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Prescription for Perseveration

Feb 26, 2017 04:13AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
You’re not good enough.”
“That was a really dumb thing to say.”
“You made her mad. You’re a bad person.”
“If you got a bad reaction to that, you are probably the reason.”

Anyone ever hear those recordings in your head?

They come from different places, for sure, but they can make us nervous, insecure, and full of self doubt. If you are one of the rare people who doesn’t struggle with that, then perhaps this will help you understand someone in your life who does.

It’s been a while since my radio was fully tuned into that station. I’ve learned how to change the channel and identify whose voice that really is, but once in a while, the dial tries to creep back to its original setting.

Crises in my life, broken relationships, loss, misunderstandings, or failures all bring that station back on loud and clear. It doesn’t come on in subtle ways, not for long anyway. It usually blares its message loudly to get my attention.

So how do I turn it off?

Recently, I was having this discussion with one of my children who doesn’t experience this enough to really have a game plan, so when it happens, it catches this particular child off guard.

Another child has the Perseveration Station on full blast often, and we’ve had to use all kinds of therapies and exercises to turn the noise down in his head.

When it comes to my own experience, however, I’ve found only one thing that works.


One thing.

Ready? Here it is:

Isaiah 26:3, ESV

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

I use this verse a lot, I know. I write about it. Quote it. If only there were a bumper sticker…

But seriously, I take these verses very literally. It says our minds should be stayed on Him. That sounds pretty permanent. How do we accomplish that when so many distractions swirl around us at any given point of the day?

Let’s look at what God says for us to do in His law.

Deuteronomy 11:18, ESV

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”

I can’t help it. I just love how poetic and descriptive that is:

  • lay up in our hearts and souls
  • bind on our hands
  • set between our eyes

I’d say that’s a good way to keep our minds “stayed on Him,” like our buddy Isaiah states, wouldn’t you say? It sounds like perseveration—but on God! Wow. What a good way to replace negative thought cycles! If we carry it on our person and in our heart and soul, it sure would be hard to forget!

Here, the psalmist testifies to his reasons for “storing up God’s Word.” 

Psalm 119:11, ESV

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Did you know that perseverating on negative things can cause us to sin? Any experience with that?

Yeah, me too.

So, I take these words to heart that following God’s Word and commands is what is best for me, keeping me from the road where anxiety wants to lead me (and anxiety is very persistent!). 

[To be clear, anxiety can also have a physical, chemical imbalance as its cause, requiring medical treatment. Some perseveration can be caused by neurological conditions. I’m referencing the perseveration that is within our control. If it’s difficult to sort out the difference, consider consulting a mental health professional and/or counselor.]

Oh wow, later in Psalm 119, we see another discipline that can keep “our mind stayed on Him” (Isaiah): to wake to meditate on His promises.

Psalm 119:148, ESV

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. 

I’m thinking that sounds like an intentional way to start the day: looking up before life gives us something to look down on. You can bet there is plenty in each day that can turn our heads from our loving Father in heaven.

Preparing for the day by feasting on His love and truth sounds like the best battle plan, don’t you think?

And last, but not least, the Apostle Paul replaces the negative material that often causes a downward spiral with positive perseveration. What now? Paul is telling us to perseverate? 

Why, yes, he is. 

Philippians 4:8, ESV

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Paul clearly understood that our minds keep busy, and we need a clear redirection to fill them so that they don’t go down dark paths of doubt, disillusionment, and discouragement.

It may be that the thoughts that flood your mind and hold hostage your peace have nothing to do with insecurities or bad self talk.

Maybe they are fears about yourself or others.

Perhaps they are areas of temptation or sin.

Regardless of your inclination to stay stuck in negative thought, God’s Word provides a way out. Won’t you try this week to take it?

As the past—and the patterns that come with it—came flooding into my grief around my father’s passing just over a year ago, I found myself in fetal position in bed, so often, fighting those persistent thoughts of negativity and pain with Christ’s truth.

I meditated on who He is and why He is worth the real estate of my mind and heart.

I prayed through each thought, taking it captive, and asking it to bow to Jesus.

And you know what? I pulled through, knowing in even greater ways how true perfect peace really is when our minds remain tethered to Him. 

2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.


Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.

Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.



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