Emotions Out of Control? 5 Simple Steps to Taking Your Thoughts Captive

Learning how to take your thoughts captive will help you can manage your emotions and negative thoughts.

Have you ever been in a situation where your thoughts and emotions seemed overwhelming? I bet somebody probably encouraged you to take those thoughts captive. That’s something that we say a lot in Christian circles, and I actually do believe that that’s the answer to those spiraling and overwhelming negative thoughts and feelings.

But often we don’t take the time to actually dig into scripture, understand exactly what that means, and explain to other people practically what that looks like in our everyday life. Today we are going to look at five steps that you need to do when striving to take your thoughts captive.

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Why You Need to Know How to Take Your Thoughts Captive

The first thing that I want to look at is why you need to take your thoughts captive. Your thoughts have a big influence on all aspects of your life, which is why you should learn to take action to move toward the truth. Your thoughts will dictate your beliefs and your actions.

For example, if you tell yourself that what you are doing in your quiet time with God is not enough over and over again it will keep you from being consistent. If you only have 10 minutes one day and an hour the next, you’ll always feel like it’s not enough.

You may fall into the comparison trap. Thinking you are failing because your neighbor spends five hours a day in the word but you don’t have five hours. You will believe that you are not doing enough. You might think you’re not praying the right thing, studying the right thing, or attending the right church. You didn’t join the right small group.

All of these thoughts that you have will influence your beliefs and your actions. You’ll believe that God doesn’t love you and that God doesn’t care about you because you’re not doing all of these things that you think we should do.

Then you might stop doing everything completely because you believe that if you can’t do this right, then you’re not even going to try anymore. Maybe you run yourself into the ground trying to do all of the things, thinking that if you can just check all the right boxes then God will be pleased with you. 

This is why it’s important that you take your thoughts captive. In these situations the thoughts you’re telling yourself play over and over in your mind like a tape. But it’s a lie. This is where you get yourself into trouble. Anytime that you find yourself believing a lie, you are not headed down a really good path.

You have a choice, will you do nothing and just spiral out of control into this deep dark pit of despair, or will you get rid of those thoughts? If you want a peace-filled mind, you’ll want to learn how to get rid of those thoughts so you can walk around grounded in truth. 

But how?

What Scripture Says About Renewing Your Mind

You can find the answer to this question like so many others in scripture, but I think sometimes you can get lost in the weeds. There are these spiritual ideals of taking thoughts captive, renewing our mind, and all of those things that we don’t actually understand what that looks like practically speaking in real life from day to day. So we are going to talk about that today. 

First I want to start as always in the word of God to see where these ideas, concepts, or principles come from. Then we’ll look at how you can rightly apply that to your lives. The first place to look is in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.“

The next passage is in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete.” 

Those are the two pieces to the puzzle that we’re working on today. Romans tells us that it is important to be transformed by the renewal of your mind. In 2 Corinthians, you learn that you have to take your thoughts captive. Remember that the tape playing over and over in your mind is usually full of lies. Essentially learning to take thoughts captive is learning how to change the tape that’s playing in your mind. 

In 2 Corinthians, Paul uses this very graphic and descriptive language because he’s making a point when he talks about tearing down these strongholds and taking things captive. It sounds a little violent, right? When you think of taking something captive, you might think of kidnapping or things like that. I think that Paul is using those words and that image for a reason.

You want to do exactly what you picture in your mind when you hear the word captive. You need to grab those thoughts, grab those lies that are taking up space in your heart and mind, and put them in prison where they cannot get out and can’t do the damage that they’ve been doing.

When you think about this idea of renewing your mind, you need to change the tape and renew what you’re thinking because you want to be thinking the truth. All of this boils down to this simple idea of taking the thoughts that you are having and making sure that they line up with the word of God.

When it doesn’t line up with the word of God, it’s time to renew your mind with the word of God until they do. Taking your thoughts captive and renewing your mind is simply learning how to identify what thoughts do not agree with what the word of God says then train yourself to think the truth by renewing your mind.

Renewing your mind is simply learning to think in a different way. As Christians and daughters of the King, you want to train your mind and heart to think on truth. Truth is always found in the word of God. 

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How to Take Your Thoughts Captive Step 1: Identify Your Thoughts

I want to give you five actionable steps that will make this really practical. If you’re still feeling a little lost and confused, bear with me because hopefully at the end of these five steps, you’ll understand and have a plan of action and a clear picture of what you need to do. 

The first thing that you have to do is identify your thoughts. Pay attention to what you are thinking throughout your day. Have a journal,  piece of paper, or the notes app on your phone to keep track of the thoughts that you’re having. 

For example, if I am walking through my day frustrated because my kids are making messes and being loud and they’re getting in my way. I’m probably thinking that my children are a problem. They’re a distraction. They’re in my way. They’re doing this on purpose.

I’m telling myself all of these negative things about my children over and over. At the end of the day, I’m going to resent my kids because I’ve been telling myself that they are the problem all day long. Is that true? No, they’re just kids and kids are loud and messy. Sometimes you have to change your priorities and shift throughout the day because you are adjusting to the needs of your family.

Be mindful of what your thoughts are. Literally, get a piece of paper out and keep a list of what thoughts you are thinking because what you’ll find is that there’s a pattern of things. Every time A happens, you have Y thoughts, and every time B happens you have Z thoughts. You’ll be able to notice what the trends and the patterns are. 

Once you can do that, you can really begin to address your thoughts through this process that you’re learning today. 

How to Take Your Thoughts Captive Step 2: Agree with God

Step two is to stand in agreement with the word of God on your thoughts. You’ve got to take those thoughts that you’ve been having and see if they line up with the word of God. If they do great, keep thinking that. But if not, then you have more work to do. 

If my thought is that my children are a problem and they’re just causing everything that’s wrong in my life, I have got to take that thought and see if it agrees with what God says. That thought clearly does not because in scripture we are told that kids are a blessing and parenting, mothering, and nurturing our children are important jobs. 

If you’ve been thinking something for a really long time, you are not going to want to let that thing go because it’s going to feel like a part of you. I want to encourage you to pray and ask God to help you hold these things loosely. You form attachments for all kinds of reasons and don’t realize that’s what is keeping you stuck.

As a real quick aside, I want to point out that usually there are three voices inside of your head as you’re having these thoughts. There are thoughts that you think on your own. “She’s looking at me crazy. There must be something on my face. She can tell that I’ve gained 10 pounds.” Then there are thoughts and a voice that comes from the Holy Spirit.

When you see somebody sitting by themselves at church and get that nudge to go and talk to them, introduce yourself, or pray for somebody who needs help, you get that prompting from the Holy Spirit.  You also have a third voice that can be in your mind at times, and that’s the voice of the enemy.

He is going to tell you lies over and over. His job is to plant seeds of doubt. He wants you to believe a lie because then he gets your focus off of the truth and what God wants you to be focused on. Anytime that you can identify something as coming from the enemy, it’s not going to agree with God at all. And sometimes you are telling yourself things that don’t agree with God, so keep those things in mind. 

How to Take Your Thoughts Captive Step 3: Tear Down the Lie

Step three is to tear down the lie, which basically means to stop thinking the wrong thing all of the time. That sounds easy, but this is where a lot of the work comes in.  Think of it like wallpaper. You have wallpaper your mind with all of these thoughts.

When you begin to take them captive you have to do the hard work of getting rid of that wallpaper. Maybe there’s glue left on the walls and pieces that you miss, but keep going until you get all of that out. You have to clear your mind of anything that is not of God because if you leave even one thing in there, you are putting yourself at risk of being consumed by those negative unbiblical thoughts. 

How to Take Your Thoughts Captive Step 4: Replace Lies with Truth

You’ve cataloged your thoughts, figured out what lines up with God’s word, and now you’ve torn down the lies that were previously in your mind. You might think that’s it. No, that’s not it. Just because you get rid of the lies and the unbelievable thoughts doesn’t mean that your work is done. 

Let’s look at Matthew 12:43-45,  “when the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, I’ll return to my house from which I came. And when it comes, it finds the house empty, slept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is far worse than the first. So it will be with this evil generation.

In this passage, Jesus is speaking and the lesson that he is telling here is applicable to what we are talking about today. If all you do is take down the wallpaper of lies that’s in your mind, you have made a nice clean and orderly place for this unclean spirit to come back. Not only to come back but to come back with seven friends that are worse than he was to begin with.

This is why many times you feel like you’re making backward progress when trying to deal with what you believe and your thoughts. This is because you have to do more than just get rid of the lies. Otherwise, all you’ve done is cleaned up so that it’s nice and inviting for the enemy to come back bigger and badder than he was before. 

How do you keep that from happening? You do step four, which is to replace all of those lies with the truth. Put up new wallpaper so that there is no room for those lies to create back in. How do you replace the wallpaper in your mind? You are to be transformed by the renewal of your mind, and that is spending time in God’s word. 

You have got to dig deep into the word of God to read as much as you can about whatever the lie was. If the lie that I believe is that children are a burden and they just create chaos in my life, I have got to dig into my Bible to read every single thing that tells me what God’s design for a family is.  Why children are a blessing and why my role as a mother is important.

I’ve got to dig all of that out. I’ve got to hide it in my heart. I’ve got to read it. I’ve got to study it. I’ve got to memorize it. I’m going to go and find encouraging sermons and other books about this topic that speak to the biblical truth. I’m going to fill my heart and my mind with God’s truth so that there is no room for that lie telling me my children are a burden to ever come back and take up room and affect my beliefs or my actions ever again.

How to Take Your Thoughts Captive Step 5: Walk in Freedom

I know that that sounds like a lot of work, and it is because the truth is that this process of renewing your mind, it’s sanctification. It is not a one-and-done thing where you do it once and never ever have to deal with it again. You are going to have to continually renew your mind and continue to take your thoughts captive.

Whatever lie that you defeat, the enemy is going to come back with it again and see if he can trap you with it. Or he might come up with something new or different. You must always examine your thoughts to see what agrees with God and what doesn’t.

You always need to continually take down the wallpaper of unbiblical truth, of unbiblical thoughts, of unbiblical actions, and we must always replace that with the truth that you find in God’s word. When you do all of those things continuously, then you can do step five, which is to just walk in freedom. 

You are no longer a slave to those lies or negative thoughts. You can walk in the freedom that is found in the Lord because Jesus says, “I am the truth, the way, and the light.”  And he says the truth is what will set you free.

When you are consuming the truth, renewing your mind with the truth, and believing the truth then the truth is what is affecting and influencing your beliefs and actions. You can walk in that freedom knowing that you are living a life fully surrendered to God and his plan for you. 

The power of the Holy Spirit is working the change in your life as you surrender in obedience to the process. I cannot ever tell you that it’s going to be easy, but I can promise you that the more that you do this, the easier it becomes. You do not want to leave room for the enemy to come back and bring his friends into your mind. You want to always be grounded firmly in the truth which is found in the word of God. 

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