The Bible instructs us to take every thought captive. It’s an essential part of Christian living that eludes many of us. But what does it mean to take thoughts captive, why does this matter, and how do we do this? Today we’ll break down each of these questions one by one and give you tips for handling anxiety in your thought life, according to the principles in God’s Word.
Every day we have thousands of thoughts that run through our minds. When thoughts go unexamined, they can do a lot of harm. They can get out of control and cause negative cycles that lead to negative feelings and actions.
Anxiety is a big area where it pays to take every thought captive. Many people who suffer from anxiety don’t recognize how their problems begin in their thought lives. For example, you may have experienced an anxious thought train like this one:
What’s this spot on my arm? I haven’t seen it there before. I wonder if it’s skin cancer. That would be horrible! Skin cancer is so deadly. Have I caught it in time? What will happen to my family if I die? I’m too young to die!
We’ve all had thoughts that spiral downward in a hurry as in this example. Taking your thoughts captive might look like this instead:
What’s this spot on my arm? I’ll watch it for a few days to see if it changes, and trust that God is in control. If it doesn’t get better by Friday, I’ll call the doctor to get it checked out. But I refuse to let this little spot, which may be nothing, take over my thoughts all week. God is the Great Physician, and he can heal me, no matter what.
See what a difference it makes to take your thoughts captive? Our thoughts will naturally run rampant with fear and worry. But if you examine them before they begin spiraling downward, you can gain control and choose peace.
You’ll need to train yourself to take thoughts captive with lots of practice. The above example of intentionally choosing not to worry may need to be repeated dozens of times, each time worry is triggered. Practice makes perfect, especially in your thought life if you are prone to anxiety. The more you replace your worried thoughts with what is true about God and what can be controlled by you, the less fear and fretting you’ll experience.
Why Does It Matter What I Think?
What you think matters very much to God. He made your mind and wants you to think thoughts that lead you toward life and peace, not toward fear and anxiety. He wants you to set your mind on things above (see Colossians 3:2) and choose to believe he is Lord of your life.
You may not realize it, but you are facing a battle every day. Satan would love to have more control over your thought life, and with every temptation you face, he can either gain more ground on your mind’s battlefield or lose it. You have the choice of whether to allow him more room or shove him out.
In Job 1 and 2, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the kind of battle Satan wages against us. He wanted to take everything from Job so that Job would change his mind about who God is. God allowed Satan to test Job, but Job didn’t change his mind about God. Job is a success story of waging spiritual warfare with Satan.
Satan also wants to take from you and destroy your peace. But you can fight back the way Jesus did. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, he used Scripture to counter him each time. He knew that Satan couldn’t win against the ultimate truth of God’s Word. If Jesus, the Son of God, used Scripture to fight temptation, we can do the same in our thought lives.
What you think matters. It matters at least as much, if not more, in the spiritual arena as it does in your daily life. What you think spills out into your feelings and actions. If you can exercise control in your thoughts, where the problems begin, you can prevent sinful feelings and actions from occurring.
This takes commitment to the Lord and dedication to studying his Word. Over time, you will experience victory in spiritual battles if you choose to engage with God’s truth rather than the untruths you are telling yourself in your mind.
How Do I Take Every Thought Captive?
Taking every thought captive is simple, but it isn’t easy. It takes dedication and self-awareness. It requires repentance from sin and faith in God, but it may be the most rewarding gift you ever give yourself.
If you struggle with anxiety in your thought life, you can form a plan for taking every thought captive. First, list out all of your anxiety triggers. This can be a stressful exercise, so reward yourself with a healthy treat or activity afterward. By writing them down, you are naming your fears so they will no longer have a chokehold on you.
Second, look up scriptures that address each of your triggers. Is health your trigger? Isaiah 38:6 may help you. Is the fear of death a problem for you? Psalm 23:4 can be a big help. Whatever your issue is, there is a solution in God’s Word. A Christian counselor can help you find verses to counter anxious thoughts in specific areas.
Third, meditate on the scriptures you’ve chosen. Meditation simply means thoughtfully and deliberately thinking about God’s Word. It can take only a few minutes, several times per day. As you practice Christian meditation, you’ll start experiencing peace instead of anxiety.
Fourth, display your chosen verses to see them throughout the day. Since anxious thoughts roll through your thought life thousands of times per day, it’s important to replace them with God’s truth as often as necessary.
Most of us are visual learners and need reminders to choose the truth. Put your favorite verse in front of you on a 3 x 5 card or a sticky note. Look at it as many times as you need every day to take your thoughts captive.
Finally, replace your negative self-talk with affirmations from God’s Word. You can make your chosen verse into an affirmation. For example, Psalm 23:4 talks about God walking with us through the valley of the shadow of death. You could say to yourself, “Today I choose not to fear this valley. God is right beside me, protecting me and guiding me. He is taking care of me.” Make it into a personal prayer.
Christian Counseling for Anxiety
nxiety is a difficult problem to eradicate from your thought life. Many of us have been thinking along the same lines of anxious thoughts for years. By doing this, you may have formed patterns in your brain where your thoughts naturally flow. But the good news is that you can form new, healthy brain patterns when you take your thoughts captive with God’s Word.
A caring Christian counselor can help you retrain your thoughts. Your counselor will uncover the roots of your anxiety problems and help you identify your triggers that reactivate the problems, even if they occurred years ago. In counseling sessions, you’ll discover methods for using God’s Word to address problem thoughts and ideas for engaging in spiritual warfare.
Interested in using counseling as a tool for overcoming anxiety? At Seattle Christian Counseling, our team has helped thousands of people manage their anxiety and choose peace. We can help you make better choices by coaching you in taking your thoughts captive. Contact us today for more information.
** By Alexandra Schmidt at Seattle Christian Counselling / Image by Cleveland .com