Inside my head, a never-ending game of pinball takes place. A ball bounces around randomly, lighting up different thoughts just for a second before racing off to the next target. I don’t have much control over the ball, and I cannot get it to stop bouncing!
My inability to focus leads to trouble writing, reading, and sitting still long enough to get any task completed. Almost daily I complain, “I just can’t focus!”
For two years I let the pinball game continue, making excuses for my restless mind. First, I blamed being pregnant (pregnancy brain is real my friends). Of course, pregnancy leads to a baby which means lack of sleep. A valid reason for not being able to think clearly, right? Moving past the sleepless phase, I attributed my lack of concentration to my ever-growing list of responsibilities. “Anyone would have trouble focusing with so much to remember,” I rationalized.
Then, a couple of months ago, I hit my breaking point. Attempting to work, but unable to make any progress brought on tears of frustration. I needed the pinball game to stop!
At this point, I sensed a deeper issue at play, so I turned to God.
As I poured out my confused heart in prayer, God revealed my unsettled mind was a sign of an unsettled spirit.
Over the next few days I started noticing all the symptoms of an unsettled spirit: easily distracted, inability to focus, high anxiety, and discontentment.
It all made sense now. But what was I supposed to do?
How do you fix an unsettled spirit?
God’s word gives the following guidance:
1. Set your mind on God alone.
Let go of your to-do list and stop worrying about what others think or expect of you. Instead, look at God’s word and let his truth guide you. (Not easy, I know! Read 4 Steps for Glorifying God Every Day for more help.)
Focusing on God gives us perfect peace. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). I don’t know a better way to describe the opposite of an unsettled spirit than perfect peace.
2. Seek righteousness
Developing righteousness helps settle a restless spirit. “And the work of righteousness will be peace, And the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17).
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines righteousness as “the state of him who is such as he ought to be.” According to the Bible, we ought to be like Jesus. (Read about The Life God Intended here.) Therefore, we can view the “work of righteousness” as conforming ourselves into the image of Christ.
3. Cut out unnecessary distractions
If setting your mind on God is the key to a quiet and peaceful spirit, then help yourself out by removing unnecessary distractions. (Remember one of my symptoms of an unsettled spirit was being easily distracted.)
In her book Wait and See, Wendy Pope shares how God asked her to stop watching a certain television show. At first, she didn’t understand why God wanted her to stop watching; but later she realized, “watching this show diluted my thoughts, I focused more on the plot than Scripture.” The show distracted her mind from focusing on God.
Proverbs 4:25 wisely advises us, “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.”
4. Rest with God
I love how Augustine explains the need to rest with God, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”
God designed us to dwell with him. “The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4). When we don’t take time to rest with God, we will feel incomplete, and our spirit becomes restless, longing for the missing piece.
Fixing an unsettled spirit takes time. Even after two months of working through these 4 steps on a regular basis, I am still struggling to retrain my brain from the years of pinball.
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