The Thoughts We Think
My title for this post brings to mind some Dr. Seuss from my childhood. Oh The Thinks You Can Think! “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the THINKS you can think up if only you try!” Dr. Seuss taught young Natalie that she can think up a million things, logical or illogical, true or made up, happy or scary. Whatever she wants to think, she can choose to think it.
You may think that Dr Seuss just wrote funny stuff for kids but he was right. We can think a million things. In fact, you can think anywhere from 8,000 to 60,000 thoughts in a day. That’s crazy! The statistics get even crazier though. 95% of our thoughts are repetitive from the day before. That’s all fine and dandy if you’re a very positive person, but what if may of the thoughts you’re thinking aren’t good ones? Researchers say that 85% of our thoughts are negative, which means that on average, we have 25,000 negative thoughts in a day, and that’s on the low end! (Statistics are from author Jennie Allen and were mentioned in this podcast in which she was discussing her new book all about the kinds of thoughts we think.)
Now I don’t know about you, but those numbers are kinda scary to me. I don’t like the fact that 25,000 negative thoughts are swimming around in my brain on any given day. That’s not ok with me.
Even before I heard these numbers, the idea of taking my thoughts captive was becoming an important part of my daily routine. Paul teaches us that we should be taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). What this means is, we shouldn’t be dwelling on thoughts that go against the truth of what Christ says. Instead, we should only be thinking about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). We should be setting our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2)
Out of the 60,000 thoughts in your head today, how many of those do you think are actually obedient to Christ? How many of those thoughts are actually worth thinking about? Not many, I can tell you that. At least for me they aren’t.
I find my mind wandering ALL THE TIME! Before I know it, my mind is down some crazy rabbit trail that is neither beneficial nor logical! I waste so much brain power (not to mention time) thinking about things that are not only pointless, but they can actually hurt me! Your thoughts can physically affect your brain. Did you know that? I didn’t, but it’s true! The neurons and pathways in our brains actually change depending on the kinds of thoughts that we think. That’s why it can be so hard to come out of a hole of negative toxic thoughts, because YOU HAVE TO PHYSICALLY REWIRE YOUR BRAIN to do so! That’s why taking our thoughts captive is so important! (Jennie Allen explains this in way better detail in her book; Get Out Of Your Head)
Every book I’ve read or podcast I’ve listened to about this topic has described our thoughts like a battle in war. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that in this era, there is a war on our minds, but don’t forget that there is also a war on our souls. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle and Satan is very good at what he does. (I wrote a post on that, here) The enemy wants you to take all those rabbit trails to nowhere. He wants you to be stress and anxious. He wants you worried and depressed. He wants you to dwell on all 25,000 of those negative thoughts, if it were up to him, every single one of your thoughts would be negative, not just 85%! So he constantly feeds you lies until you start believing them as true. Stop that! Stop believing lies thinking they’re true!
That’s why the Bible teaches us to take our thoughts captive, why we’re told to only dwell on things that are true and holy. When God created us, He designed our brains. (In fact, science is now catching up and as more study is done of the brain, what they’re discovering is aligned with Biblical truth. Duh!) God knew what kind of battle our brains were going to be engaged in, which is why He gave us those guidelines. Just like how our negative thoughts affect our brain negatively, our positive thoughts affect it in the same way but positively. The more we dwell on positive, true, and holy thoughts, the healthier our brains are which makes our whole bodies healthier. God knew what He was doing when He designed us this way! It’s time we started living the way He designed us.
Tips For Taking Your Thoughts Captive (learned through experience and study in Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God Bible Study)
Identify Them. You can’t go into battle unless you know who’s fighting for the enemy. You need to become aware of your negative toxic thoughts when they begin to spiral out of control. For me, this is probably the hardest part because those lies and worries sneak in without me even realizing it. The biggest, most common lies that we all face are:
o I am unworthy.
o I am unlovable.
o I am incapable/helpless.
o I am undesirable.
o I am unforgiveable.
o I am unknown.
o My life is insignificant.
o I am a mistake.
o I can lose my salvation.
Behind every lie you believe, one of these is at the heart. And each and every one of those is a lie. But, each and every one of those can be counteracted through scripture. For example, Ephesians 1:4–14 and 2:1–10 has truth to combat every single one of these lies. And that’s just 2 chapters from 1 book. There are 65 more books and 1,187 more chapters full of truth to choose from!
Jennie Allen also has a great FREE resource for identifying these types of lies and toxic thoughts. Find it here.
As I said before, I don’t always notice when those thoughts begin to sneak in, so a very practical tool I use is the reminders on my phone. I have a reminder set on my phone that says “Go to BATTLE. Pray for strength. Set your mind. Make today productive.” I have it set to show up as a notification (not an alarm because that would be crazy annoying) 4 times a day, when I get up, when I go to bed, and in the middle of the day just in case, because these are the times when I’ve found my mind wanders the most. Because they are reminders, I have to click “completed” before the notification will go away and I refuse to hit that button unless it’s truly completed. And yes, there are times when things aren’t going so well and my mind is not where it should be, and then I end up with a ton of notifications, but once I get my thoughts under control again, I get a major sense of completion by clicking them all away!
Confess Them. This is not a battle we can fight on our own. It just isn’t. Trust me, I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. We need God’s power and the help of the people He’s put in our lives. When you start going down those thought trails, pray about it and ask for His help. We have confidence that when we ask for things according to His will, “we know that we have what we asked of Him” (1 John 5:14–15) Taking our thoughts captive is obeying His teaching, which means IT IS HIS WILL and HE WILL HELP US.
It is also very helpful to confess these to other believers. Another aspect of our design as humans is to be in relationship with each other so that we can learn from and encourage one another. Just this week I was discussing this with a friend who was struggling to control her thoughts (she’s actually what motivated me to even write this). In doing so, I was able to help her by sharing some of these tips, speak the truth into her life, and also pray for her. Other believers are a resource we are meant to use. You don’t need to share every nitty gritty detail with everyone you meet, but a few trusted friends can be great allies in this fight.
Dismantle Those Lies. This is where the hard work comes in. Before, we were just figuring out who’s fighting with the enemy and who can be on our side, but now comes the actual battle. And I’m not going to sugar coat things- this can be really hard sometimes…but it’s also very worth it. Priscilla Shirer describes it like this “When Paul instructed us to “take every thought captive,” he employed a tone that expresses continuous, ongoing action. So we must understand that being successful at this endeavor will be a lifestyle, not a one-time event. Taking thoughts captive means controlling them instead of allowing them to control you. It means actively replacing the enemy’s thinking with God’s thinking at every opportunity. When the enemy’s lies enter, immediately consider them in light of the freely given benefits package of your salvation inheritance. Resist the urge to agree with or rehearse the negative thought. Instead replace it- repeatedly, diligently, and verbally- until eventually that brick in our stronghold comes crumbling down.” If its a lie, get rid of it. If its repeated from yesterday but the situation hasn’t changed, that thought isn’t helping you at all so get rid of it. If its not useful or beneficial to your life, get rid of it.
This means you’ve got to know what is true. You’ve got to know some scripture to replace those lies. Maybe you’re not good at memorizing, that’s ok! Surround yourself with it. Write the truth on sticky notes and put them in places where your mind often wanders like in your car or by your bed. I love using chalk markers to write truth on my bathroom mirror, that way I see it every time I walk past. Set it as the background on your phone. Set phone reminders to go off that simply quote scripture. Ask your friends to text you little truth nuggets. There are so so many little things we can do to combat these lies and captivate our thoughts. And remember, it’s not enough to simply call out the lie; you’ve GOT TO REPLACE IT and start thinking about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
We weren’t designed to be controlled by our thoughts. We were designed to control our thoughts. When we do that, “the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ.” (Phil. 4:7)
We need to Live By Our Design.
The facts and information I mentioned in this post came from Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God Bible Study and Girl’s Night Podcast episode “How To Get Out Of Your Head And Stop Toxic Thoughts” featuring Jennie Allen.
You may also be interested in these podcasts by Brittney Moses where she shares how the foods we eat be healthy or harmful to our brains. A healthier physical brain means healthier thoughts as well.
Lately, God has been teaching me a lot of different things that I wanted to share with you, things that I thought could help and encourage you, and I realized they all fit around the theme of how we are designed. God created us to live and function in a very specific way, but more often than not, I haven’t been living that way and chances are, you haven’t been either. So from now until I don’t know when, I’m going to be digging into this, I’m going to study our Designer and they way He designed us. I don’t quite know what this will look like yet but I invite you to learn along with me! Each area of design that I learn about, I will be posting about so that you can learn as well. Let’s learn to live the way we were designed!