In his second letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote this: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV
Many common battles are fought – and won – in our minds. This verse reminds us that as we present our thought life before the throne of heaven, we can destroy anything that is in direct opposition to God’s Word. We can eliminate the validity of opinions that are contrary to who God is.
5 Ways to Take Every Thought Captive
How do we do this? Here are five creative ways to take every thought captive:
1. Journal your troublesome thoughts.
If you struggle with anxiety, write down exactly what fears you’ve encountered this week. Or perhaps you have several fearful thoughts a day. Take a small notebook with you in your purse, laptop bag, or backpack, and write down what those fearful thoughts are.
This achieves two mindset markers: First, seeing what you are afraid of in writing will allow you to capture it. It may seem simple, but when we take every thought captive, we first must recognize the obtrusive thought.
Whether it’s anxiety, fear, worry, thoughts of shame, or comparison, you can acknowledge the thoughts just by writing them on paper. You can also use the Notes app on your phone if it’s easier for you; in fact, you might find it beneficial to speak the thought aloud into your phone for it to record.
Choose something that you can do easily and quickly, wherever you are. Waiting until later will only delay the recording, and our memories aren’t always reliable or accurate.
The other mindset marker that recording your thoughts helps you achieve is escaping the mental spiral that one thought can often open up. If you struggle with thoughts of low self-esteem or shame, you might begin with, “I am so dumb” when you make a mistake at work. However, it’s very easy to continue that train of thought into “I’ll never get a raise,” or “I am going to get fired.”
Our thoughts tend to run away from us if we are not careful. Journaling is a great way to practice awareness of your thought patterns.
2. Find a song or album that speaks to a pervasive thought pattern.
If, for example, fear and anxiety are struggles, you might look for songs that identify the truth, especially as it relates to overcoming fear. One popular Christian song lyric proclaims that “fear is a liar,” and just listening to that lyric allows a person’s thoughts to be overcome by scriptural truth.
Apple Music or Pandora can be helpful tools in searching for songs that address negative thought patterns. You may struggle with low self-esteem, so looking for songs about identity in Christ will be an important way to overcome thoughts of shame related to identity.
Start making a playlist on your phone and on your home listening device that specifically speaks to mental battles. If you tend to overanalyze and think about endless options before making decisions, try songs about peace.
Even instrumental songs can go the distance in reminding us that we are not the overseers of life.
One friend found calm in what she realized later was actually a Christmas song. When studying for a test or approaching any major milestone that brought up anxiety, she would play this song. It was years later that she learned it was intended for a celebration of Advent.
Still, the refrain helped her through many circumstances that caused her to worry in the song Breath of Heaven. It may help you as well.
3. Listen to poetry or the spoken word while driving, cooking, or walking.
Many ancient hymns were built upon Scripture. There is a treasure trove of beautiful imagery and poetry to lean into when thoughts assail.
Ask to borrow a hymnal from your church or check one out of your local library. Even better: Order an audio recording of Scripture reading, poetry, or a mix of both. You can use apps such as Scribd or Amazon to help you source different titles.
Often, we want to take every thought captive but we’re too busy or too concerned with our families to stop and think about how we think. This creates a log jam where our brains struggle to move past invasive thoughts. So having a regular rhythm of listening to audio recordings of Scripture, poetry, and hymns help.
It’s like a doctor’s prescription versus taking multivitamins and exercising regularly. Of course, sometimes the prescription is necessary and helpful, but we can also prepare to have healthy bodies by building habits that protect our immune systems.
Look at poetry-listening or hymnal reading as a five-minute rhythm daily that allows your brain to surrender to the ongoing protection of truth. Even if it’s not necessarily a poem that relates to the Lord, concentrating on the words spoken out loud keeps your mind from wandering into toxic thought lanes.
4. Say your thoughts out loud to someone who loves you and someone you trust.
This is by far one of the most helpful, albeit challenging, ways to combat negative thought patterns. But if you truly want to take every thought captive, you must remember that you are not alone.
It’s easy to think you are the only one who struggles with the battlefield of the mind. But Scripture reminds all believers in Romans 12:2a NIV, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
If our minds didn’t need renewing, we might wonder if the Word of God would have any mention at all about our thoughts. Yet what we see is that God understands that our thought life is key to how we live our daily lives.
In Romans 8:5 ESV we are reminded, “For those who live according to the flesh will set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
Talking about our thoughts doesn’t have to be scary or formal. You can simply talk to a close friend or your spouse about thoughts you’ve been having that seem to cause frustration in your everyday life.
Letting someone know what those thoughts are does several things:
- It develops for you a future safety net where you can go to that person and share a specific thought that is holding you down or causing you to doubt.
- It reminds you and the listener that you need each other. One of the ways the enemy can lie to us is to convince us that we are alone, that no one else struggles, and that we would be laughed at or thought of as delusional if anyone else knew some of our thought patterns.
- It brings freedom and light to the darkness. Galatians 5:1 reminds us that we are set free by the death and resurrection of Christ so that we can live in freedom. In Psalm 18:28 ESV we are reminded: “For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.”
5. Purchase an adult coloring book full of Scriptural reminders to take every thought captive.
When thoughts assault you unexpectedly, you may need a go-to activity or resource to help you come back to what is true. Adult coloring books abound, and you can find many varieties that teach Scripture or are direct quotations from the Bible.
Taking the time to sit down and color may seem silly in today’s fast-paced society. However, it achieves several goals when we slow down and reach for our colored pencils or markers.
First, coloring quiets our bodies. When we struggle with fear, anxiety, or other types of thoughts that can be paralyzing to a victorious life, our bodies respond too. Our muscles tense, and our breath quickens. A time of coloring can break the sensations in our physical bodies that are adding to our stress.
Second, coloring can also help us return to a familiar childhood activity that brings warm memories to light. Many adults have suffered from trauma in the past, and coloring often conjures up a simpler time or a small pocket of time when there was an escape outlet to our pain. Taking up this activity may hearken to those moments when all you needed to decide was the next color to choose.
Finally, coloring forces us to do something with our hands that requires mental concentration. As much as we hear that staying in the lines is not the goal, it’s common to want to stay in the lines when we color. This small goal requires focus. That alone can be enough to snap you out of a negative thought pattern.
Remember that seeing a certified counselor can also help you take every thought captive. Talking about how your thoughts impact your everyday life can be especially helpful. Call our office today; we will direct you to a counselor who can assist you in this journey toward freedom.
“Purple Flowers”, Courtesy of Louise Vildmark, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “White Flower”, Courtesy of Julie Blake Edison, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Yellow Flowers”, Courtesy of Hans Isaacson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pink Flowers”, Courtesy of Bart Van Geffen, Unsplash.com, CC0 License