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We cannot control our thoughts, but we can respond to them in a healthy way so that we can still choose behavior that honors God.

Thoughts are harmless, right? Ideas and thoughts present themselves as harmless little wisps, floating through the mind then fluttering away. “The things that go on in the mind aren’t real, therefore thoughts shouldn’t concern us.” This line of thinking may work for non-believers, but Christians must hold themselves to a higher standard and even begin analyzing how their thoughts can impact their behaviors.

The Truth About Thoughts

Thoughts are hard to control and often are not godly. They seem to pop up without any control. If thoughts seem to be out of our control, how do we deal with them?

[Related: Overcoming Toxic Thoughts]

First, examine the God-given purpose of the human brain. It’s safety! The human brain is designed to keep us safe and help us regulate our energy and resources. As powerful and amazing as the mind is, thoughts still seem to be able to wrench free of conscious control.

Taking Thoughts Captive

Is there really any way to control thoughts? Not really. Thoughts are similar to background noise or banter. The subconscious churns, spitting out content constantly. Conversely, God instructs us to take thoughts captive, which can be misunderstood as locking them up.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

In reality, taking thoughts captive is much more about close observation and analysis than imprisoning dangerous notions. A best practice for the thought life is to quality check them, then purposely let them go. Don’t hold on to the bad ones, and do let the good ones help you on your journey.

Can Thoughts Be Controlled?

Thoughts aren’t altogether dangerous, nor are they completely harmless. A bad thought can generate negative emotions which can in turn influence dangerous behavior. The same can be said for good thoughts spurring positive emotions and actions. The main point to take away from any discussion about thoughts is that you have the power over how your thoughts influence you.

[Related: How Emotions Work]

You may never be able to control every thought that pops into your mind throughout the day, but you can control how you respond to them. If the thought is sinful or negative, let it go and don’t feel bad about it popping up. Let the good thoughts push you forward toward good actions and let the bad ones die out!

Talk About It
  1. What is your initial reaction to this topic? What jumped out at you?
  2. How do you deal with negative thoughts? Is it hard to let them go? Explain.
  3. In what way can analyzing thoughts be beneficial? Give one example.
  4. Are you able to let thoughts go? Why do you feel it’s difficult?
  5. How do thoughts affect actions? Give an example.
  6. Read 2 Corinthians 10:5. How can you “take captive” your own thoughts so that they will be submitted to Christ?
  7. Read Hebrews 3:1. What are some ways to “fix your thoughts” on Jesus Christ? Give one practical example.
  8. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.
David Johnson, Ph.D., practices at the Ogden Center for Change.