“How can I control my thoughts?” By yourself, you cannot fully control your thoughts. You need God’s help.
Your emotional life is determined in large measure by the kind of thoughts you entertain. Yes, there are other factors that influence how you feel – like physical health – influenced by diet, nutrition, exercise. Past trauma and loss can definitely affect you. But many doctors and certainly all psychologists would agree that your thought life and how your respond to life’s events has the greatest influence on how you feel. Positive, good thoughts release chemicals like serotonin and dopamine in our brains that make us feel good. Such thoughts create neural pathways that are healthy and make us resilient and strong in the face of difficulty. On the other hand, if our thoughts become dark, gloomy, fearful, anxious, cynical, resentful, hateful or worse we become weaker people and may in fact live much of our lives in torment – just what THE DEVIL wants.
God wants us well. The devil wants us tormented. Our thoughts will take us in one direction or the other.
Our minds are complex and wonderful things, full of mystery and wonder. They were made by God, for God, but they are influenced by many things. Our minds are influenced by the world around us – both natural and spiritual. Our minds are also influenced by the free will choices we make about what to focus on.
The problem is that even knowing all of this, many people cannot control their thoughts. Attacks of fear, doubt, depression, anxiety are all too common in our age. People feel powerless in the face of such things.
There are occasionally extremely strong individuals who have been able, by means of psychology and personal discipline, to greatly improve their thought life and emotional life. Many techniques and formulas exist, and some may indeed be of some help. However, what I want to focus on is what I see as the Bible answer to this question “How can I control my thoughts?”
In the biblical worldview, there are evil spiritual entities called demons which seem to have as their chief purpose in life the goal to mess with our minds – by temptation, harassment or other means. These demons unfortunately are real and exist in a dimension that is right alongside us but not itself described by the laws of physics. The presence of demons can be very strong in some places, and you can even feel it. But what concerns us now is the fact that demons can and do inject different thoughts and suggestions into our minds in an attempt to influence us and if possible control and then destroy us. They can and do build up systems of thought and belief that are reflected in our brains after a while. But the main point of what I am saying is that there are attacks on our minds which we must deal with.
Once you know that there are attacks, you must realise that you need layers of defense against these attacks. Thankfully, God has provided these. He has told us what to do in our to get this protection.
And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds. (Philippians 4:7, ERV)
Here we have it in black and white. God’s peace will stand guard over our thoughts and feelings. Is this happening for you? Would you like it to? It says that God’s peace can do this work of protection far better than our human minds. That is to say, with human mental effort you can go so far only in controlling and guarding your thoughts and feelings. God’s peace – which is a tangible, spiritual quality – that peace can do a better job. You and I cannot understand how this works. Even in very difficult and trying situations God’s peace can be there. And if God’s peace is there, it will protect your mind and your heart. Demons will be repelled by the presence of God’s peace.
How then do we receive God’s peace?
The previous verse tells us how to receive God’s peace. I wanted you to hear the result of receiving God’s peace before you heard the instruction – because sometimes we turn off when we hear from God what it is we need to do. And sadly, that attitude of disobedience leaves us right where the demons can attack us. We need to realise that we are in a war with demonic powers. The war operates according to God’s rules. What this means is that if YOU give yourself to rebellion or disobedience in any form, Satan will gain power in your life. We are not living in a Universe where we can chart our own course without reference to God or the devil, and to think that we are is also a delusion from demons – a “stronghold” if you will.
Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have.” (Philippians 4:6, ERV)
We need to live lives of constant prayer, where we do not worry about anything. The New King James version says:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6,7 NKJV)
To pray like God wants to, you need to surrender your life to God. Life just won’t end well without God having His right place in your life. There needs to be a time when you have recognized the right that God has to rule your life, where you recognize Jesus as the Savior from sin, and you are willing to be rescued from its diabolical power and live in God’s Kingdom. God’s Kingdom is “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). To enter God’s Kingdom, you must be born again (John 3:3) – meaning you receive new spiritual life from God. This can happen because of the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and his subsequent resurrection. If you have not done this already, tell Jesus you want this. More is explained in this simple gospel message.
As believers listening to the Holy Spirit, we can choose to pray more. We can discipline ourselves to be godly, and pray about everything we are thinking about, and all our needs. If we pray about all our needs, God will give us peace which will protect our minds, and if we pray in faith, God will supply our needs. In order to grow in peace, and receive God’s peace, we must choose to fix our minds on the Lord. This is a form of true worship. The Bible says,
You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3)
Fixing our minds on Jesus then is the major thing we need to do. For most of us, this can be done by meditating on what the written Word of God – the Scripture – says to us. We can get a clearer picture of Jesus by meditating on His Word. And we can use the things we read to inspire and inform our praying as well. In this way, there is always something to pray about, always something good to think about, and the Lord can always be working by His Spirit in our lives.
I encourage you then, to seek God. If you seek Him with all your heart, you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). But there is also this principle in the Bible, which we all do well to heed:
“Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (2 Chronicles 15:2)
If you are going through trials and torments, don’t give up seeking God. And if you are having a nice life, do not stop seeking Him. Do not forsake Him in either case, because you will be the loser if you do.
If you are interested in praying together in a prayer network of believing Christians, write me and I will let you know how you can do this.