Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. They direct how we feel. They lead what we say. They influence what we do.
Unfortunately, our thoughts are not always true.
As we learn to recognize, evaluate, and change our thought life, this has a big influence on problems like anxiety, fear, suicidality, anger, or depression. And it helps us to act more in line with God’s calling for us.
The hardest part of this is typically “change” part. Once we recognize a thought is unhelpful or unholy, how do we change it? How do we take it captive to Christ?
Let’s look at this passage from the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5: 3-5, and then we’ll look at some practical strategies to put this into action.
“…though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.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.”
This world is broken, messy, and painful. We are daily fighting against sin and evil in our own hearts and in the world around us. We win the fight through the power of God himself – and in our daily lives, this looks like training ourselves to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Here are five practical starting points.
- Start journaling. This is a great way to reflect daily on your thoughts, reactions, feelings, and behaviors during the day. Which thoughts reflect the truth of Scripture? Which need to be confessed? Which are only partly true… which means, ultimately, untrue? Journaling can help us recognize and evaluate our thoughts.
- Question the evidence for repeating thoughts. Whatever thoughts pop up most frequently, question what parts of that thought are true and what parts are not. Would your friends, pastors, and parents tell you that the thought is true? Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom.
- Read the Bible as a complete story, not just isolated verses. From Genesis to Revelation, God is telling the story of his glory, his creation, his redemption, and his love. He is the hero of the story, not us. The better that we understand the whole story of Scripture, the better we will be at recognizing thoughts that are untrue, unhelpful, or unholy.
- Slow down and pause. The busier our brain is, the less likely it is that we will notice our train of thought. Slow down. Take deep breaths when you feel strong emotions (anxiety, anger, etc) and ask yourself what is really going on.
- Memorize and write down Scripture. The most effective way to take thoughts captive to Christ is to bring biblical truth into the thought itself. Once you’ve noticed a regular thought that is untrue, combat it with Scripture. Write it down and carry it with you. Make it the background of your phone screen. Tell it to other people. You won’t immediately “take the thought captive” but after a few weeks of consistent thought replacement here, you’ll notice a change.