Battling Bad Thoughts
In our culture, we are bombarded by bad thoughts about ourselves.
The TV model’s hair glistens and we frown at our own frayed frizzy split ends.
Our children say they hate getting up early every morning to go to school and we silently agree.
Our friends vent “She’s so aggravating” and we nod in approval.
Yep, all bad thoughts.
S. Baring – Gould explained that bad thoughts may distract us when we close our eyes to pray. They may even disturb a friendly conversation or keep us awake at night. He believes bad thoughts merely entering our mind is not sin, until we allow it to remain in our minds. He described evil thoughts as envious, discontented, profane, unkind, angry, or impure.
According to Matthew Henry we should strive against evil thoughts. He continues to say that we often speak the words, “I forgive you.” However, we struggle to forget.
In fact, I tend to hold onto the hurt. I call it learning from my mistakes but really it is hardening my heart. Building a wall to protect myself from being hurt again instead of trusting God.
However Matthew Henry states, “But when God forgives, he remembers it no more.”
What? He doesn’t play it over and over in his mind analyzing it from every perspective possible? Just forgets? Like it never happened?
But what do I do when I’m having trouble forgiving and forgetting?
Matthew Henry suggests that reading God’s sacred truth and applying it in our daily life will create a spiritual change in our minds. He explains that we have been delivered from wrath and have found peace as a forgiven sinner.
This means my mind will be at peace if I completely forgive and forget.
But what happens when I attempt to forgive, but my mind is not at peace?
Matthew 9:4 (NIV) Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?”
According to Matthew Henry our Lord Jesus Christ has perfect knowledge of all that we say in our inner being. Sinful thoughts are offensive to the Lord.
But how do we recognize sinful thoughts?
Matthew 15:19 (NIV) For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.
Seems easy enough to spot these types of sinful thoughts, but consider the scenario below.
In the Publix parking lot a bumper sticker on a car says, “I don’t need a higher power, I have a cat.”
An initial reaction may be a smirk because it is funny that cats act as if they are the supreme authority in a home. However, when I think of my husband saying to his work buddies, “I don’t need a wife, I have a cat.”
All of a sudden, it doesn’t seem so funny. It seems disrespectful. So although the person may not have meant to be offensive, perhaps the Lord may consider this to be false testimony or slander.
So, now that I realize that evil or sinful thoughts are troubling my mind and robbing me of my peace, now what?
George Eliot wrote the following, “Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”
Praise God that we are blessed with such a friend in Jesus Christ. He came to save sinners, so we can always look to him.
Matthew Henry encourages us “to seek the grace of the Holy Spirit to keep down evil thoughts that work within” us. He continues to say that Jesus searches our heart , knows our anxious thoughts, and still has precious thoughts of love for us.
So how do we seek the Holy Spirit’s grace?
Mark 12:30 (NIV) And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.
- Set your mind on things of the Spirit so that you can love Him with all your mind. It may be a good idea to carefully avoid everything that would “trigger” you to “dwell” on bad thoughts. This may even include Christian songs that focuses too much on your own desires. Instead, choose worship songs that focus on God’s attributes.
Everyone’s triggers are different. So when you discover your mind wandering to dwell on bad thoughts, make a note if something in particular sets you down “that path where you know you don’t want to go.” It could be a book, TV show, or even a movie.
If it is a book, stop reading. If it is a TV show, change the channel. If it is not possible to replace the activity with a better choice, you may consider going for a walk to refocus your mind. Or find a quiet spot where you can reflect on God’s attributes.
2. Increase the amount of time reading the bible. It may be helpful to write down scripture that resonates with you, then read it out loud whenever you find yourself dwelling on unhealthy thoughts.
3. Spend more time praying. If you are easily distracted when praying silently, writing down your prayers may help you focus. Random thoughts may still plague you, but rereading helps to get you back on track.
4. Lean into your church community. Find a small group of women from church who will stand by you to encourage, love, and listen. It may be helpful to get an accountability partner to join you by reading the same portion of scripture. Even texting phrases to a friend is also handy, so you have your favorite verses within your fingertips.
We praise you Lord because you are pure, holy, and noble. We thank you for helping us recognize unhealthy thoughts. Teach us to reject bad thoughts and replace them with your truth. Lord, with you all things are possible. Empower us to forgive others completely, so that we don’t remember what needs to be forgiven. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
If you have other ideas about how to battle bad thoughts that haven’t been listed, please leave a comment. I would love to hear strategies that have been helpful to battle bad thoughts.