What Does the Bible Say about Overthinking?
By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
Are you thinking so much about a situation that you’re feeling stressed or worried? While it’s good to be thoughtful, it’s harmful to your well-being to overthink about something. God can help you manage your thoughts well, and also give you the peace you need in any circumstance. What does the Bible say about overthinking? Learning that can help you overcome overthinking and experience peace of mind.
What Is Overthinking?
Overthinking means thinking about something in ways that are harmful rather than helpful. That involves focusing excessively on negative thoughts – such as ruminating (dwelling on problems rather than on ideas for solutions) or worrying (choosing to be anxious rather than trusting God to help you).
Any type of situation that concerns you can cause you to overthink, if you’re not careful to intentionally manage your thoughts about it. For example, you may need to make a significant decision in your relationships or your work, and you’re thinking so much about all the potential outcomes that you can’t move forward with a choice. Or, you may be preparing for a significant event, such as an important family gathering or work presentation, and you’re obsessing over plans for it and worrying about what might happen. You may also overthink when you’re facing a complex problem you’re trying to solve on your own, without asking God to help you. Overthinking can make you feel helpless, like you’re stuck experiencing negative thoughts running through your mind.
What Does the Bible Say about Overthinking?
King David describes the stress of overthinking in Psalm 6, where he writes that “My soul is in deep anguish” (verse 3) and “I am worn out from my groaning” (verse 6) yet celebrates God’s intervention to help him in verse 9: “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.”
Psalm 42:5 sheds light on how overthinking be harmful to the soul and presents a solution to that problem: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Jesus addresses the exhaustion that comes from life’s stresses, including overthinking, in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Here, Jesus is encouraging you to find relief from overthinking and all other stress through a relationship with him.
Colossians 3:2 urges: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Thankfully, the Bible assures you that it’s possible to take control of your thoughts. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, the apostle Paul writes: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” It’s by taking every one of your thoughts captive that you can fight off overthinking and find peace of mind.
4 Biblical Ways You Can Fight Off Overthinking
While overthinking is a challenging issue to deal with, the Bible offers powerful ways you can fight off overthinking and experience peace of mind. Here are 4 ways to do so:
1. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind. Romans 12:2 advises: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” When you’re overthinking, your mind can get stuck in a pattern of repeating thoughts that do you more harm than good. You can fight that off by asking the Holy Spirit to renew your mind regularly. The Holy Spirit will help you at any moment when you pray for help. It’s also wise to ask for the Spirit’s help when you begin each day, so you can see situations from an accurate perspective on a regular basis. Over time, you can cooperate with the Holy Spirit to develop qualities that the Bible calls the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. My book Wake Up to Wonder includes well-being research about each of those qualities, showing how developing them can lead to a healthy mind.
2. Turn your worries into prayers. Philippians 4:6-7 urges you: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.” Whenever you notice yourself worrying about something because you’re overthinking it, take that thought captive by praying about it. Refuse to dwell on anxiety, and instead talk with God about what’s concerning you, asking God to help you with that situation and give you peace about it. Worrying just wastes your energy, but prayer always works because it invites God’s power into the situation. Choose to trust that God will answer your prayers at the best times and in the best ways. When worries are persistent, keep praying persistently, following the advice in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray continually”. The more you pray when you catch yourself worrying, the more you’ll be able to overcome overthinking. Prayer focuses your thoughts on God, and Jesus assures you in Matthew 6:33-34 that seeking God is much better than worrying: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
3. Focus on positive thinking. Overthinking can make your negative thoughts spiral out of control. You can fight that off by focusing on positive thinking. Philippians 4:8-9 encourages you: “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. ... And the God of peace will be with you.” Bible verses about positivity show that choosing positive thinking can help you move closer to God, which will empower you to overcome overthinking and trust God in deeper ways.
4. Be still. Rather than letting thoughts run wild through your mind with overthinking, choose to rest your mind by meditating on God’s presence with you. “Be still, and know that I am God”, God encourages you in Psalm 46:10. When you trust God, you don’t need to overthink, because God will fight for you in any situation. Exodus 14:14 assures you that: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” You can strengthen your ability to still your mind by developing prayer and meditation habits you enjoy and will be motivated to practice regularly. In the process, your faith will grow stronger, helping you trust God more and be still with him in peace.
Learning what the Bible says about overthinking gives you the wisdom you need to stop the stress of unhealthy thoughts running through your mind. As you practice ways to overcome overthinking, you’ll experience more peace, and be free to notice and enjoy God’s presence with you – no matter what circumstances you face.
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Whitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on Twitter and Facebook.