One of the more common questions I get asked is about how we control our thoughts – from negative thinking about ourselves, to dwelling on past or future situations that bring continual anxiety and pain.
It’s a great question. No doubt, our minds are more important than we often realize. Romans 12:1-2 tells us that our basic transformation as Christians is not first in our lifestyle or other external signs – it’s the transformation of our minds. Romans 8:5-8 in particular tells us that we have a choice: the mind controlled by the Spirit leads to life and peace, whereas the mind controlled by the flesh leads to death.
“But it’s not that easy”, I’m often told. “I just can’t help it.” Or, “I just dwell on stuff from the past. It really gets me down.”
I know what it is to overthink things; I really do. But since the Bible tells us that we have a choice in this, I believe it to be so.
There’s a principle found in 2 Corinthians 10:5 I’ve found to be very helpful: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
See it? We take captive every thought. Seems simple. Why do we do this? To make our thoughts obedient to Christ, and resist the arguments that work against the knowledge of God (including the good things He’s said about you.) Some of us are, by far, our own worst enemies.
But here’s the rub: HOW do we do this? Turns out it’s not difficult – but requires great discipline. Many of you reading this will have struggled with a pattern of thinking that begins with one bad thought – a memory, guilt, lust, or self condemnation. The trouble is that one thought, like Lays chips, is never enough. One is always followed by the second, and the third, and soon we’re wallowing in misery, condemnation, anxiety, or worse.
The challenge is to catch that very first thought – and make it captive to the knowledge of Christ. How? Once that first thought passes through your mind, you literally tell yourself: I’m not thinking in that pattern today. God through His Word has said better than that about me. I am not the person I was. I am NOT my mistakes. I am not what was done to me. I will not stress about the future that my God has for me. I will NOT think along those lines today.
There you have it. What happens next? Usually, within a couple of minutes, the thought circles back around. You take it captive again. My experience is that some of you will need to practice this 50 or 100 times a day – for the first days. Maybe by day ten you’re only having to do it 40 times – that’s progress. But, believe it or not, it slowly begins to work. You actually train yourself, by taking your thoughts captive (with the Spirit’s help), to stop the negative thinking at the source.
I trust this is helpful to someone reading. You are not bound to a life where your own thinking keeps you bound. There is hope!