How to Battle Negative Thoughts

“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin

I’ve had several conversations recently with ladies who are struggling with oppressive, negative, angry emotions. They are surprised when I tell them that the key is to learn to take control of their thoughts. We tend to focus on our feelings, but forget that those feelings are fed by our thoughts.  And our thoughts can be controlled. Negative thoughts, depressive thoughts, sinful thoughts, angry thoughts can and must be brought into submission. It’s a matter of paying attention to what’s running around in your head.

Psalm 77 was written by Asaph, one of the Temple priests during the Babylonian captivity. The situation seemed hopeless, and this is reflected in his Psalm. In verses 1-9, Asaph lamented God’s apparent rejection of His people. In verse 2 he says “my soul refused to be comforted.” Ever been there? I know I have. But look at verse 10, Asaph turns his mind and heart on a pivot, like a door on its hinges. “Then I thought, to this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the Lord…I will meditate on all Your words” (vs. 10, 11, 12). Did you catch the keyword? Thought. In that moment of despair, Asaph took control of his thoughts and changed the focus of his heart and mind.  He deliberately remembered and meditated instead on the character and deeds of God. And when he opened that door, hope and peace flooded in.

We see the same change of mind in Lamentations 3, which starts out: “I am the man who has seen affliction,” (v.1) and continues for 20 verses saying “my soul is downcast within me” (v. 20).  And then verse 21 begins with that hinge word: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.” There’s the clue again “I call to mind.”  Jeremiah’s whole focus and attitude is transformed. A change in his focus changed everything.

Paul said, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Then we take the Philippians 4:8 prescription – I’ll let you look that up. It’s how we battle mental negativity. Beloved, the only sure way to find peace in seasons of struggle is to intentionally turn your thoughts to God, to wrap His Words around you like a comforter, and trust in His love, faithfulness, and peace to carry you through.

Your Shield of Faith (Part 2)

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A couple of days ago I wrote about the importance of the Shield of Faith and how faith is more than thoughts but is, by definition action.  In a word, faith is obedience.  But I want to come back to faith as a thought because our actions are born out of our thoughts.  Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (KJV).  Our thoughts hold the key to our actions and attitudes and behaviors.  What you think matters.  That’s why Paul exhorts us to think about “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).

Consider once again the Roman soldier in battle.  When the enemy advances, swinging his sword, the soldier raises his shield to protect himself.  And when the enemy is shooting arrows and throwing javelins at him, he can crouch behind his shield as the weapons of warfare bounce off.  Likewise, you and I have to become adept at taking a position of safety behind our shield.  Obedience is faith in action and faith is our defense against the enemy, but we often have to “think” ourselves into raising that shield of faith.  We have to think about what is true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy.  And not just one fleeting “God is good,” but a continuous monologue of faith.  We have to speak truth to ourselves and let it permeate our hearts so our arms have the strength to raise that shield and hold it in a position of obedience.  When we claim what we know is true about our God, when we remind ourselves of His power over our enemy, His goodness even when we don’t deserve, His faithfulness despite our unfaithfulness, His promises that never fail, His sovereign rule over every aspect of our lives, His wisdom that is working out the perfect battle plan, His everlasting, never-failing, rock solid love for us —we are standing firm behind our shield of faith.

One more thing – when the battle is at it fiercest and the enemy is swinging hard, the soldier knows that he cannot lower his shield; he must keep a firm grip and stay behind his protective barrier.  A wise soldier knows that if he sticks his head out from behind his shield, he’s going to get clobbered.  You and I cannot lose our grip or lower our shield.  We’ve got to stay in our protective position.  Picture yourself crouched down, your head safely lowered behind your shield, behind everything you know is true about your God. Looks a lot like the position of prayer doesn’t it?

The battle is on and the enemy is relentless.  But you have a strong shield when your thoughts are fixed on what is true about God.  The soldier who stays behind his shield is a soldier who survives the battle.  Raise your shield of faith Beloved –Yahweh Magen – the Lord your Shield will protect you.