Over the last year, I’ve been made painfully aware of my “need” to overthink and overexplain everything. Without overthinking or overexplaining it: I was allowing my thoughts to control me rather than controlling my thoughts.
And I slowly recognized the need for healing in my thought life. (This “slow-burn” seems to be a thing for me.)
I’ve had a lot of victories. I’m thankful for a loving husband who encourages me to speak these thoughts aloud and reminds me of the truth when I can’t see it for myself. I’m thankful for a family who supports and encourages me, even when I mess up. I’m thankful for friends who make me feel less crazy, who stand up and say, “Yeah, I get it. And I’m for you, friend.” I’ve become more honest with myself about my short comings, who I am, what I need.
But as many victories as I’ve had, the time we’re living and the constant at-home nature of it has provided too much space for me to think. Or so I thought.
During this time, though, I’ve had more time: to read, to think about my thinking, to pray, to talk trusted friends. Every day, I’ve prayed that God would help me turn my thoughts toward Him when they want to run wild. And He answered. He answers still.
Like many other Christians, I’ve heard Paul’s words, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5, NIV). And like others, I wondered, What does that mean? And how do I do it?
One thing I realized first is that I focused so intensely on my needing to “take captive every thought…” that I ignored the whole “to Christ” part. I knew how to focus on just one thought. I definitely knew how to do that. Obsessively. But it was the “hand it over” part that stumped me.
This is still a daily struggle. But in my study of God’s Word, I’m seeing that’s normal. We’re not supposed to be able to do it on our own. That’s where the “to Christ” part comes in. And it encourages me to lean on God with every breath I take. In what could be a trying time, God has met with me in the sweetest ways.
I am not the wisest person, and I’m still walking through this. So as much as I want to share with you what I learned, I want to share from some of the teachers I looked to.
The Bible truly became a lifeline for me. I’m learning to picture God’s Word differently, as if it actually is “living and active” (Heb 4:12, ESV). And, as Beth Moore said, “I like to picture that it’s dialogue. … I feel like God is speaking to me through His Word, and then I’m talking back. In my Bible reading I don’t read it as a reader, I read it as a conversationalist.” Suddenly, my faith life became, well, more alive.
Another gamechanger for me is Jennie Allen’s book, Get Out of Your Head. She puts into words struggles that I hadn’t even been able to define up to this point. And then, she outlines a biblical battle strategy for taking back your thoughts from the enemy and placing them at the feet of Jesus.
Reading my Bible and Get Out of Your Head alongside Dr. Caroline Leaf’s daily devotional, Switch on Your Brain Everyday, has provided deep wells of the richest wisdom to help me when I’m struggling with taking thoughts captive and handing them over to Christ.
Before I go, I want to share one thing Jennie said really stood out to me. She asked, “What do you do once you take a thought captive? You then submit that thought to Christ.” And when I read the word submit, the image of a “Submit” button online came to mind. When you press that button, your request, money, registration, or whatever has been turned over—taken out of your control—to the hands of the one who runs things. Then, they send you what you need or process the request for you. So, I thought, “Oh, you turn in or turn over the thought to Him. And then you leave it. You let Him have it.”
I’m literally exchanging my thoughts to Him for thoughts from Him. I’m trading my anxious, fearful, obsessive thoughts for His peaceful, courageous, calm. In exchange for my overwhelming, often negative thoughts, I receive thoughts of what’s “good, pleasing, and perfect” (Rom. 12:2, CSB). Thoughts that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, morally excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8, CSB).
I get so much more than I give. I exchange all the nastiness the enemy wants me to hold onto and focus on for the beauty of Christ and the victory He has already won on my behalf. I give up chaos and receive peace.
I don’t know if this helps you, but visualizing can be so useful here. I know it sounds weird, but if you’re struggling to “take every thought captive,” then try visualizing. Try to focus on just one thought in your head. Find that one, prevalent, all-consuming thing. Then, imagine yourself grabbing that thought, holding it tight with both hands so it doesn’t slip back into the chaos of your mind, wrapping it up tight, and then physically laying that thought at the feet of Jesus.
Honestly, when I’m completely overwhelmed, I sit down and I write out this process. I write:
“Thought >>>>> Capture It >>>> Place it at His Feet.”
Like I said, I’m still pretty new to this. Yes, even after years of walking with the Lord. So, what about you? What do you do when your “heart is overwhelmed” (Ps. 61:2, KJV)?