Thoughts are powerful things. Great teachers or orators transmit ideas to us, and these ideas direct the course of our steps. We follow thoughts, the way we would a tour guide in a foreign place, or the car in front of us in a caravan. Thoughts lead us places.
But if thoughts are the direction our vehicle takes, then emotions are the gasoline in our engine. Thoughts provoke emotions, and emotions give us the energy to go in their direction. Have you ever had an inkling or imagined a situation that shocked or terrified you? Regardless of whether it was true or not, that thought no doubt generated powerful emotions, which were strong enough to spur you to haphazard action.
I have a cat named Samantha, who I let into the backyard every morning so that she can enjoy herself with the smells and the sounds of the outside world. One night, she she refused to obey my call, darting away whenever I got near her. Her stubbornness won out, and finally, I decided to let her stay out all night. But first, I prayed to my Heavenly Father to keep her safe, trusting Him to protect her. My faith in His ability and willingness was absolute.
The next morning, I called Samantha...but she didn’t come. Over and over, I yelled her name, but she was nowhere to be found. Suddenly, I had a thought—I imagined her on a nearby street, injured by a passing car. Then I had another thought—Samantha trapped in any one of my neighbors’ tool sheds, unable to get out and dying of thirst. Panic overtook me as a million other horrifying scenarios passed before my eyes. Despite the early hour, I resolved to start knocking on the neighbors’ doors and beg them to let me search their properties.
I threw on some clothes and tumbled out of the house. As I reached the corner of my street, I heard a high-pitched meow. Samantha came cheerfully bounding out from between two houses. Awash in relief, I picked her up and took her home.
Two things happened during that incident, one that hurt me, and one that hurt my Father. I had let a horrifying thought distract me. That thought elicited powerful emotions, ones that fueled my panicked and erratic course of action. And while I was taking matters into my own hands, my actions told my Heavenly Father that a) I doubted His concern for my cat, a creature that His own hands had made, b) I doubted his compassion for me, His beloved child who had called on Him for protection, and c) I doubted His ability to look after both Samantha and me. I had let my imagination convince me that God had failed.
We humans do this all the time. We let rogue thoughts derail us until we are filled with fear and self-doubt. No wonder the Bible tells to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
That is an essential life skill: policing your thoughts. Unbidden thoughts, such as I’m ugly, I’m not desirable, I’m nobody, I’m worthless, will give birth to depression and tears, and sometimes even regretted actions. Before that thought goes one step further (cue the turntable needle screeching noise), take that thought captive! Arrest that thought! Don’t let it get away, because it is going to lead you down the wrong path.
Instead, remember what God tells you. You are beautiful. You are mine. You are priceless. You are beloved. Because unlike the self-damaging thoughts, these ideas are true. They’re real. They’re spoken by the one true God, whose every word is trustworthy and sure.
Imprisoning bad thoughts and making them obedient to Christ is one of the most rewarding things you will accomplish. Like most of the Bible’s commands, this one is designed simply for your own protection. Taking captive any thought that flies in the face of God’s truth will help you lead a joyous and fulfilled life, and bring you out from the darkness of deceit and into the light of truth.
One final note: although today, you may take those bad thoughts captive, they are not dead. They will resurface from time to time. But with each passing day that they remain in the prison of your mind, they grow weaker. The bad thoughts will gradually lose their power to derail you. The true thoughts of God that you are His treasured child will grow stronger and more constant. Truth always overcomes lies. And as God’s beloved child, you will overcome anything this world throws at you.
“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.” (Philippians 4:8)
“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 son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:20-23)