Help! I Can’t Stop Overthinking!

Hands shaking, I clung to my iPhone as I searched the Internet.

WebMD. Got it.

A few seconds later, I found myself reading through symptoms of a brain tumor.

Headaches? Check.

Vision problems? Check.

See, you’ve got two of the main symptoms.

But there are others I don’t have.

But you’ve got these two. You’ve got to see a doctor. What if you have a brain tumor?

After weeks of vision problems, I booked myself a trip to the doctor, convinced that my death sentence awaited me in that examination chair. It would only be a matter of time. It was a constant downward spiral I couldn’t seem to crawl out of.

What if you find out you’ve got a brain tumour?  Stop.

It would explain all of your vision problems.  Stop right now. 

It might have been there all this time.  Stop this, Rachel.

And you’ll find out what you’ve always feared.  Stop.

One look at your optic nerve and . . . STOP!

With tears streaming down my face, I pleaded with my doctor to conduct whatever test he deemed appropriate in order to rule out my fear.

After an hour’s worth of tests and scans, I was embarrassed to find out that after all the time and energy I had spent worrying, my headaches and vision problems came down to stress and what he called “ocular migraines.”

“Stress?” I blew my nose into a tissue.

“Yes, you need more rest,” he confirmed as he proceeded to hand me more tissues. Then he offered me some advice I’d struggle to forget.

“If you go looking for something to be wrong, you will eventually find it.”

Now, he wasn’t for one second suggesting that it was a waste of time for me to come in. But he was inferring that our fears have the power to concoct something into being, and that if we let our imaginations run away with us, it might lead to trouble.


How We Know When It’s All Gone Wrong

Perhaps you have never had the joy of experiencing a panic attack at your optician’s office like I have, but there is likely something in your life that keeps you on a mental hamster wheel. Your relationship. Your work. Your health. Your finances. Your living situation.

And the more weight we place on this one thing, the more potential there is for the enemy to keep us sick with worry about it, similar to how my active imagination left me in fear-locked shambles for weeks leading up to my doctor’s appointment.

This issue of destructive thought patterns has been on my heart for some time, and I have learned that we can claim back our imaginations—we have to! The reality is, our feelings are extremely misleading and can’t always be trusted. Once I realized how much air time I was giving to negative voices in my life instead of God’s voice, I knew that something had to change, and I needed to learn to tune into the right voices.


Reclaiming Our Imaginations

Our imaginations are a fascinating part of who we are. They are a beautiful, magnificent, inspiring part of us. Our imagination is the birthing place for every incredible, ground-breaking, creative idea that we will have. It’s an extraordinary incubator of inspiration and catalyst for endless opportunities.

But, it can also imprison us if we allow it to go astray.

Friend, listen to me. There is a war going on right now. And it is a battle for our minds (Ephesians 6:12). The enemy is after your imagination (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), but thankfully, we don’t have to live shackled to fear. God has a purpose for each of us (Ephesians 2:10). A rich destiny. He has already spoken His promises to us (Jeremiah 29:11, Hebrews 13:5, 1 Peter 5:6-7). Now we just need to speak them to ourselves.

I don’t know anything more powerful in overcoming negative thought patterns than meditating on Scripture—which is why one of the most important steps to overcoming negative self-talk is learning how to take back control of the conversation.

Take it from the hypochondriac herself. We need to stop listening to our mind’s wandering thoughts, and start listening to what God says about us and His plans for us.

If there is anything I have learned from repeated episodes of panic, it is that our lives tend to follow the direction of our conversations. Courage and fear both come from those conversations with ourselves.

Instead of anxiety being my go-to response, I want prayer and recalling scriptural promises to become my knee-jerk reaction whenever life turns pear-shaped.

I’m not by any means suggesting that we ignore our problems. If anything, I think we need to be realistic and face them head on with practical solutions and supernatural wisdom from the Bible. However, we also need to remind our concerns of where they stand in relation to God—His voice, not my negative self-talk, is the authority of my life.

Right now, I am wrestling with this truth. I want so badly to get to a place where I can see my problems and not get hung up on them but to hang on tightly to the promises of God instead. Throughout the Bible, God has promised many times to watch over His children, and I know He will watch over me and carry me through any difficulty I might face. So I will keep on striving to remember that truth.

I will never leave you nor forsake you. I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future. (from Hebrews 13:5, Jeremiah 31:3, Jeremiah 29:11)

Will you join me in tuning into God’s voice?

Memorizing Scripture Changed My Life

Written By Ruth Lawrence, UK

I’ve decided to memorize the whole of the book of Luke. I know—it sounds a bit insane. But let me tell you how I got to this point.

It started during the long, hot, sticky summers of my childhood, at an annual Bible club where I discovered I could quickly learn a verse just before it was my turn to recite it at the end of the week, and then claim a prize before forgetting all about the verse.

One time, I set about learning and then actually retaining the verse. And I had success. I was so pleased with my recall that months later, I asked my Dad if I could still recite the verse and get a prize. He affirmed my efforts, reached into his pocket, and gave me some change to buy sweets. Every so often I would ask again, and the result would always be the same.

For a few years, I was happy with my one verse (John 3:16, by the way). But when I was about 15, my Dad (probably fed up with being asked for prizes), set me a challenge. If I could memorize Matthew 5, 6 & 7, I would get £5 for each chapter that I learned. It turned out to be much harder than I thought. I earned £5 for chapter 5, but gave up after that. However, I did learn that I could effectively memorize scripture.

My secret is to repeat it 10 times—no really, it is! I use an app now to help me memorize, but when I had to do this screen-free, the answer was 10. I took a verse and broke it down down into parts. Then I took one part and repeated it until I could say it without looking. Next? I moved to the second part, and then each line individually, until I had the complete verse—repeating it to myself 10 times until it was memorized.

However, the real work is retaining the Scripture. I love this part the most. Each day, to keep the verse alive in my mind, I review it. Eventually I don’t need to do it 10 times anymore. Each day, it becomes easier to remember. And that’s when it grows in me as I mull it over and come to grips with what I’m reading.


Putting An Old Skill to New Use

For a while, all I memorized was the occasional Bible passage, or notes for my exams. But all of that changed a couple of years ago when I started to experience considerable worry and anxiety.

When I felt the worry sink in, I couldn’t pinpoint why I was worried. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that—where your mind just goes off on its own and there’s no reining it in, leaving you consumed with worry and you can’t quite tell why? It makes it difficult to concentrate, even on the stuff right in front of you.

This crippling worry led me to consider memorizing the Bible again. Soon I found myself memorizing two chapters that I already enjoyed reading: John 15 and Hebrews 12.

In my journey fighting consuming anxiety, memorizing scripture has been an immense source of comfort, and things have slowly started to change. But mostly? It’s teaching me to approach the Bible differently.


When Scripture Becomes More Real Than My Anxiety

This summer will be two years since I restarted actively learning parts of the Bible and although I’ve come a long way in my battle with anxiety, I’m still not completely free. However, I’ve found solace in the important difference between memorizing my lecture notes for exams and learning God’s Word—it’s that God’s Word is alive! Before I started this process, I had no idea what this meant. Filling my head with knowledge for an exam was helpful for studying, but it didn’t change how I thought or how I lived. God’s Word is different.

As I’ve listened to what Jesus is saying in Luke, I’ve been challenged about what I do and think—particularly when He teaches about trusting our Heavenly Father and not being anxious or troubled. I’ve found myself praying, “Lord what you’re saying is really hard, I don’t think I can achieve this on my own. Please help me to realign my thinking with Your truth.” It’s not even a conscious request. It’s like breathing—simply the result of soaking in His Word.

This method of learning the Bible is a slow process. It’s not a sprint or even a marathon. It’s a long, steady walk. But as I’ve been chewing on God’s Word, I’ve felt like I’ve actually been among the crowds, hanging off His words as He breaks the bread and feeds the five thousand. Or that I’ve been sitting at His feet with Mary as He tells Martha that Mary has made the better choice to sit and listen to Him.


Something Better Than Healing

No, memorizing scripture hasn’t magically rid me of my struggles, but it has given me so much to ponder and turn over, that sometimes, I can get lost in Jesus’ company as I read the stories about Him. God’s Word is full of treasures, and I’ve been able to replace some of my thoughts and worries with these rich words that come from God Himself. This process has helped me fall in love with God’s Word again. I started out hoping to fix a problem and have peace of mind, but I’ve found so much more.

I recently convinced a friend of mine to give scripture memorization a try, and I hope I can convince you to try it, too. I find it helpful to start somewhere small, like a psalm. Remember this isn’t about memorizing a whole book, or even a whole chapter—it’s a conversation between you and God as you read His Word and let it live in your heart and mind. If you’re open, God will change you through it.

No longer are the stories that I grew up reading dull and boring because I’ve heard them a thousand times already . . . Nor do I need a prize to get me motivated—my prize is the immeasurable riches that I am finding as I walk with God through His Word.


5 Truths to Remember When Anxiety Hits

All of us deal with anxiety at some point or another, from the minor anxiety of being scared of the dark, to a full-on anxiety attack. When anxiety hits, it can be hard for us to remember what we know about God. We can get so caught up in our immediate situations, it becomes difficult to step back and see the bigger picture.

When it gets hard to breathe, we have a place to turn to. We can set our focus on God, and remember these truths:


1. God loves you

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). Can you imagine? The all-powerful, perfect, sinless God, dying on a cross, for our sake? That’s how much He loves us!

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that. Sometimes it’s tempting to ask, “How could God let this happen?” But let’s remember this: He does love us. He loves us so much. And nothing—whether our circumstances or our own personal failures—can separate us from that love (Romans 8:35-39).


2. God is with you

It doesn’t always feel like it. Sometimes—especially when we listen to our mind’s anxious lies—we feel very much alone in our circumstances. Those are times when we have to consciously remind ourselves:

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

God will not leave us nor forsake us. He is with us every step of the way. Right now, right here—in this very situation—He’s standing with us. He will help us get through.


3. God knows what you’re going through

We might feel like no one knows what we are facing right now—but God does. He knows everything from when we sit and stand (Psalm 139:2), to our innermost thoughts and the thoughts of those around us (Acts 1:24).

More importantly, He knows our weaknesses, our fears, and our uncertainty. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He knows what we’re going through, even when no one else understands.


4. God is in control

There is nothing outside of God’s control. Jesus reminds us that not even a sparrow falls outside of God’s care (Matthew 10:29-31).

There are definitely times when we find it hard to understand why God would allow anxiety in our lives—or mental disorders, cancer, death, and other forms of suffering for that matter. While God doesn’t always give us immediate answers, He does promise that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

When we’re caught in the midst of anxiety, it can be  overwhelming. But, we can remind ourselves that even as we face the trial of anxiety, we can consider it “pure joy” because God is working in us to make us “mature and complete” (James 2:4).


5. God does not change

God says in Malachi 3:6, “I the Lord do not change.” James writes that God, the Father of heavenly lights, “does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

God doesn’t change. No matter our circumstances, God is solid like a rock. He is dependable when nothing else is. He has promised to love us, be with us, know us, and watch over us. These are promises that will outlast whatever we’re going through. These are promises we can trust with our very lives.


God might not take away our anxiety immediately. But He will see us through, and be our great comforter in the midst of it (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Let’s hide His Word in our hearts, and be reminded to turn to Him in prayer and cling to His truths whenever anxiety hits!


For more articles on dealing with anxiety, check out the links below:

  1. I Have Anxiety But I’m Not Alone
  2. 3 Ways Scripture Speaks to Anxiety
  3. How to Overcome Anxiety
  4. Coming Clean on My Dirty Little Secret
  5. Are You Afraid of the Dark?

3 Ways Scripture Speaks to Anxiety

I’d never really thought of myself as an anxious person. If anything, I’d always tended to take my fears by the horns and battle with them until I prevailed. But things started to change when I signed up for graduate school while most of my friends went to work full-time.

A few years ago, I noticed the difference between the careers they’d been able to build and my non-existent one. Many of them were now in managerial positions and other spheres of influence. As I compared the fruit of their labor to my dismal career prospects, I began to internalize a deep-seated anxiety of losing out to them.

I worked myself to the bone for two years to earn as much as they did, even though I was still in school. It was, of course, not sustainable. Close to a breaking point, I finally conceded that I needed God to help me out of this cycle into which I’d unwittingly gotten caught. In His grace, God began to teach me to discern between the voice of anxiety and the truth of His Word.


Anxiety says: It is up to me to achieve this. But I am too inadequate. And what if the worst should happen? I will not survive it.

I noticed four factors in my anxious thinking pattern: (1) a belief that this important goal was my sole responsibility, (2) a belief in my limitations, (3) a fear of the things I cannot control, (4) a belief that not achieving this goal would lead to disastrous consequences.

These four factors paralyzed me because they counteracted each other. First, I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t believe that anyone could offer any sound advice. And what good were their prayers? The mountain of potential unemployment or being stuck in a dead-end job loomed so large that it felt like even God couldn’t do anything about it.

Second, my qualifications felt so redundant to the world that it was impossible to be hopeful about my future.

Third, endlessly speculating about the variables that stood between me and a good job (the shrinking academic job market, the redundancy of my degree elsewhere, the younger job applicants . . . ) didn’t help.

While I thought I was just bracing myself for the worst, it was really a desperate attempt to feel in control (if I can’t do anything about these variables, at least I know they’re there). But the constant rumination only brought more torment.

While the first three prevented me from moving forward, the fourth prevented me from taking a step back to get some perspective. Anxiety enslaved me to the fear that if I didn’t get a good enough job, life would be unbearable. I simply couldn’t accept any alternatives to what I wanted. I belittled the value of the part-time jobs and the talents that God had given me. The combination of these fatalistic perceptions gave me tunnel vision that only saw how much I was in lack and took the joy out of living.


1. Scripture says: Of course you’re too inadequate, you were never meant to do it alone.

Anxiety isn’t wrong when it points out that I am inept. Without God, we are incapable of anything good (Luke 18:19; Jeremiah 17:9), of accomplishing anything (John 15:5), of real wisdom (1 Corinthians 3:19), or of producing work that lasts (Psalm 127:1). But by only highlighting my limits, anxiety conceals the complete picture. In contrast, when Scripture points out our weakness, it also magnifies the loving and powerful God who is at hand to help us (Psalm 16:8).

As I told God that I was anxious about not finding a good job, He opened my eyes to two truths. First, God sees and knows me in inscrutable detail (Luke 12:7). I recalled hearing a pastor say that as much as he loved his daughter, he never bothered to count the hair on her head. It hit me how attentive God must be, how He must care, to be concerned with even the most insignificant facts about me.

I spent weeks reflecting about what it meant to be known and loved by a God like that. It helped me see how thoughtfully and tirelessly God had worked to shape a life that was actually a good fit for the talents He had given me. It was only my comparing what I had with everyone else that kept me from seeing its value!

Once I realized that He’d had my back the entire time, God dropped a second piece of Scripture into my heart that spoke perfectly to my anxieties about my future: “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just where He wanted them to be” (1 Corinthians 12:18).

It dawned on me then that since I was a part of His body, there had to be a place for me. I couldn’t imagine where—especially when the world doesn’t seem to need English doctorates—but I knew I wasn’t that special to be the exception to Scripture. Since God He sees the big picture, He’ll know where I’ll be most useful for His kingdom.

Anxiety governs my life with incomplete information; it is no wonder it throws my life askew. But if the starting point of my thought life is the scriptural truth of God’s love and sovereignty, I see more accurately the One who is with me and can then have the courage to keep going.


2. Scripture says: Even if “the worst” should happen, the world will not end; He looks after His own.

When I want something so badly that I think life will be insufferable without it, I can be sure that a case of misplaced identity is not far behind. I’d tied my self-worth to being able to earn a certain salary. Conversely, it also meant that if I didn’t earn a lot, I’d be worthless. And that became the unbearable reality I was working so hard to avoid.

But Scripture revealed that my fears were the result of a false equation. I’d forgotten that my worth came from being God’s child (Romans 8:14), one who had nothing to her name except a worthy Father. But just by being His, I am conferred a value that is not based on my circumstances and have already been promised a life that is not in need (Psalm 23:1).

When Scripture tells me to pray when I feel anxious (Philippians 4:6–7), it isn’t promising that prayer will get me what I want. I may never get that career or that salary. But the peace that follows prayer tells me that the world doesn’t end even if I never get them, because those things simply aren’t essential for my well-being. And as I give God time to show me His other, better ways of giving His child a full life despite “the worst” happening, perhaps I will discover that I never needed those things to be complete in the first place.


3. Scripture says: You have a choice between believing what anxiety says about you, or what God says about you.

When one has lived with anxiety for a long time, it is often difficult to imagine any other way of life. But no matter how convincing our self-invented statements are about ourselves, they will never override the truth of who God says we are.

One of the most anxious people in the Bible, Moses, was chosen for one of the important tasks in Jewish history: to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian captivity and into the Promised Land. For every anxious speculation that Moses had about this task, God countered it effortlessly.

When Moses was anxious about being too insignificant (Exodus 3:11), God promised that His presence would go with him (3:12). When Moses was anxious about not being believed by the Israelites, God gave him permission to go in His name (3:14–16), and taught him how to perform two convincing miracles (4:1–8). When Moses was anxious about not being eloquent enough (4:10), God promised to give him the perfect words (4:11).

Still he anxiously begged God to send someone else (4:13). Yet, even when “the Lord’s anger burned against Moses” for not believing His words (4:14), He graciously offered another solution: if His presence was not sufficient enough assurance, his brother Aaron could do the parts of the job that Moses dreaded.

Having exhausted all the options of what he could be anxious about, Moses now has a choice to make. In that paragraph break, that blank space between Exodus 4:17 and 18, Moses silently battles between listening to the voice of anxiety—the one that harasses him with all the ways things could go wrong—or the voice of God—the one that promises a solution for anything that could possibly happen.

Moses chose God, and God lived up to every single promise that He made to Moses by that burning bush. As he saw the reality and power of God’s presence, Moses was radically transformed. The man whose anxieties made him think little of the presence of God, and who needed his brother’s company to help him feel secure, became the leader who refused to go anywhere if God did not go with him (Exodus 33:15). After he made the first big leap of faith and took God at His word, Moses tangibly experienced that only the voice of God could be trusted to tell him the truth. And he walked confidently and purposefully into God’s plan for his life.


There are days when I’m still up by that burning bush, haggling with God about how the voice of anxiety paints a truer story of my life than His words. But I do want that same rich reality of God that Moses had, where His presence becomes the only thing that makes me feel secure—not a good salary, not a good career, not the approval of people. So, I’m asking for the grace to be able to listen to the right voice when it comes to that crucial paragraph break of my life story, to let Him transform my life into a story worth telling.