This is for all the over thinkers. You know who you are. In fact, at this point you are probably already over analyzing this statement wondering if you are really an over thinker, or if you just think you are. This is for the people who after a night out with their friends replay every conversation in their minds, dissecting what they said and what was said to them, worrying if too much was said or not enough and thinking of brilliant comebacks and wonderfully worded sentences that they could have used instead. This is for the people whose minds wander. The people whose complicated daydreams could rival a movie plot. It is for the ones of us with the ability to escape and to disconnect from the present into a world that can be a paradise or a nightmare. The people whose thought life can turn everyday events into an irrational tangle of twisted confusion. If these over detailed descriptions already annoy you and feel uncomfortably close to home, well, this is for you.
You know how it begins. There you are, simply driving down the road, minding your own business; head bobbing to a song, just trying to get from one place to the next when suddenly something as simple as a billboard ad can remind you of something and send you on a mental journey. Suddenly a phrase from the radio can remind you of a conversation you had with a friend the night before. Curious thoughts begin to creep in and suddenly reality and the irrational get mixed in together. What is the truth? What is the difference in being cautious and being paranoid? Where does the rational thinking end and the irrational begin? Sometimes these thoughts are fleeting and other times they can be overwhelming and stretch from minutes to hours to even days of confusion and frustration.
Since I have struggled with this most of my life, I obviously don’t have all the answers on what causes this. Sometimes it could be what C.S. Lewis describes in The Screwtape Letters as a mental attack from the enemy. Maybe it’s just normal human worry gone bad. My purpose in sharing with you is to not stifle the creative minds that in healthy daydreams can conjure up brilliant ideas and divinely inspired art. It is not to belittle, and hopefully not to instigate further destructive contemplation. My purpose is to offer a light at the end of the tunnel. It is to tell you how I, an over thinker, found peace of mind.
One day as I sat a coffee shop trying hard to do my daily devotions (while trying to avoid the distraction of worry and anxious thoughts) I read a scripture that changed my outlook and gave me hope. I had been particularly bothered in previous days by thoughts that would seem to come from nowhere, convincing negative thoughts that the more I analyzed them the more they seemed real. And the more real the thoughts became the tighter the grip of insecurity around my heart until I became nearly convinced that these irrational lies were truth. Then I read this scripture; I had read it so many times before but this time it was like a light came on and the words resounded with so much truth and wisdom that it broke through the darkness in my mind.
Philippians 4:4-8 states:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.
What this said to me in that moment was: Why am I wasting so much time worrying when the God of the universe is telling me to bring those thoughts to Him? He is near, He is God. He is everywhere. He is with me. He is with me right now when I am freaking out. So when these thoughts come, I need to first recognize that He is as close as a prayer. That prayer doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be a silent prayer, talking to Him just like a friend.
We only need to tell Him exactly what our worry is and what is causing this fear. Afterward, just thank Him for His presence and for His attentiveness and the fact that He is in control. Then instead of dwelling on the negative thoughts, think about what is true, what is good; think about the praiseworthy things and not the worst-case scenario. Then let it go (which seems to be the hardest part). Let it go so you can be free to meditate on what is good.
By the way, what is good? Fluffy daydreams of sugar and spice and everything nice? Dreams of winning the lottery and a mental vacation to the Caribbean? No. Not necessarily. To quote the Life Application Bible’s commentary for Philippians 4, which the Apostle Paul wrote while he was in jail for his faith: "Though a prisoner in Rome, Paul had learned the secret of joy and peace—imitating Christ and serving others. By focusing our minds on Christ we will learn unity, humility, joy and peace. We will also be motivated to live for Him."
That’s it. Think about Jesus. He was the only perfect human who has ever walked the face of the earth. Who better to imitate? What better way to fill the empty moments of thought than to meditate on Him? Think about how He lived, the stories about Him, the words He left us about how to live.
So, after that day in the coffee shop I tried it. And what do you know? It worked. Starting that day whenever anxious or lonely or discouraging thoughts would try to fill my mind and threaten to start the wheels turning the wrong way, I would pray. The truth is that God has given us a brain and common sense to handle every day life, but He also promises us in His word to never give us more than we can bear. We can rest safely in the knowledge that when we get overwhelmed, we can give Him our worries and He will help us.
So, I dare you over thinkers to try it. For me, when I started this seemingly elementary practice of praying about my worries and then focusing on Jesus and what is true and good, I finally had peace of mind.[Meridith lives in downtown Columbus, Ohio. She loves hip-hop, Wes Anderson movies and she’s trying really hard to stop over analyzing life.]