Do you control your thoughts? It can be more difficult than you think. Where do thoughts come from, and what do you do with your thoughts?
Reading scientific definitions of thought is not very enlightening. Thought is intangible, like light and magnetism. We know thought exists, but what is it? We have ideas, opinions, memories, feelings, and emotions, all of which we ascribe to the mind and heart.
Our brains contain billions of neurons and trillions of chemical and electrical synapses that rapidly transmit countless, complex signals. Is that what generates a thought? We are unaware of the autonomic processes in our brain and have no conscious control over them. We cannot access or control brain signals sent to and received from our various organs as they carry out the marvelous work of keeping us alive.
How do we control our thoughts? We seemingly have no control over a thought popping into our mind. When we suddenly become aware of a thought, what do we do with it? We can focus our attention on the thought and determine if it is something to entertain or discard.
Jesus Christ instructed His disciples: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, [and] blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19). These wrong thoughts defile us. Many wrong thoughts come from Satan, called “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). We must control these evil thoughts. This is the mental battle Christians have, described by the Apostle Paul as “pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments [the Greek word meaning “a reasoning: such as is hostile to the Christian faith] and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought [the Greek word meaning “a mental perception, thought, an evil purpose] into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).
Some studies suggest that we have about 6,000 thoughts per day. Discounting mundane thoughts like “What should I have for lunch?” or “What shall I wear?” still leaves us with many thoughts to evaluate whether they are in “obedience to Christ.” Christ said to His disciples, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” and “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (John 14:15, 21). We must discard any thought not in compliance with the commandments of God.
The Bible is “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Knowing what the Bible instructs will help us determine whether each thought is wrong or right. We can see that controlling all our thoughts is, indeed, a daily battle.
Having a battle plan is helpful. When we discard a wrong thought, we should immediately replace it with a right thought. Paul instructed the Philippian church to think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). This gets our mind on something good. We can also focus our mind on a wholesome activity, like reading a good book (especially the Bible), talking to a good friend who shares our desire to obey Jesus Christ, taking a walk, or many other good activities.
We should also avoid sources of wrong thoughts, whether from people, entertainment, or media in any form, whether the Internet, television, radio, or print.
Another way to control our thoughts is to humble ourselves and submit to God. The Apostle James advises: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7–8). When we humble ourselves and submit to God, He will draw near to us. The devil, who influences our thoughts in a wrong way, will flee. With God so near, we will then be better able to “purify our hearts” (v. 8) and think godly thoughts.
It is easier to discard a wrong thought before it takes root and grows, just as it is easier to pull a newly sprouted weed than a weed allowed to grow and sink deep roots.
It is very important to control our thoughts!