Still The Mind

Still The Mind

Lord, I give you my creased brow and my gritted jaw. I hand over the rock in my stomach and surrender my fretful thoughts…how did I get in such a stew?

It starts like this…I met Amanda last summer. She’s a Canadian teacher who works with severely disabled kids. In particular, she described the ones who are permanently altered by their mothers’ alcohol abuse in pregnancy. They have “an abnormal appearance, short height, low body weight, small head size, poor coordination, low intelligence…and are more likely to have trouble in school, legal problems, (and) participate in high-risk behaviors.”[i] Her students are volatile, and can bite or turn violent in a heartbeat.

still willingAmanda has to enter her classroom wearing a Hazmat suit.

That one glimpse of the human condition can sink my boat for days, weeks, and then perpetually on a low simmer.

God, how can I trust You when suffering falls on the innocent? How can You bear the sorrow…

“But for the joy…”

His words distinctly interrupt my thoughts—if I’m paying attention.

Yet, God speaks in mysteries. I pondered that phrase for a while. It echoes what is written in Hebrews—“who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”[ii] He’s promised a time when all things will be restored…where each life is sacred.  

It always comes down to a choice between despair and faith. Or I can limp along, still tormented in limbo.

Let me explain from a different angle.

still full of shameArthur Burk teaches that if you believe you’re flawed in some way, your brain actually forms neurological pathways that keep you stuck in that idea. Small things can trigger or serve as an on-ramp, and suddenly you’re back on an 8-lane highway to shame. For instance, if you were teased as a child for being fat, ugly, clumsy, or stupid…an offhanded comment is all it takes, and the whole thing rises up again. Returning to your emotional-base-camp of “normal” takes time, because in comparison the way back is often just a dirt path.

You can’t say to someone entrenched in shame, “Oh reject those ideas,” anymore than you can say, “Just be happy!” to someone who’s depressed.

still time for joyBurk says we have to build an alternative road to joy. We can dial into the voice of God who offers forgiveness and tells us who we really are. He affirms our value, pointing us toward our design and purpose. We can pursue relationships where we’re understood and loved unconditionally. And as we heal and grow, the sirens of shame affect us less and less, until the 8-lane highway gets overgrown with weeds and falls into disrepair from lack of use.

In the same way, I formed an 8-lane highway to fear and despair. Though my family life was stable and loving, I couldn’t help but notice that many things in the world were not. Starving children, alcoholic fathers, battered women, mass executions, tyrannical leaders…where are you God?

It doesn’t take much. In fact, I believe my brain has forged neurological pathways to keep a “fear” narrative going. A daily intake of news doesn’t help. And so I lie in bed at night with an unquiet mind.

Bird, Horse and Muffin by Susan D. HillThe choice between despair and faith looms continually. Iris Somerset had to make the same decision in my new novel, Bird, Horse, and Muffin, when faced with her losses.

In recent years, I’ve been actively building my faith highway. What does that look like? Prayer is a good place to start and should be, among other things, an exercise in honesty.

God, I’m distressed…I’ve lost the plot. What’s happening to our world? My faith in Your goodness and sovereignty is weak… 

Then I listened. A Scripture came.

One who is perfect in knowledge is with you…[iii]

I sat with that truth for a while. Then, a moving image entered my mind. I saw a giant tornado. Its base had to be several miles wide. The massive funnel cloud had overwhelming power to destroy. But its torrential winds began to break up, and gradually a magnificent mountain appeared—perfect, unmoved, snow-covered, and radiant.

still majestic mountainGod said, “Be still and know that I am God.”[iv] Interestingly, one of the definitions of “still” is undisturbed by wind.

After that came Daniel 2. If you haven’t read this chapter lately, it’s a good one. Daniel interprets King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a metallic statue in a man’s form that represented kingdoms through the ages. He goes on to say that a stone cut without hands will strike the feet of the statue, and the whole thing will blow away like chaff. Yet the stone will become a great mountain and fill the entire earth.

While some would argue whether this dream’s fulfillment came with the first advent of Christ or whether it points to His Second Coming, the stone is Jesus and the mountain is the kingdom of God.

Still time to changeWhat is God saying? Yes, the earth is groaning in great turmoil. Still, His kingdom is unshakeable, and human history is heading toward that goal.

Every day, I can choose the narrative that shapes my mind. God is helping me build a highway of faith. Through prayer, Scriptures, visions and such, I’m slowly learning to still my mind.



[ii] Hebrews 12:2

[iii] Job 36:4b

[iv] Psalm 46:10a


  1. Great post, Susan. Thank you. I understand the power of the bad core beliefs as well, as an adult child of a narcissistic alcoholic. Those messages are galvanized into our outlook until Christ’s reality and His Word clean out the demons. That’s true transformation! That’s new life!