Taking Thoughts Captive
A dear friend of mine was expressing exasperation at her constant influx of defeating and destructive thoughts. In fact, as I speak with many women, it is shocking to hear the negative, accusatory, and hopeless thoughts that plague their minds. I must admit, I struggle with this to some degree also, but depending on one’s past, or even their present situation, the enemy often uses that as evidence that we don’t deserve better anyway.
Is it any wonder that many women, Christian women, are overwhelmed and incapacitated, like being a prisoner trapped in our own minds?
It is critical that we do something immediately to turn this around! Our future hope depends on it!
The critical action– we must take our thoughts captive.
“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 10:5
My dear friend knows this verse, as do I, and probably you too. But knowing what we should do and how to do it are two different things.
I want to quickly share just a few steps in HOW to take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ, essentially freeing ourself from the prison of our own thoughts.
1) See your mind as a fortress worth guarding!
When we allow thoughts to enter our mind and take root, they actually take up real estate and grow over time. This is the surprising conclusion of the research of Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and audiologist. She has studied the effects of thoughts on the functioning brain and has substantial evidence that thoughts, more importantly, negative and toxic thoughts, can alter the functioning and structure of the neurons in our brains. Her fascinating book, “Switch On Your Brain” unpacks years of research and clinical evidence to support the truth of this Scripture:
“You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph 4:22-24
Dr. Leaf’s research in neuroplasticity (the malleability and adaptability of the ever changing brain) gives us the power to change our minds, to renew our minds, so that we can experience a better outlook, better health, and as the verse above states, to “put on the new self which is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Her research proves that this is not just hypothetical, metaphorical, or limited to the spiritual– our brains are adaptable and can physically change- if we choose to change them!
We are what we think!
With that being said, we have to be very deliberate about what we think about. Philippians 4:8 teaches us what we should think on, but sometimes we can’t get there if we are attacked constantly by negative, fearful, destructive thoughts.
2) Stop everyone / everything at the door!
Here we get to nuts and bolts. Every thought that comes at you, even when it feels like a firehose must be slowed and inspected. “Where does this come from? Who is speaking to me? What is the meaning of this? Where will this thought, if I accept it, take me?
This comes down to testing the spirits and testing the message.
“We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” I John 4:6
I John 4:1-6 addresses another critical step for the body of Christ- we must test the spirits. Here, he is specifically referring to test those you listen to, as there are those who ultimately deny Christ or his deity, changing the message of the gospel to lead you astray (I John 2:26). Because there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing. We must learn to recognize and differentiate between the Spirit of Truth and spirit of falsehood.
I would love to unpack more of this here, but cannot. I hope to develop this more fully in the future with a larger publication, but in short, the Spirit of Truth confirms the truth of what we have been taught from the beginning- it does not change or evolve with cultural trends, but produces in us fruit of the Spirit. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
And John reassures the reader, “you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth…no lie comes from the truth” (I John 2:20, 21b). We are given the ability by the Holy Spirit to distinguish between truth and the lie!
The spirit of falsehood calls into question who we are in Christ (that we have been forgiven, that we are sons and daughters of God, that we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, that none and no thing can separate us from God’s love, etc…)
And the spirit of falsehood will lead us to gratify the desires of our sinful nature.
“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They re in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want….the acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Galatians 5:17, 19-21).
3) Know the sound of God’s voice
God’s voice doesn’t necessarily thunder when he is talking to us- in fact it is usually just the opposite. In I Kings 19:11-13 Elijah was in hiding and God revealed Himself to Elijah. But first there was a strong wind, then there was an earthquake, then blazing fire, but God’s voice was not in them. His voice came in a soft gentle whisper. And God called him by name. “What are doing here, Elijah?”
God has never yelled at me- at least not that I can remember. The one who yells at me is fear, “Your are going to fail, things will not work out, God will not come through for you…” and condemnation says things like, “you don’t deserve what you are asking for, you are not good enough, you are a fake, you are so dumb, everyone would be better off without you…”
God’s voice to me is calm, controlled, comforting:
“Why are you so angry? You should not speak to your children that way.”
“You should not be here- this is a dangerous place and you cannot trust these people.”
“I have the situation in hand, you can trust me.”
“You haven’t spoken to ________ in a while, remember she was last dealing with _____________? You should reach out to her.”
“That young mother needs encouragement.”
God’s voice also gives us insight, direction, reminds us to pray for or reach out to another person, brings conviction when I have done wrong, reveals truth and meaning of Scripture, and builds up and encourages us in times of difficulty.
And as a side note, God often calls us by name, whereas the enemy calls us by our sin.
4) Take the Offensive
Once we distinguish between the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of falsehood, we can now take the offensive against the enemy.
Ephesians chapter 6 tells us that an epic battle is ongoing all around us and that followers of Christ must put on our armor in order to effectively stand up against the devil’s schemes. We have the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Our only offensive weapon is the living, active word of God. “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
IT judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart!
We don’t have to do this alone, or according to our own understanding or feelings. We simply must hold them up against the word of God and IT will judge (discriminate or discern) the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Once we decide to guard our hearts and minds, like a fortress that is worth defending, and interrogate each thought, message, or idea, we make it obedient to Christ through the word of God, our weapon of defense. This is the only way we can stand against the devil’s schemes!
There we find freedom, granting us greater health and functioning of the mind, and producing in us hope for the future!
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Prov 4:23
Do you have anything to add? Are there other tips you can share with us on how YOU take your thoughts captive? We would love to hear from you and be encouraged to see how God empowers us to bring about greater health and hope in our hearts!