Why we ruminate and how to stop

Replaying the same scenario over and over in your head, waking up to the same conversation again and again, imagining all the what-ifs, even though research tells us that only a tiny percentage of what we ruminate about actually happens.  I've worn  the label of frustrated ruminator. How about you or someone you love? Ruminating can disrupt your sanity as well as your sleep. Why do women ruminate so much more than men?

       Brain research reveals that women's brains seldom shut down while men's brains occasionally rest, even while they are wide awake. Nice for them and helpful for us if we are multi-tasking, but infuriating when repetitive unproductive thoughts steal our peace or when overactive imaginations sap our energy and make us feel like mice on treadmills. Exhausting. Why do we women typically ruminate?
       Ruminating results when we cling to worry. I used to waste precious energy ruminating but when I did, I felt strangely self-righteous. Didn't it show that I cared about life and people? Wasn't my concern evidence of my deep and sincere concern? Wasn't my husband's refusal to worry a sign that he lacked compassion? A bit of superiority and arrogance accompanied my incessant brooding.
       One day an observant older woman sat me down and explained that rumination isn't caring–it's failing to trust God. My destructive habit was sinful. She read Psalm 62:5 and 6, Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  God is not the source of rumination nor does it please him. Oh, how the enemy tricks us with his slimy schemes!
       When Vickie Kraft turned seventy, women leaders asked her to speak on her top ten list of life lessons. Lesson ten stuck with me and just about cured my ruminating. She testified that through being widowed  she learned that God does not supply his grace for our imaginations. He shows up with peace, comfort, wisdom, and everything else we need at the moment we need it, but not a moment sooner. Thus we face future worries without the Holy Spirit to guide us or God's supernatural strength to sustain us. We face them in our flesh. We face them alone.
        God promises to be with us when we actually face storms in life, but he never promises to provide what we need in our what-ifs. How foolish to attempt to figure out life without him–and that's exactly what we do when we ruminate. When I find myself ruminating in the clutches of fear or confusion, I remind myself that rumination is a sin, an attempt to figure out life on my own. I remember how much God delights when I release my worries to him and rest in the grace he promises on the day of real tribulation.  The next time you are tempted to ruminate, let it go and rest in the grace God promises to provide when you need it, but not a moment before.  

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.


  • Kensyl Burns

    A true word in due season!!

    Thanks.. this was a word in due season for me… and definitely was lead of the Holy Spirit to this sight to read this today!! 

  • Brenda L

    Exactly what I needed!

    Thank you. This is exactly what I needed to hear today. I've developed some bad habits regarding ruminating. It is a trust issue. I didn't fully realize it until now.  I'm challenged to trust God in the moment and stop running ahead without Him. Thank you Father that you never leave us or forsake us!