It is a privilege to be able to think.
It also can be a pain.
Your thoughts can take you to the most amazing places. They can also put a chain around your neck and lead you places you would never want to go.
One way thoughts do damage is through repetition. It is easy for your thoughts get stuck in repetitive sinful patterns, spinning a little like tires stuck in mud, where you find yourself thinking the same thought over and over again, sometimes using different words, sometimes thinking it the same exact way.
What do you do when you feel like you can’t stop thinking about something?
1.) Recognize that there are certain kinds of thoughts you need to put off. It sounds obvious but unfortunately it isn’t obvious to everyone, but just because you are thinking it doesn’t mean it is true or beneficial. Your mind needs a biblical security guard who is watching out for the kind of thoughts that don’t match up with what is honorable or helpful or good and who is willing to do the hard work of trying to boot those thoughts out when they show up for a party.
2.) Pray to God for help. Changing your actions is one thing, changing your thinking is another. It can be so difficult to stop thinking a certain way and if there is ever a time where you may feel helpless, it is when you are battling sinful thinking. If you are struggling with changing your thinking, there’s a sense in which you can thank God for that, because probably the only thing more difficult than changing your thinking is coming to the point in your life where you truly feel helpless and sense your need for a Savior and when you are at that point where you know your thoughts aren’t right and you feel like you can’t change, you may be at your best, because it may be just that sense of helplessness that drives you to your knees to depend on God and God alone.
3.) Put your thoughts on trial. It is difficult to tell when someone is lying to you. It is even harder to tell when you are lying to yourself. The only way to live with a liar is to know the truth really well and so since all of us are living with hearts that have a tendency to lie to us, we better know the truth and use the truth to examine exactly what our hearts are telling us. For example, say I am dealing with a person who I think is a jerk. It is easy for my mind to get stuck in a pattern of thinking about the different ways that person has treated me poorly and how I would treat people differently and on and on. O.k. I am not saying there isn’t a place to be hurt or to recognize that someone else has sinned, but I would have to ask myself is thinking these same thoughts over and over again really the same thing as being hurt? Is there something else God would have me think in its place? This is where repetitive thoughts could actually be helpful. Because when the thoughts start running in a certain direction, then I can ask myself why are they running in that direction? What does this say about me? What does it say about what I want? Then I can ask God and look to the Scriptures to discover the way I should be thinking about situations like this and every time the thought comes up, it can be a challenge to me to repent, to go back to the gospel and to actually apply it to my everyday life. Use your repetitive thoughts for good!
4.) Fight your imagination with imagination. When you look more closely at what you are actually thinking, you will often find that your thinking is not based as much in reality as it is in your imagination. You are taking a kernel of truth and then you are blowing that up into something much bigger than it really is. Say we are struggling with fear. There’s a situation that might be frightening, like speaking in front of people, we then take our imaginations and we think about all the possible bad scenarios that will come out of that. Instead, take your imagination and begin thinking about all the different ways that God can make Himself look great as a result of the situation. So often our thinking begins in a place that isn’t true, like God isn’t for us, and then after that, we think all these thoughts that flow out of this one big lie. What we need to do is go back to what is true, God is for me, God is in control, God is in the middle of this situation, God has proven He has loved me by crucifying His Son for me, o.k, now how does that change the way I should think. Sometimes when I am thinking repetitive sinful thoughts, those thoughts act like a bell in my mind, going ding, ding, ding, it’s time to turn your thoughts and begin to focus on the greatness of God and then what will help is if you have a few favorite thoughts about God around that you can begin just working through repetitively. God is good. What does it mean that God is good? It means that He always does what is right and it means that He always does what is best. It means that He is not evil. And on and on we can go. These are not rocket scientist kinds of thoughts. These are just true thoughts and when you are in battle, sometimes you just need thoughts like this to latch your mind to.
5.) Look for godly ways to act. What often happens when we are struggling with repetitive thoughts is that we are becoming more and more self-focused. What should happen is that we stop, identify sinful thought patterns, seek to replace them with biblical thought patterns, and then look outside of ourselves to others and get to work using our gifts and abilities to help them. It may be that we are stuck in sinful thought patterns because we are refusing to deal with the problem in a biblical way. Us cowards sometimes like to think negative thoughts instead of doing anything that might make our lives more difficult. What is so sad about that is the fact that we often feel self-righteous in doing so. It may be that you are in a spot where you really can’t do anything about the problem and that’s when you may need to especially work hard at finding other ways to move out in faith to serve and love others. When your thoughts start racing, towards the beginning, tell yourself, don’t just listen to yourself, actually tell yourself, no, this is a time to serve, what can I do for the glory of God and the good of others right now and seek to get yourself busy with that.
I am not saying it will be easy. This is the fight of your life. But it’s important and it’s worth it to work at thinking in ways that honor God. If you are spending your life meditating on evil, it’s going to do great damage to you spiritually and to others. But if by God’s grace, you are able to become a person who meditates instead on good, you will become stronger and stronger, a solid person who isn’t destroyed by the difficulties of life, but instead is a blessing to others in whatever situation he finds himself in.