When my kids were babies, I started memorizing large swaths of Scripture. This was less a testament to my holiness than my survival skills—I felt a little crazy amid sleepless nights and post-partum hormones, and my thoughts and emotions were running ahead of me unchecked. I needed an anchor, but I didn’t have the clarity of mind to come up with something on my own in the midst of whatever chaos was unfolding at the moment. So, while I bounced babies, I memorized whole chapters of the Bible. And as I turned those verses over in my mind, I realized they did more than distract me—they had the power to reorient my thoughts.
Over the years, I let those big memorization projects slip. But I’m no less prone to old habits of rumination, especially during times of trouble. I rehearse the situation in my mind, replay the details, imagine what I might say or do if given the opportunity. I dwell on my emotions and quickly feel overcome by my sadness, anxiety, or anger. I still need the anchoring truths of Scripture and, as a friend recently reminded me, to follow this sage advice: When life is hard, don’t listen to yourself; talk to yourself.
In an effort to spend more time speaking the truths of the gospel into my heart, here are two meditations I’m clinging to in the midst of hard days:
1. The Lord is good and does good (Ps. 119:68).
I read J.I. Packer’s Knowing God shortly after experiencing my second miscarriage. I was exhausted and grieving, trying to sift through my emotions and find a firm footing. And despite the reality that grief is often met with platitudes that are theologically-rich but lacking in compassion or common sense, for me, the character of God was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Packer covers God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness, unpacking each attribute and showing how it arises from Scripture and draws our hearts to awe and worship. But he also shows how they work together. It’s not difficult for me to see how God has the power to orchestrate all events according to his will (his sovereignty). And it’s not difficult for me to see that his actions are working towards a particular end—that he can make all things work together to accomplish his purposes (his wisdom). What I’m prone to doubt is his goodness—that in bringing about his wise, sovereign acts, he’s also good.
When I start ruminating on my difficult circumstances, this is often my underlying worry. I don’t wonder if the circumstances are beyond God’s control; I don’t even wonder if I’ll look back on this experience and see that it was purposeful. But I do wonder if God is good in the midst of it—if he’s doing good to me.
My husband once defined faith as believing in God’s definition of good. To stop listening to myself and speak to my heart instead saying, “The Lord is good and does good,” is to cling by faith to what I know is true, that “the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11).
As I preach these words to my heart, they have the power to transform my emotions. Even as I look to my losses, I can say to the Lord, often through tears, “I have no good apart from you” (Ps. 16:2). I consider my lot, and I trust not only God’s sovereignty and wisdom in it, but also his goodness. This lifts my eyes off my current circumstances and gives me the strength to say with hope, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (Ps. 16:6).
2. This I know, that God is for me (Ps. 56:9; Rom. 8:31).
Brené Brown talks about an anchoring list. In the midst of crisis, she says, we should start listing the things we know are true—what’s true about ourselves, about our people, about our circumstances, about what we can control. This is meant to help us get our bearings. Our heads start spinning with possibilities and we need to get our feet under us so we can kick into action.
This psalm has that effect. As my mind spirals out of control, it has the power to anchor me: “This I know, that God is for me” (Ps. 56:9).
The apostle Paul takes it a step further: “And if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). He’s using a “greater-to-lesser argument” to put our hardships in perspective. If God’s greatest promise to us is our salvation in Christ, and he’s already orchestrated human history to accomplish our redemption, how much more can he be trusted with these promises:
- To never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5)
- To sustain us in these light and momentary struggles, knowing that eternal glory awaits (2 Cor. 4:16–18)
- To finish the work he started in us (Phil. 1:6)
- To work in all things, bringing about our salvation (Rom. 8:28–30)
When Your Mind is Spinning
Knowing anchoring truths isn’t always enough to stop the ruminations of an anxious heart. I often don’t notice when I’ve slipped back into listening to myself—I needed a wise, loving friend to pull me out of it, to help lift my eyes off my circumstances and onto our good, wise, sovereign, promise-keeping God. I need the word preached every Sunday and the bread and wine on my tongue to nourish and strengthen my faith. And I need God’s word renewing my mind by the power of his Spirit, day by day, even if it starts with a whispered line into the dark, a desperate claim to what I know is true even if I don’t really believe it yet.
 I don’t recall where I heard this, but I think she may have been discussing her book Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Resolution.