The mental hamster wheel

October 26th, 2015

Have you ever found your mind rolling the same negative thoughts over and over? Like a hamster running his heart out without getting anywhere, we sometimes waste our thought lives on a mental hamster wheel.

The process is exhausting, but yields no real benefits beyond mental exhaustion. Negative thought patterns can often inhibit our journey to forgiveness. We can easily talk about forgiveness and agree it is God’s way, but when it comes to actually looking at our betrayer with love, it’s no easy ride. I have wished my mind could be free of negative thoughts that continue to recur. When we don’t care about people, it doesn’t hurt so much. In contrast, when we have trusted others with our hearts, secrets, and love, the pain of rejection and betrayal isn’t easily wished away.

Joseph’s pain certainly wasn’t a surface wound. He was even thinking of his brothers’ betrayal when he named his children. His journey toward forgiveness and reconciliation was a roller coaster of ups and downs.

My downs on the roller coaster often revolve around rehearsing offenses in my mind and justifying myself, which sometimes lead me to review things the person has said or done in the past with a new judgmental bent. Some of the ups for me include focusing on God’s grace toward me, praying for those who have hurt or offended me, and memorizing Scripture. One of the most helpful things when we are navigating the ups and downs of forgiveness and reconciliation is to set our minds on truth.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

The gospel truths of God’s grace are a perfect place to set our minds when we are struggling with the roller coaster of thoughts and emotions related to those who have hurt us. As we study, meditate and memorize God’s Word, we find help in navigating the highs and lows of difficult relationships.

Today take a moment to consider your thought life. Do you need to get off the mental hamster wheel and fix your thoughts on positive things today? Take a few moments to be intentional — think about Jesus, heaven, and the blessings in your life. When your mind begins to wander, steer back to things that true, honorable and right! Soon we’ll find God transforming the way we think.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NLT)

Melissa Spoelstra is a popular Bible teacher, conference speaker and writer. She is the author of Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World and Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness. Melissa blogs at

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