By Melissa McLaughlin
We had just arrived home after visiting my parents for a home-cooked dinner. Mom packed us a hefty bag of leftovers, our very own “goodie bag”. My mom’s special recipe crispy chicken, homemade apple sauce, mashed potatoes and creamed corn. Mmm, mmm, good! But the crowning touch was her chocolate cake. Oh my! There is no chocolate cake like my mom’s chocolate cake! Rich, moist, decadent chocolate cake topped with melted Hershey bar icing. A chocolate lover’s dream!
As I put away the leftovers, I placed the slices of chocolate cake in the cupboard for tomorrow. In order to avoid overindulging, I promised myself I would save this delightful and delectable treat for tomorrow night’s dessert.
No sooner had I set this reasonable and healthy boundary for myself, than thoughts of this chocolate cake bombarded my mind like a torrential hailstorm! Why should I wait? It would taste so good right now, even though I was already full from the meal we had just eaten. It is a homemade delicacy that I don’t often get to enjoy. Why wait? Why wait even one more second?
Like a walk in summer fields where nettles and prickers attach themselves to the very fibers of our clothing requiring concentrated effort to extract, so thoughts of the chocolate cake clung to my mind with a fierce and unyielding grip. What a war can take place in our thoughts!
I enjoyed that piece of cake the next day for dessert, savoring the flavor to the fullest, not despite having to wait, but because of having waited. Chocolate heaven!
In this case my thoughts were captivated by something good, my mom’s chocolate cake. But sometimes, our thoughts become hyper-focused on things that are not good.
What do we do when bad thoughts enter our minds?
Maybe fear of the future.
Maybe the time you were excluded.
Maybe the very one you trusted betrayed you.
Maybe the memory of that person who put you down at work.
Maybe the childhood friend who called you a name you cannot forget.
Maybe the desire for that person or thing that goes against God’s Word.
Maybe that loved one who always finds a way to slip in a critical remark.
Maybe the one you thought was a friend ended up talking about you behind your back.
Maybe that neighbor who ignores you or makes a grumpy comment when you say hello.
The job loss.
The health concern.
The hateful thought.
The personal defeat.
The negative thought.
The self-demeaning thought.
The sexually impure thought.
The memory of that character failure or horribly sinful choice.
The words that the world or your past use to permanently define you.
The examples of bad thoughts are endless.
But do our thoughts of them need to be?
How can we get rid of bad thoughts?
Of one thing we can be certain, Satan will use every thought of our mind to zero in on ourselves, others….anything and anyone but Christ. The battle for the mind is real. There is a war going on for our souls, every single day, and it begins in our minds.
How can we overcome this tidal wave of bad thoughts that crash through influencing the moment, the day, the week and our entire lives?
Let’s look to God’s Word, the Bible. For only God’s thoughts are powerful enough to defeat our negative thoughts.
Here are 5 ways to overcome bad thoughts:
1. Invite God to enlarge His Word over our words or thoughts. Holy Spirit, let your thoughts become bigger than mine. I yield my thoughts to You.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:6-8
2. Release the thought to the Lord. Sometimes our efforts to eliminate a thought actually make us focus on it even more. Instead, tell yourself, “I didn’t ask for this thought. I didn’t want this thought. So, I will give this thought… no thought! Lord God, I release this thought to You.” Let it float right out of your mind the way it floated in, by simply not focusing on it at all. Visualize a cloud floating across the sky and imagine your thought floating right out of your mind the way it floated in.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
3. Refocus on another thought. Make a list of all your blessings. This could be a mental list, but sometimes you need to put more effort into it and physically make a handwritten list.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
4. Fill your mind with the mind of God. Read aloud the Psalms. Choose a favorite Bible memory verse to repeat aloud. Praise the Lord aloud.
I once heard a pastor do an exercise using this strategy. So, I will invite you to join in this exercise right where you are. See if you can count from 1-10 aloud and praise the Lord at the same time. Let’s begin. Say with me… 1, 2, 3, (Now start praising the Lord aloud). God, I praise you! You are the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Jesus, you are mighty to save!
If you tried that exercise with me, you will see that you cannot have more than one thought aloud at the same time. Speak God’s Word aloud. Speak words of praise and thanksgiving to God aloud. Sing worship songs aloud.
This will in effect flood your mind so completely with the mind of Christ that the bad thought simply has no room to stay.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2a
5. Put on the whole armor of God. We know that if Satan gets control of our mind, he can pull us down into a swirling mass of emotional quicksand that keeps a tight hold on us.
Satan vs me? I go down.
Satan vs. Jesus? Satan goes down.
I am not strong enough on my own to combat all of the destructiveness, deception and lies of Satan. We know from scripture that Jesus says Satan is the father of lies. John 8:44 Lies are his weapon of choice. Notice that Satan does not tear down our bodies or homes, but he goes after our minds with lies. Anything that goes against God’s truth is Satan’s combat firearm.
May we be sober-minded as we fight the good fight of faith. For Satan prowls around looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 Where will Satan sink his teeth? Into our minds.
May we visualize ourselves putting on spiritual armor, piece by piece, like a soldier preparing for life-threatening battle.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:10-18
Throughout this battle of the mind, let us ask the Holy Spirit to sweep through our whole being to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.
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. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Can we overcome bad thoughts? Yes!
Take heart! If we allow God to enlarge His thoughts in our minds, if we release our thoughts to the Lord, refocus on blessings, saturate our mind with God’s Word, intentionally put on the armor of God and invite the Holy Spirit to take full control of our minds, we can break free of bad thoughts! The battle of the mind is already won, when the Lord is on our side!
I leave you with these most beautiful words of Jesus!
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10