How Can I Get Rid of Bad Thoughts?

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 jealousy.

The addiction.

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 or 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 faithwith which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spiritwhich 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

Additional Resources:

Interview with Neil Anderson “Spiritual Warfare”

Freedom in Christ Ministries

The Steps to Freedom in Christ – Book by Neil T. Anderson

How Can I Experience the Peace of God By Melissa McLaughlin

Powerful Prayer Tool – Praising Over Pleading By Melissa McLaughlin

41 thoughts on “How Can I Get Rid of Bad Thoughts?”

  1. A million thank yous for this!! I have been struggling with thoughts of discouragement this week and they’ve been bringing me down. Thank you for this encouraging reminder.

    • You are most welcome, Shelby!! And I thank God that He brought forth these words at just the right time to be a help to you during this very week. I certainly have to battle very hard to guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus, taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ – or my mind can run headlong into negativity, fear and doubt. I’m truly grateful that God’s Word is so powerful! Lifting you in prayer, dear sister!

  2. Amen. I am so thankful that He is not shocked by our thoughts, but stands ready to help us at every turn. He is so full of precious thoughts to give us. I have met Him in those dark valleys, and He is always there before me, just waiting for me to offer myself up to Him even then. Thank you so much for your encouragement here Dear Friend. You are a blessing.

    • Dear Bettie, I know you have to battle your thoughts daily, as you face the mountain of health challenges that are truly daunting. I appreciate your reminder that God is not shocked by our thoughts, but is reaching out to help us moment by moment, if we will only reach for Him. I have also met Christ in some very dark valleys and His Word shines with hope like the dawn of a new day. Oh Lord, help us seek You and Your Word, that Your truth would outshine any shadows attempting to creep into our minds. Thank you for sharing your journey, Bettie. We all have much to learn from you about the faithfulness of God in the midst of pain. May God bless you and hold you close this day. Love and hugs to you, dear sister.

    • Linda, what a great battle tool for the mind – singing hymns! Some of those old hymns are tucked into corners of my mind and I love when they peek out, like the sunlight through the clouds, reminding me of God’s truths. Thank you for sharing!

  3. We went over this very same subject in Bible class last night…it’s hard because thoughts can turn into action…sometimes that is not good.

  4. Thank you Melissa, for a packed, thought-filling post, for the spiritual battles of the mind. Blessings ~ and could you share you mom’s recipe? 🙂 I mean, really. What better way to practice, than like you did.

    • Frances, you are cracking me up here! Yes, if I pass along my mom’s chocolate cake recipe, you will get some good practice at managing runaway thoughts and cravings!
      It really is something how much of a stronghold our thoughts can become. Thankfully, if we add God’s Word into the mix, we can taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessings to you!

      • Well, will you share the recipe? You have tempted us. There is no good recipe without the Lord’s grace in it, prepared and eaten ~ all to His glory. The Lord is good and His mercy is everlasting. 🙂

      • Oh Frances, I thought you were kidding! Now I’m really laughing! Yes, I will share the recipe, but I may have to do a little digging through my recipe books and boxes. May even have to call Mom!!!
        A note of caution: my mom has a way of cooking that is all her own. Very rarely does she using measuring spoons, cups, etc. So, I will do my best to pass along a reasonable facsimile of her recipe!!!
        All to His glory! For every ingredient, every recipe idea, every hand that stirs – it’s all His blessing!

      • Mom’s Chocolate Cake
        Mix the following:
        2 c. sugar
        2 c. flour
        1/2 c. cocoa
        2 tsp. baking soda
        1 tsp. baking powder
        1/2 tsp. salt
        2 eggs
        3/4 c. oil
        3/4 c. milk
        1/2 tsp. vanilla
        1 c. strong hot coffee
        Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes. 9×13 pan.

        Mom’s Hershey Bar Icing
        1 large Hershey bar (or 6 regular size bars)
        3-4 Tbsp. butter
        Dash of milk
        Melt Hershey bar and butter. Add dash of milk and stir. If grainy, add 10x sugar and more milk until smooth and creamy.

      • I hope to try the recipe soon. We have left-over Black Forest Torte our daughter made for my 80th birthday celebration yesterday. This would be too much temptation at one time. It is next on my list to bake even for a church lunch which we have once a month. Thank you so much for sharing it. Blessings for a new week.

  5. What another wonderful post, Melissa! While I’m not a big chocolate fan, I prefer lemon or cinnamon, I do relate to your experience. I like to describe it as the dessert is calling my name. It’s almost as if I can hear it begging me to come and delight myself in more. And while I love all your well-thought out tips, my favorite is the first one, “Invite God to enlarge His Word over our words or thoughts.” For me, the only way for me to take thoughts captive is to replace them with good thoughts which you also mention. Because something is going to take up residence in that space, so I want it to be good and edifying like God’s Word!

    • I must admit, Karen, I can enjoy lemon and cinnamon desserts, too! I love the way you expressed this: “something is going to take up residence in that space (in our minds)”. What could be more edifying that the Words of the One who spoke the universe into place! May His Word fill more and more of every thought of our days!

  6. I had to delay my response while I went in search of a piece of chocolate cake, lol. Seriously, this is much needed information. I believe many people struggle with such bad thoughts and they don’t know what to do. I pray for many to find and follow your great ideas.

    • Lol! Good one, Yvonne! Cracking up here!
      It is so easy to allow our thoughts to have full reign and run away into ungodly and unhealthy places that can be difficult from which to recover. Though using God’s Word to douse those negative fires is simple, it is not always easy to carry out. I pray, too, that anyone who struggles with difficult thoughts (which is all of us at one time or another!) will find solace in the power of saturating our words with God’s Word.

  7. I love the confidence you share with us that we truly can overcome bad thoughts! I do try to pray each time I fall into this that the Holy Spirit would speak truth to me. And then I have to CHOOSE that truth over the bad thoughts!

    • I can share with confidence, because this battle is not unfamiliar to me! Praise God, I have personally learned one tiny step after another, different ways to take captive every thought and make them obedient to Christ. And it is a battle, but the victory is ours if we press in to God’s Word over ours. Choose by faith that God’s Word is true. What a gift from our powerful and loving God! Where else can we go for the words of life?

  8. It is always a challenge but the sooner we recognize the thought and not allow it to linger in our minds, the better off we will be. This is a battle we all fight…daily…and we need to be aware so we can fight it and not allow them to rent any space in our minds! Thank you for the excellent post!

    • So true, Valerie! Asking the Lord to help us daily monitor our thoughts is an important first step. I love your expression “not allow them (negative thoughts) to rent any space in our minds”! Once those thoughts “move in” it can take a while to evict them. Holy Spirit, help us watch, pray and be vigilant in our effort to shield our thoughts. Help us maintain a stream of God’s Word flowing through our minds, that we may bring forth Your Words of truth, grace and life. Bless you, sister!

  9. This reminds me of Joyce Meyer’s book called the Battlefield of the Mind. It is a battlefield, to be sure! And so when you were talking about that chocolate cake, I have fallen victim to that “battle” too many times. So yeah, we need to be on guard, be aware of our weaknesses (because that’s usually where the enemy targets), and pray that God will help us in our weaknesses because he is strong.

  10. A wonderful how-to on submitting our thoughts to God. Thank you. I so often forget these truths. Your reminder is wonderful.

    • Thank God, He keeps drawing us to Himself! The more we abide in Christ, the more practice we have using these tools in our spiritual tool belts. But I find, this is an area where the battle rages on, in one form or another. And I agree with you, it is somehow easy to forget these truths when a self-defeating or negative thought takes hold. May we hold tight to the mind of Christ through the power of His Spirit!


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