate about helping women of all ages know Christ more intimately through serious Bible study. She is the author of several women’s Bible studies including Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness which includes video teaching and daily study. She lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her pastor husband and four kids. Find her online at www.melissaspoelstra.com.
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Originally published Monday, 19 March 2018.