What Should I Do With My Bad Thoughts?
“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.”
We don’t have to believe everything we think–or worse, we don’t have to become a victim of our own thoughts. For years, I allowed myself to be swept away mentally by thoughts of dread, fear, insecurity, and anxiety. Eventually, depression and suicide gripped my thought life on unprecedented levels. “Where is this coming from? Why am I thinking this?”
Bad thoughts bombarded me day and night. Soon enough, I started to believe that just because I was thinking horrible thoughts, I had to act on them and accept them as the truth. How wrong was I?!
Friend, you can’t always control what you think, but you can always control how you respond to every single thought. And you might say, “But Matt you just don’t understand! I have no self-control for how I respond to anyone or anything, much less for how I respond to my thoughts!”
Well, do you believe that Jesus is your Savior? If so, you actually do have self-control for how you respond to everyone and everything. Paul tells the Christians in Galatia that they can control themselves because of Christ living in them (see Galatians 5:22,23). Not because of their amazing efforts, but because of His Holy Spirit! So if Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then you too can control yourself because that very same Spirit lives in you today! (See Hebrews 13:8).
As I’ve gotten to know God’s grace deeper and deeper, He has taught me that I don’t have to believe everything that enters my mind when it comes to bad thoughts–especially if those thoughts go against His truth and love for me. Grandma used to say, “Baby, just because the crows fly over your head that doesn’t mean you have to let them make a nest in your hair.” I didn’t understand it at the time, but she was saying, “No, you can’t always help what you think, but you can always help what you allow to permanently stay in your soul.”
How do we do this? How do we protect ourselves from thoughts we know aren’t true? First of all, we have to stop trying to sheriff our thoughts. Thoughts have free reign in our souls, we can’t control them coming and going–so give up on that right away.
Because of sin being a parasite in our flesh (see Romans 7:8,11,17,20, Genesis 4:7), as well as the spiritual realm constantly attacking our thought life (see Ephesians 6:10-19), we have to stop trying to force ourselves to stop thinking certain thoughts! Stop trying to stop thoughts! We don’t have the ability to legislate brainwaves, sin, or the spiritual realm!
So let them glide through, and let them glide out. When a bad thought enters your mind and tells you, “I’m here to cause trouble.” our response should be, “I know you are, come on through. Don’t let the door hit you in the butt.”
Random thoughts will happen all the time–so what. Those thoughts in themselves don’t define you in any way. And remember, sinful thoughts have absolutely nothing to do with your spiritual perfection. They are just that, a sinful thought. It is when we grab a sinful thought and say, “Here, have a seat. Hang out for a while. Can I get you a cold drink?” that things begin to go south. Hosting, feeding, and then acting with any wrong thought is what gets us in trouble and causes us pain–but not the thought by itself. It is just a thought.
Just yesterday, I walked into my closet to put my shoes on to go running and I had the most God-awful thought about someone. Immediately, I was like, “Nope! I know where that’s coming from! I’m not going there.” Had this been four or five years ago, I would have easily jumped on that train and taken a ride through a very dark tunnel. But instead, I immediately disagreed with it and let it pass.
I didn’t stand there and concentrate on not thinking about that thought anymore–that’s impossible. We will think about whatever we are thinking about, period. But as we allow Christ to lead us by His Spirit in us, He is the one who helps filter our thoughts. So as a result, that bad thought passed as I sat down on the bed and put my shoes on. I haven’t even thought about that thought again until just now. See what I mean?
We have to stop being a slave to our thoughts! We must begin to realize that thoughts are like vapors–they are random, small (yes, small, you’ll see), mostly unnoticeable, and you can’t catch them. So simply let bad thoughts happen, try to notice them–so that you can correct them–and then move along. There is nothing wrong with a thought per se, but there is something wrong with agreeing with and acting on every thought you have. So relax! Your thoughts don’t dictate your life! You do! Allow God’s Spirit in you to sift through your thoughts, rather than believing all of them!
The second thing you must do is something you’ve probably read in my writings many times. As a matter of fact, this is the title of the final chapter in my first book, True Purpose In Jesus Christ, and that is, FIGHT BACK! Notice I didn’t say “Stop the thoughts from coming!”? Remember, we can’t do that, but we sure can fight the thoughts that try to stay!
When a thought hits you and tries to set up shop “in your hair” by attempting to make you feel sad, mad, depressed, anxious, fearful, not good enough, lacking, unloved, unwanted, unattractive, unappreciated–anything that you know Jesus does not agree with, you have to speak up against it! Don’t just sit there and take it as the truth, fight back!
You can do this out loud or to yourself, but you must begin to practice overcoming wrong thoughts with God’s truth. When you have a bad thought, ask yourself, “What does God say about this thought?” When you do this, little by little, those thoughts begin to lose their power. In turn, you will stop reacting to your bad thoughts how Satan wants you to, which is fearfully or sinfully. There is another way! God’s way! (See John 14:6).
The Bible says we are to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). This means when a thought pops into your head that does not match up with what the Holy Spirit says about you–or your situation–YOU GOTTA KILL IT! You gotta kill that thought! Don’t be passive! FIGHT!
Thought after thought after thought–FIGHT! KILL! FIGHT! KILL! GET YOUR MIND IN ORDER BY FIGHTING BACK! Don’t agree with the bad thoughts–agree with God! Practice this on a moment by moment basis! Soon enough, the devil will become perplexed because this is where he does his greatest work–in our minds.
When you begin to not just put on the full armor of God–but also become offensive–your enemy and sin doesn’t stand a chance! We’re like, “BOOM BABY! BRING IT! WE GOT THIS! CHRIST IN US HAS GOT THIS WITH US!” I want you to get excited about this! You can have a great time fighting back!
You and Jesus are a team! It’s not all of Him and none of you! NO! That’s garbage! It’s both of you together! So don’t just stand there and take the pounding, fight back with Christ! I heard a terrible teaching the other day where someone was claiming, “You’ve made Jesus you Savior but not your Lord!” HOGWASH! It’s impossible for Him to be your Savior and not your Lord! You and Him are one! What a stupid idea! What a stupid thought!
Now…I’m not going to lie to you, at first, fighting back will be a severe conflict of epic proportions. You’ll notice every fight, over every thought, and sometimes you’ll get knocked down. Friend, that’s okay. Jesus will always be right there next to you with His hand out, saying, “Get up. I’m here. Let’s go.”
The great news is eventually you won’t notice the battles very often. You’ll become extremely strong, bold, and confident–because that’s who you really are in your spirit. God’s protection around your mind will become like a mighty fortress. Sure, some vapors might slip in now and again, but over all, you have the mind of Christ, and you are stable and fortified!
So today, my friends, know this: Relax and fight back. Yeah, relax and fight back. This is the paradox of living the Christian life which is most enjoyable. When you find yourself in a state of rest, you will find yourself in a state of power. Only God’s grace can enable you to discover this sweet spot. Once you find it, and a bad thought enters your mind for a moment, it will see you, and scurry out quickly. It wants no part of you. Nothing stands a chance against God Almighty, with you, inside you.
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, thank you for teaching me how to win the battles in my mind, which is through your truth. You are so good to me! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who have been losing the battle in their minds for a long time now, strengthen them. Help them to begin to discern the truth from lies. Give them a new confidence in knowing you are with them no matter what they think. Teach them how to relax, and teach them how to fight. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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