Step 1 Calming Your Mind
What do you do when your situation is so intense, so completely mentally absorbing, that your mind is constantly racing and you know you need God’s help, but you can’t feel him anymore? It seems like he’s just not around. You know you need to pray. You know you could use some time in his word. But there isn’t time right now. Your home is in a state of upset. Your husband drinks too much, raging at you and scaring your children. A close family member has cancer and the treatment isn’t working. Your daughter’s pregnant and you just found out your son is using drugs – and they’re both still at home. The house payment is a month behind and you can’t bring yourself to tell your husband your job is being eliminated in 60 days.
Some of us go through brief, heart-rending trials. Some of us live in intensely chaotic situations for many years. How can we feel God with us when it feels like he is nowhere around? How do we break out of the cycle of reacting to the problem of the day, living in survival mode and just trying to make it through until bedtime – again?
When the challenges of your situation are so extreme you feel like your house is on fire and you’re the only one with a hose (so you dare not set it down), this is when we most need God’s guidance. Too often however, we end up operating in our own strength – which is finite. We think: after I get this problem handled – then I can sit down and have regular devotional time again. Actually, the reverse is needed. When we make time for God, he will handle our problems for us in his infinite strength, walking with us through the crisis.
Living with a racing mind in a chaotic situation breeds stress in our own body, and creates an atmosphere of stress and uncertainty in our homes. Feeling God’s presence with us is wonderful, but even when we don’t feel it – it’s important to remember, he’s still there! He promises never to leave us or forsake us, so we know from his word that he is there. Whether or not your external situation improves, it’s possible to pursue serenity in your spirit.
The first step toward feeling God’s presence again is to intentionally calm your mind.
For those in an addicted or abusive relationship, this may be more difficult. If you walk on eggshells around your spouse or other addicted family member, finding a few quiet moments of solitude can be a very real challenge. Making time for yourself in order to make time for God – is not selfish. It’s essential. Take your bible to the bathroom and lock the door. Stop at a park for just ten minutes on the way home from the grocery store. Get creative. Find a safe place where you can calm your mind. Then take three very deep breaths. Yes, really! Take three deep breaths in through your nose and blow out through your mouth. Forcefully. People struggling with tension and stress forget to breathe deeply. (Try it right now.)
Then ask God.
Ask God to help you calm your mind. Ask him to help you find safe places and times to calm your mind. Don’t expect everything at once. If your situation is a temporary medical or financial crisis, or grieving a recent loss, it can still be hard to slow down the racing thoughts. If you live with conflict and fear, the racing thoughts will require more time to take captive. Your body releases certain stress hormones to help you cope and when fear is a daily part of your life, quieting those reactions is more difficult. But nothing is too difficult for God! With him all things are possible! He created your body and all the stress hormones in it. He tells us to take every thought captive to Christ. Our job is to ask – and surrender.
“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.”
Ask God to help you calm your mind. Tell him you agree with his word and take all racing thoughts and fears captive and surrender them over to Jesus. Ask him to capture them and free you so you can worship him.
The goal at this point is calming your mind. Be content with that. If it takes one day or twenty-one days of practicing this before you can have ten minutes of calm – please don’t give up!
Ask God to help you. When you are able to calm your mind you are ready for the next step: seeking him.