How Do I Stop the Infinite Loop That Replays in My Mind?

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There is a website called “Infinite Looper” with search bars and links to help you start, play through, then instantly replay any sort of video on a loop for as long as you want. This might seem like a modern way to use technology, but I’m pretty certain that infinite looping has been happening in people’s minds for thousands of years. Haven’t you replayed a conversation you’ve had with someone over and over again in your mind? Is there an object or a certain person that you see and instantly begin to rerun a memory? Certainly there are some heartening loops, but more often it seems that the loop can be draining and just plain unhelpful.

As a leader, there seem to be extra opportunities to “play the loop.” I often replay a class I’ve taught, a conversation I’ve had, or an event I’ve led. It can be an opportunity to reflect, make necessary changes, prompt responses, and even praise God when I think about something over and over again. But many times the loop has brought doubt, frustration, and sadness and just flat-out taken up my time.

Opportunities to play the loop seem especially plentiful in our ministries as we come to the end of one year and look ahead to the next. As we rightly evaluate the highlights and low points of the past year, sometimes we can get stuck in some loops that hinder planning and preparation for what God has for the new year.

Stuck in the Loop

I’ve been stuck in one of those year-end loops. It happened last year after a Christmas event at my home church where I serve as the women’s ministry director. After planning and preparing for several weeks, the night of the event came. Tables full of women in a lovely setting were enjoying conversation, desserts, cocoa, and caroling. We moved into the auditorium to hear a message of redemption and the faithfulness and sovereignty of God from a birth mom and an adoptive mom about the son they share through the beauty of adoption. It was a tender, powerful story. The two women shared with deep sincerity, displaying Christ and the gospel. When their young adult son joined them on the platform as they closed, there was hardly a dry eye in the place. 

Then it was my turn to go up. Wiping my own eyes, I walked up the stairs of the platform thinking, “Don’t trample on this moment. Let the Holy Spirit work. Don’t talk too much like you usually do. Be brief and sit back down.” So I thanked the Lord and the women; I emphasized again how the gospel was displayed through their story, then I invited the worship leader to close our evening with two more carols and sat down.

After the singing, there were lots of comments and conversations swirling while we spent the next hour or so cleaning and wrapping up the night. I went home and shared the highlights with my husband, then dropped into bed exhausted.

Then as soon as I opened my eyes early the next morning, the loop began. It continued as I grabbed my Bible to study. At first, it was a “happy loop” of gratitude, remembering all that was shared and how God was glorified. Then all of the sudden I realized: I didn’t pray. As I replayed my closing statements of the evening, I realized that after a year of emphasizing prayer with the women of our church family, I forgot to pray. I missed the opportunity to thank God directly, to implore the Holy Spirit to move in the minds and hearts of women who might not yet be followers of Christ, and to bring those women before the Father once more before the evening ended. I was crushed. Fatigue plus regret equals bad news. I told my husband about my realization. Then with the loop still running in my mind, I plowed my way through the necessary duties of the morning and headed back to church to finish cleaning up from the event.

As some of my fellow staff members helped me return all the tables and chairs to storage, we chatted about highlights from the Christmas event. Then I confessed what was plaguing my heart and mind to two of them. I sincerely had no desire to make my forgetfulness the focus of what I shared with them about that God-honoring event. But I did need the wisdom and encouragement of other believers. With the grace of hindsight, I realize now that their responses, as well as my husband’s, created a trustworthy pattern for processing and surrendering before the Lord.

Practical Processing Starts and Ends with God 

1. Begin with God.

I have learned that I need to begin at the feet of Jesus in all kinds of circumstances. While I certainly fail sometimes, through God’s mercy I’ve learned that when I am processing or thinking through a circumstance or decision, I cannot start with talking to a friend or even to my husband. I must start with God. I tell Him first, ask Him first, and go to His Word first. Then I can go to my husband and perhaps trusted friends. Now while doing that still may not completely prevent “the loop,” it certainly gives you a solid foundation to reorient your mind. I was thankful in this situation that I realized I forgot to pray while I was praying and reading the Word. I did it in His presence, so I had a sure place to return to as I processed through the circumstances. He revealed it to me and I had the opportunity to surrender it to Him.

The good parts of a loop taken to God—thinking through and replaying an event, class, conversation, or even an overview of a year of ministry—are when He reveals what could have been done more effectively or perhaps even shows us something that was dishonoring to Him or sinful. I don’t believe forgetting to pray that night was sin, but it’s a really important thing I should have done. I rightly wrapped up the evening without adding too many of my own comments, but certainly prayer was an essential I needed to remember to include.

2. Go to trustworthy believers.

As that loop-filled morning continued, even though I started with God, I definitely wasn’t leaving it with Him. I needed the words of my husband and my friends to refocus my spinning mind, give comfort to my heart, and speak truth to both. My husband usually has a way of simplifying what I believe to be complicated and bringing me back to essentials. Sometimes it’s a little annoying how clearly he sees when I see nothing but fog and gloom. But his perspective is often what God uses to show me how I need to adjust mine. 

My two friends and colleagues each helped to comfort and refocus me as well. One, a “big sister” who had actually been at the event, gave me hugs and reassurances that God was honored and evident throughout the evening even without a closing prayer. And the other, a “little brother,” who after giving his own reassurances then kindly, but in a funny-little-brother way laughed softly and said, “I mean really, Heidi. You know you’re not that good, right? You can’t mess up what God wanted to do last night.” I knew he was right. I do not make or break what God wants done. He allows and calls me to be a part of it, but I’m not the one accomplishing it. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. 

3. Surrender your mind, heart, and circumstances to the Lord.

With the solid foundation of beginning in the presence of God and with His Word, and then going to trusted believers for counsel, encouragement, and exhortation, I was then able to surrender my loop to the Lord and ask Him to make my perspective like His. There were tons of other things that went on at that event, and as I asked God to give me His perspective. He brought women calling, texting, and emailing with comments, stories, and responses from the evening. God, indeed, was glorified and had moved in the hearts and minds of women.

Remembering Is Good

God Himself has designed our minds with the capacity to remember. We see instructions and commands to remember all throughout God’s Word. But that kind of remembering is meant to set our perspective and guide our actions, thoughts, and responses. It isn’t an infinite loop working to distract us and keep us from God’s perspective. So the next time the loop begins after you finish leading an event or meeting, teaching a class, or having a conversation, seek to stop it. If you’re stuck in a loop—or a few loops—at the end of this year that are keeping you from God’s perspective and purposes in the year ahead, seek to stop them. Go straight to the Lord in prayer and His Word, seek godly counsel, encouragement, and exhortation, and then surrender before the Father.

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About the Author

Heidi Jo Fulk

Heidi Jo Fulk

Heidi Jo desires to know and live God’s Word, then teach and challenge other women to do the same. Heidi and her husband, Dan, live in Michigan with their four children and she leads women's ministries at her church.

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