How Do We Avoid Over-Thinking (or Under-Thinking) the Christian Life? (2023)

Audio Transcript

How do we avoid over-thinking or under-thinking the Christian life? It’s a relevant question for a podcast that spends a lot of time talking about the Christian life. And the question today comes from a listener named Ronnie.

“Hello, Pastor John, and thank you for this podcast — I’ve been richly blessed by it over the years. I know you are a Grape-Nuts guy. I am too! So I chuckled when I read this in G.K. Chesterton’s book ‘Heretics’: ‘There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviar on impulse than in the man who eats Grape-Nuts on principle. The chief error of these people is to be found in the very phrase to which they are most attached — “plain living and high thinking.” These people do not stand in need of, will not be improved by, plain living and high thinking. They stand in need of the contrary. They would be improved by high living and plain thinking.’ Ha!

“Do you ever wonder or harbor a concern over — and this podcast I think may be an expression of — an over-thinking of all the details and options in the Christian life, at the expense of simply living our lives with the joy of impulse? In other words, Pastor John, can we over-think the Christian life?”

Well, a complex, mental, tortured eating of Grape-Nuts is probably inferior to a spontaneous, happy, simple eating of caviar. But I wonder about a spontaneous, simple eating of Grape-Nuts!

The Danger in Thinking

Here’s my answer to whether you can over-think things. The answer is yes; we can over-think our lives. If Ronnie were to ask me if we can under-think our lives, I would say yes; we can under-think our lives.

“Thinking is valuable as a prelude to receiving divine illumination.”

The problem is not just quantity — over- and under-thinking — the problem is quality as well, like thinking carefully and thinking sloppily, or thinking truly and thinking falsely.

Now, whether this podcast — and this very moment as I’m analyzing and picking apart these words — is guilty of over-thinking, under-thinking, sloppy thinking, or false thinking, others will have to judge.

(Video) How Do We Avoid Over-Thinking (or Under-Thinking) the Christian Life?

Becoming Blind

I’m aware of the danger. Just this morning — to give you some examples of how aware I tend to be — I was listening to an audio version of C.S. Lewis’s essay on subjectivism. It’s an excellent essay. I wish everybody would read it.

He was talking about the dangers of turning away from the real world and thinking about the world outside with an excessive introspection. When we do this, we try to discern the true and the beautiful and the absolute, but the criterion for the true and the beautiful and the absolute is inside of us. Then in a typical genius-for-comparisons, Lewis way, he compared turning inside for the sight of the true and the beautiful and the absolute to taking your eyeballs out to look at them.

I was getting dressed, and I just thought, “That is just so unbelievably helpful.” We become blind in the very act of analysis. As we try to see, we become blind. Wordsworth said, “We murder to dissect.” Ronnie is waving a big yellow flag in front of Piper, saying, “You sure you want to do this podcast this way?”

Avoid the Meat Grinder

Now of course, Chesterton and Lewis are two happy peas in a pod when it comes to helping us not over-think or under-think or think poorly. But they also offer a warning, because no Christian in the twentieth century applied the razor of the law of non-contradiction to all the follies of the world the way C.S. Lewis did. I think I can say that without exception.

“In the Bible, thinking is never the final goal of life.”

Chesterton did the same thing in his own way. Chesterton wasn’t nearly as given, I think, to a direct analysis as Lewis was. But oh my, behind all those paradoxes there was a razor-sharp mind who did his fair analysis of the world.

Both would agree that logicians can go crazy. That would be my danger, right? Logicians excessively picking apart and analyzing and being logical can go crazy.

Logicians go crazy because they try to get the heavens into their head. But poets are mentally healthy because they try to get their heads into the heavens. That’s what Chesterton said, and they would both agree on that. But both would also agree that one should use his head to avoid putting it in a meat grinder.

Be a Grown-Up

Does the Bible give us help in not falling off the cliffs of over-thinking and under-thinking? I think the Bible does help us, and I’m going to give three kinds of help real quickly.

(Video) John Piper - How Do We Avoid Over Thinking Or Under Thinking The Christian Life? - July 7, 2018

First, it celebrates thinking. You cannot blow off thinking if you want to be a Bible person. I’ve got three texts.

  • “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). So thinking is valuable as a prelude to receiving divine illumination.

  • “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20). Thinking is a mark of being a grown-up.

  • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Thinking is part of Christian newness in Christ.

That’s the first thing that the Bible does to help us not fall off the cliff of over-thinking or under-thinking. It celebrates the importance. It says, “Be a grown up. Think clearly.”

The End Game

The second thing the Bible does is show us that thinking is not an end in itself.

  • Thinking exists to serve love (1 Timothy 1:5).

  • Thinking exists to serve joy (1 Peter 1:8).

    (Video) 3 Signs God Is Telling You to Stop Overthinking

  • Thinking exists to serve peace of heart and mind that surpasses thinking (Philippians 4:8).

You think your way up, and then God the Holy Spirit zooms you on beyond what you can compute. Thinking in the Bible is never the final goal of life.

I wrote a whole book called Think. That was my main point. I think that the Bible never makes thinking the final goal of life. The head, where the thinking is, must do its supporting work so that the heart can do its main work and not be deceived. That’s the second way the Bible helps us not fall off the cliff of over-thinking or under-thinking.

Look Up

Here’s the third thing the Bible does tells us. The Bible encourages us — and I think at this point Chesterton and Lewis would be jumping up and down with happiness — the Bible directs our thoughts outward. Outward, away from subjectivism and away from introspection to the right comprehension of great and glorious things.

Philippians 4:8–9 are a couple of amazing verses because their simplicity.

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.

In other words, stop standing in front of the mirror and worrying about your hair and whatever you’re all worked up about but get over to the window and look out. Then he continues:

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

(Video) How Do I Free Myself From Overthinking? | Joyce Meyer

“The head must do its supporting work so that the heart can do its main work and not be deceived.”

Think about the right things, practice the right things, and the God of peace will get very close and be very precious.

Set your thinking not only on what is true, but on what is above. Colossians 3:2–4 says it this way: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” So be about the business of taking your minds and all your thinking and make heaven and all the realities of God in Christ the focus of your thinking.

Then one more, Hebrews 12:2, calls us to look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:3 calls us to consider him — “consider him who endured from sinners such hostility.”

You want to do something right with your mind and your thinking? Put it on things that are true, put it on things that are above, put it on things that are Christ’s. Put it on Christ himself.

Three Suggestions

My three suggestions for how the Bible helps us not over-think, not under-think, not think poorly, and not think falsely can be summed up like this:

1. The Bible commends thinking as part of being mature.

2. The Bible keeps thinking in its place and a servant of joy, peace, and love. The touchstone of whether it’s doing its work is its fruit. If it’s not producing joy, peace, and love, it’s not doing its work — we’re thinking badly.

3. The Bible points us away from excessive introspection and subjectivism and says, “Send your thinking again and again to truth and to Christ.”

(Video) Overthinking and Anxiety | Advice from a Christian Counselor


How to stop overthinking Christianity? ›

Meditate on God's Word.

Instead of repeating things you worry about in your mind, you can repeat God's Word through meditation. Christian meditation is simply focusing on God's Word and thinking about it deeply. It's also a proven way to decrease stress and increase peace.

What does God say about obsessive thoughts? ›

Bible Verses for OCD Sufferers

2 Timothy 1:7: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-control. 1 Peter 5:7: Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Psalm 4:8: I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

How do you clear your mind as a Christian? ›

Five Steps to Renewing Your Mind
  1. Step 1: Ask the Lord to guard and direct your mind. ...
  2. Step 2: Recognize the source of self-focused and self-defeating thoughts. ...
  3. Step 3: Replace self-focused thinking with a God-focused mindset. ...
  4. Step 4: Rest in the truth that you are accepted in Jesus Christ. ...
  5. Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4 daily.
Aug 1, 2022

How do you change negative thoughts biblically? ›

5 Biblical Steps to Overcome Negative Thinking
  1. Identify source of negativity. This is actually a little harder than we think. ...
  2. Take every thought captive. ...
  3. Renew your mind. ...
  4. Cultivate thankfulness. ...
  5. Worship.
Jan 13, 2020

What are examples of underthinking? ›

Underthinking can manifest as impulsive decision-making, overlooking important details, for example, when making a plan or gathering information, unreliable behaviour or through statements and opinions that sound shallow or superficial to outsiders.

What is the best way to stop overthinking? ›

Here are six ways to stop overthinking everything:
  1. Notice When You're Stuck in Your Head. Overthinking can become such a habit that you don't even recognize when you're doing it. ...
  2. Keep the Focus on Problem-Solving. ...
  3. Challenge Your Thoughts. ...
  4. Schedule Time for Reflection. ...
  5. Learn Mindfulness Skills. ...
  6. Change the Channel.

How do I get rid of religious intrusive thoughts? ›

How to Overcome Religious OCD
  1. #1 Find Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) ...
  2. #2 Pay Attention to Reassurance. ...
  3. #3 Manage Your Reading Time. ...
  4. #4 Avoid Repetitive Prayer. ...
  5. #5 Avoid Black-and-White Thinking. ...
  6. #6 Include Your Religious Leaders. ...
  7. #7 Find Treatment.
Feb 10, 2022

What is the root cause of obsessive thinking? ›

Experts aren't sure of the exact cause of OCD. Genetics, brain abnormalities, and the environment are thought to play a role. It often starts in the teens or early adulthood. But, it can also start in childhood.

What can trigger obsessive thoughts? ›

Ongoing anxiety or stress, or being part of a stressful event like a car accident or starting a new job, could trigger OCD or make it worse. Pregnancy or giving birth can sometimes trigger perinatal OCD.

How do I clear my mind of impure thoughts? ›

8 Ways to Give Your Mind a Deep Cleaning
  1. Be mindful.
  2. Start writing.
  3. Put on music.
  4. Get some sleep.
  5. Take a walk.
  6. Tidy up.
  7. Unfocus.
  8. Talk about it.
Nov 10, 2020

How do Christians keep their mind pure? ›

Here are some key elements to consider in your fight for purity.
  1. Get a New Heart. We are not pure people by nature. ...
  2. Love What God Loves. Indeed, this is the heart of the matter: having a heart that fears and loves God and wants to do the things that bring Him glory. ...
  3. Control Yourself. ...
  4. Be Accountable.
Feb 10, 2020

How do I renew my mind from negative thoughts? ›

Simple Steps to Stop Negative Thoughts
  1. Pause a Moment. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, or stuck in negative thinking patterns, PAUSE. ...
  2. Notice the Difference. NOTICE the difference between being stuck in your thoughts vs. ...
  3. Label Your Thoughts. ...
  4. Choose Your Intention.
Dec 3, 2022

How do I avoid negative thoughts spiritually? ›

View things from a half glass angle and practice talking and thinking only the positive. Get into activities and hobbies that make you feel happy. Meditate daily and spend time with your family too. Have positive conversations and try watching positive content if you are addicted to social media.

Do I overthink or Underthink? ›

While overthinkers often obsess over little details, underthinkers usually don't give too much thought to the consequence of their actions. They are more likely to act impulsively without taking time to fully consider what they're doing, or how they're feeling.

What are the two types of overthinking? ›

The two types of overthinking are rumination (which involves rehashing past events) and worrying (or hyperfocusing on an anxious concern about the future).

How do Overthinkers behave? ›

Overthinkers tend to find meaning in every word that spurts out of your mouth and would jump to conclusions. If you don't mean something, don't say it. As simple as that. Or, make it clear then and there that you were kidding.

How do I stop living in my head? ›

9 Ways to Get out of Your Head
  1. Meditate. ...
  2. Try an intense workout. ...
  3. Pay more attention to the outside world. ...
  4. Focus entirely on your breathing. ...
  5. Watch an entertaining TV series. ...
  6. Don't fight your thoughts. ...
  7. Regularly write down your troubling thoughts. ...
  8. Live in the present moment.

How do Christians deal with anxiety thoughts? ›

Lay Your Burdens Down. As a Christian, don't fight or wrestle with your fears, hand them over to Jesus, moment by moment. Take time to read through Romans 5:1-6 and 1 Peter 1:1-7. Take the opportunity to challenge yourself to grow deeper in your faith.

How do I get rid of religious OCD thoughts? ›

How to Overcome Religious OCD
  1. #1 Find Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) ...
  2. #2 Pay Attention to Reassurance. ...
  3. #3 Manage Your Reading Time. ...
  4. #4 Avoid Repetitive Prayer. ...
  5. #5 Avoid Black-and-White Thinking. ...
  6. #6 Include Your Religious Leaders. ...
  7. #7 Find Treatment.
Feb 10, 2022

How do I surrender my anxiety to God? ›

How do we send our anxiety to God? First, Conclusively: “cast” refers to “once and for all, throw our burdens to Jesus!” When the worries of life press us down, we do not have to bear them! Thank God, He is willing to carry our load. Thirdly, notice “all your anxiety.” He tells us to give Him everything!

What is the root of overthinking? ›

The main factors that can lead to overthinking are stress and anxiety, which can be common in the times we're in, says Syslo. So, considering the past two years, it's likely you've found yourself overthinking at some point. "Anxiety is typically a response to fear — a fear of what might come,” says Syslo.


1. 4 Biblical Tips to Stop Overthinking and Trust God + LIVE Q and A
(Kris Reece)
2. Question: How do you overcome overthinking and anxiety? | Life Without Limbs
(Life Without Limbs: Nick Vujicic Ministries)
3. Confronting "What If" Thinking
(Mark DeJesus)
4. Psalm 139 Detachment From Overthinking 🕊️ Christian Guided Meditation for Anxiety, OCD & Depression
(Abide - Sleep Meditations)
5. Paul Washer-Dealing w/ Depression, Anxiety & Fear (Christian Thinking)
(Biblical Christian Content)
6. What Satan Knows About Overthinking That Most Christians Don't
(Lion of Judah)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rob Wisoky

Last Updated: 03/06/2023

Views: 5241

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rob Wisoky

Birthday: 1994-09-30

Address: 5789 Michel Vista, West Domenic, OR 80464-9452

Phone: +97313824072371

Job: Education Orchestrator

Hobby: Lockpicking, Crocheting, Baton twirling, Video gaming, Jogging, Whittling, Model building

Introduction: My name is Rob Wisoky, I am a smiling, helpful, encouraging, zealous, energetic, faithful, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.