Have you ever thought about how many thoughts you have in a day? I’m sure it’s quite the impossible task to count, but my assumption is that you have plenty to think about! There are the thoughts about what to cook for dinner today, where to go on vacation, why the sky is blue… you name it! There are also thoughts that seem to originate in negativity. Have you ever had thoughts like these?
- After a difficult conversation – “That person doesn’t respect me.” “He or she is never going to change.” “I will never let her hurt me again.”
- When you are involved in a project for work or school – “My work isn’t good enough.” “If only I could be like John, he’s so disciplined and I can never measure up.” “I might as well quit because I don’t have what it takes to make it.”
- In your relationship with God – “I’ll never be holy enough to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice.” “I won’t overcome this sin; my sin is too great.” “Ah, I’m such a hypocrite! I can’t raise my hand in worship, I can’t even control my anger.”
It seems that negative thoughts are more common than we realize. The frightening part is, if we think this way all the time, the negativity shapes our frame of mind to what we think about ourselves, others, and God. I propose that negative thoughts come to attack:
- Our worth (who you are)
- Our work (what you do)
- Our worship (our devotion to God)
Did you catch that? There are negative thoughts that attack us by who we are in Christ. These thoughts can come to attack the good that we want to do in this world, whether vocationally or on mission, for God. Negative thoughts are also targeted at us so we do not draw near to God. There is one who has been launching this assault of negativity on humanity since the beginning. I think you know him well…
It says in John 10:10 that Satan’s primary purpose in this world is to “steal, kill, & destroy.” That means…
- He will steal anything that is meant for good
- He will attempt to kill our dreams, our God-given plans
- He wants to destroy our influence by infecting, dissuading and discouraging us
All of this is fashioned under the guise of negativity. Many times, his strategy will be for you to believe that those negative thoughts are from your mind and not from him! What better way for an enemy to successfully strike than to making someone believe that he doesn’t exist?
Scripture also describes Satan as a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He preys upon…
- Our thoughts of insecurities – I’m not ‘_______’ enough – fill in the blank – good, talented, beautiful, etc.
- Our fearful thoughts – fear is his favorite weapon… He keeps us caged, not realizing that we have the capacity to break free!
- Our conditioning or environment- unhealthy upbringing or incidents in our lives that left us wounded. We become naturally afflicted towards a certain area making us weak, thus more prone to an attack
- Our natural predisposition- some seem to be born with a ‘half glass empty’ perspective. Others might have a chemical imbalance affecting their negativity.
When recognize that the enemy will use everything to hold us captive with negative thoughts. It’s not a fair fight…he will do whatever it takes to bring us down!
Now that we know all of this, what do we do? How do we overcome our negative thoughts?
A) Examine the thoughts we have (with the Lord)
We have to be willing to think about the thoughts we’ve been having. We’ve only been given one mind and think the way we’ve always have – unless someone shows us a different and better way! That is what examining your own thoughts are about – it’s as if you are putting on glasses to accurately see the negative thoughts and what you can do about them.
Laminations 3:40 – “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” – The word ‘examine’ is the Hebrew word khä·fas, meaning to search, search out, and think. We have to be willing to dig deep and see where the root of a negative thought comes from! Our thinking, particularly negative thoughts, can lead us off the path the Lord has for us. Examining our thought life brings us back to the place where we should be thinking and what we should be doing.
B) Redirect the negative thoughts
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 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 10:3-5
We cannot ‘stop’ negative thoughts by focusing on them. Why? Because then we are concentrating on it and continuing to think about it. Have you ever tried to not think about a pink elephant? Even though that sounds ridiculous, you still think about it because you’re directing your thoughts toward it. We are not living under the law anymore, constantly making sure we are not breaking any rules. This would be us working in our own strength. Instead, we are led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18). As sons and daughters, we are instructed to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is why we redirect those negative thoughts towards Christ who is willing to take them and rid them for us.
C) Think new thoughts!
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8-9
This verse provides a ‘measuring stick’ – a point of reference for our thoughts. If we do not have one, it can be easy to drift back into old patterns of negative thinking.
For example, I tend to be hard on myself after something bad happens. If Valerie and I got in a fight, I might overthink and start blaming myself, even after we have reconciled. I start thinking that I am really worthless as a husband. Then that transitions to being a pastor. You see, negative thoughts can spill into every area of life!
Now I check those thoughts according to the verse above.
Is that statement true? No, but I might try to justify it. Is it lovely? No. Is it admirable? Not at all. Excellent? Nope. Looks like I need to think a new thought!
It’s imperative that after we have redirected our old thoughts, that we think new ones in its place. The best way to overcome a bad habit? Form a new, positive one. It’s similar in that we do not simply leave a void by only stopping to think negative thoughts; we think thoughts that are pure, noble, and praiseworthy instead.
Similarly, Paul also mentioned in Colossians 3:2 that we ‘set our mind on things above’:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4
How do we put our heart and mind on things above?
Foremost, we spend time with God:
- Saturate yourself in Scriptures – What does the Word say about your identity in Christ? What promise of God will help you in your circumstance so you do not need to fear?
- Schedule & prioritize your thoughts – While it’s good to spontaneously read the Word, pray, and journal, I believe planning and blocking off time for the Lord reveals the true nature of the heart. That is, prioritizing what truly matters. Even the Psalmist realized the power of setting time aside in the morning:
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14
What better way to start off the day than by putting God first? In doing so, His love will give us joy to carry through our day. Talk about getting your mind right!
Check your thoughts with others:
Sometimes we need others to speak into our lives to encourage us and keep us on track. It’s the same with our thought life. If we have thoughts that are bombarding us, bring them to a friend so that he or she can pray for you and speak life and love to you. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” We need each other in this world that barrages us with negativity, fear, and doubt.
There is so much to say on negative thoughts, I hope this doesn’t overwhelm you! Rather, I pray that this information will give you the tools to overcome the thoughts that are from the enemy. Here are a few questions you can go over with yourself, or with those in your small group:
- Negative thoughts come to attack our worth, work, &/or our worship to God. In this time of ‘staying at home’, which area does the negative thoughts come to attack you the most? Why?
- Satan is known as a roaring lion, longing to devour his prey (1 Peter 5:8). How do you see the enemy manipulating insecurities or fears in your own life?
- What is an example of how you can redirect a negative thought to ‘thoughts on things above’?
May you think new thoughts by putting your mind on things above! Have a blessed week!