I cannot even count the number of times I have been distressed and upset with tears falling and heart pounding only to remember that the situation I’m reacting to is all in my head. I made it up. It didn’t even happen. I had some small random thought; maybe it started as a simple “what if” or some piece of a crazy dream and before I realize what’s happened I have followed that thought down a dark and scary road that somehow always seems to wind up with someone I love dying.
Please tell me I’m not alone. Does anyone else out there fight this ridiculous battle? Let’s examine how we can capture run away thoughts before they capture us.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
~ William James
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5
Capturing our thoughts and making them obey Jesus is one of the prime ways we resist the devil and make him flee (James 4:7). If good and evil are locked in a battle to the death, then our minds are all too often the battleground where enemies collide.
Our battle is destroying arguments and opinions that get in the way of knowing God and taking our own thoughts captive and making them obedient.Our minds are often the battleground where the enemies of good and evil collide. Capture your thoughts before they capture you. #mindsetmatters Click To Tweet
Consider a dog that you must train to heel so that it will stay with you and not wander off into trouble. We need to get a leash on our thoughts and make them stick with us. When we let our thoughts run wild and untamed, they quickly become runaway thoughts that carry us off with them.
If we fail to capture our thoughts, they will capture us and hold us prisoner. Once they are rehearsed repeatedly, they are even harder to dislodge. On a physical level, we are neurologically changed by what we think.
Learn to ask yourself, “Where is this thought heading? Do I really want to go where it’s leading me? Is this thought obedient to Christ? Is it pleasing to God?”
If you don’t like the way you answer any of those questions, you have permission and authority to give that idea the boot.
You don’t have to let every bird that flies over your head build a nest in your hair. Kick out the bad birds and only allow God-approved thoughts to shelter in your nest. You don’t have time or energy or strength to deal with the bad birds. Release them to God and let Him deal with them for you. And definitely don’t waste any of your precious worms feeding them. Only feed the obedient thoughts. Starve the rest.
It was very empowering for me when I realized that I did not have to accept every negative thought that attempted to harass me. When I take the time to evaluate each thought against the truth, I am able to toss out many a thought that if held close would lead me to fear and despair. This is very disappointing to the enemy of my soul, but so very liberating and empowering to me.
You do not have to be a prisoner to your thoughts. In fact, God commands us to be the jailer and guard over our thoughts, and He wouldn’t give us a command that is impossible to carry out. You have to intentionally control your thoughts or they will control you. Remember, you are their master. They must do your bidding, not the other way around. You are the gatekeeper. You decide which thoughts are worthy to take up valuable real estate in your already crowded brain.
You are the air traffic controller for your thoughts. Nothing can land on the runway of your mind unless you let it. Divert the thoughts that are untrue, unkind, unhelpful. Move on and live your life without those thoughts. You will be much freer when you aren’t weighed down by thoughts God never intended you to think.You decide which thoughts are worthy to take up valuable real estate in your already crowded brain. #mindyourthoughts Click To Tweet
It’s not enough just to remove the undesirable thoughts. Trying not to think about something is the same as thinking about it. We must fill the void with things that are worth thinking about. God has given us just such a list.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
~ Philippians 4:8
Here is a simple test to decide if a thought is worthy of keeping.
This list is very thorough, but it’s hard to memorize for use in the moment. I grouped the similar ones together and consolidated it down to just three. I want to judge any thought that seeks access into my brain in the following areas.
Honesty – Is it true?
Morality – Is it morally right?
Quality – Is excellent?
If the thought fails any of these three tests, I need to find a replacement thought.
Here’s how that works practically. I had the wrong time for my daughter’s class presentation at school so I showed up just after it was done to find her in tears because I wasn’t there. Feeling terrible that my slip up caused her unnecessary pain, I begin to attack myself (because that’s totally going to make everything better.)
“I can’t believe I did that! My daughter is so wonderful and I’m such a horrible mom. Other parents managed to get there at the right time. What’s wrong with me? I just can’t do anything right. Maybe I’ll just lie and say some emergency came up. I’ve ruined my daughter’s life forever!”
After my little rant to myself, I take a deep breath and assess these rogue thoughts. Do they pass the test? Should these thoughts be allowed to stay with me? Let’s evaluate.
Is it true? Nope. I am not a horrible mom; I just made a mistake. Everything I do is not a fail. There are a lot of things right. I’m not 100% and that’s okay. My daughter’s life is far from ruined.
Is it morally right? No again. This was an everyday miscalculation, not a horrible moral failure.
Is it excellent? Negative. Beating myself up about something I can’t fix goes into the “lousy and substandard” bin. I don’t have brain-space to waste on this.
Since my self-talk failed all three tests, I clearly need to replace them with better thoughts.
After evaluating and refining my thinking, the second draft goes something like this.
“Oops! I’m bummed I had the wrong time. I’m glad the teacher let my daughter show me her project one-on-one. My daughter is disappointed, but she knows I love her. My daughter is so wonderful! (I get to keep that thought because it’s true and good. 🙂 ) My daughter doesn’t need a perfect mom. She just needs me.”
Now my run-away thoughts have been captured and made obedient before they were able to cause too much damage. Imagine how destructive these thoughts would be if I thought them often and added to them daily. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
What about you? Are there some thoughts you need to capture before they capture you?Fill your mind with things worth thinking about. #mindsetmatters #positivethinking Click To Tweet
Lord I confess I have been letting my thoughts run loose all over the place trampling me and crowding out thought of you. Help me surrender my mind to you alone as an instrument for your glory. Help me identify and demolish thoughts that are not pleasing to you. I want to take control of my thoughts and not allow them to harass me any longer with their lies. Help me to be choosy about which thoughts I hold on to. I want to get rid of disobedient thoughts so the “mind of Christ” you have put within me can shine through (1 Cor 2:16)
Listen to the “Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns